The first year after separation or divorce is full of “firsts.” First birthday, first Christmas, first New Year’s and now, first Valentine’s Day. As you move through the calendar year, you will create new holiday traditions for yourself and your children. Each holiday is a bit of a road bump, triggering nostalgia or disappointment. And Valentine’s Day is quite hard for many new singles, perhaps especially hard if it’s your first Valentine's Day alone.
Your friends all seem to be celebrating with their mates. The stores are selling chocolate and flowers. The “Love is in the Air” atmosphere can bring on the pain of loss, the memories of past holidays together, and the worry about being alone. Or it might even make you nauseous and bitter. It’s all normal. But there are ways to survive the dreaded day, and maybe even to have some fun doing it.
I checked in with a young woman I know who recently separated from her husband. She is learning to solo-parent her 10 month old baby while juggling work and her other activities. I asked her what she planned for Valentine’s Day. “A day of self-care” she said decisively. “I plan to take a hike with my dog and my kid in the backpack. Maybe I will ask my mom for a few hours of babysitting so I can treat myself to a massage, a manicure, and a mocha latte. After my son is asleep I plan to run a bath with some special relaxing bath “tea.” Or maybe a fragrant bubble bath, with candles and my favorite music. I know it’s going to be different this year, and I will be sad and lonely. But I remind myself that this is temporary.” I agreed, saying “Once around the calendar, right?”
Some do’s and don’ts for Valentines Day:
- Get off social media, it will just make you more miserable. In fact, stay off for a few days until your friends have moved past posting their love stories.
- If you really want some chocolate or flowers, buy yourself some! It is just a holiday cultivated by marketing experts to get folks to cough up money for things you can easily buy for yourself. It is a commercialized day.
- Do something you enjoy: go to a movie, invite a friend for a walk, try a new recipe and have a friend over! If you are really adventurous, try something completely new: zip-lining? Kite surfing? Skydiving?
- Think about the good things in your life. Make a list. Remind yourself that you are loveable and let yourself feel gratitude for your blessings. Appreciate YOU.
- Make another list: list the things you can do now that you are single. Go to restaurants your ex didn’t like, eat foods or see movies your ex wouldn’t see. List the activities that you are now free to enjoy. For some it is going to museums, road cycling, or taking a trip somewhere your ex wasn’t interested in.
- Write a note to someone else who is single. Maybe someone that you haven’t spoken with in eons. The young woman who recently separated from her husband wrote a loving note to her 94 year godmother in another state.
- Invite your single friends (I know there are some) over for an “anti-Valentines Day” pot luck. Maybe have a glass of champagne and celebrate being single!
- Practice your stress-reduction tools: exercise, yoga, meditation, journaling, singing out loud in the car, dancing to your favorite oldies. Get out into nature, or go to the zoo.
- Laughter is the best medicine, so binge-watch your favorite sitcom or go to a comedy club. There are stand-up comics on YouTube and Netflix.
- Remind yourself that you aren’t the only single out there! Being single can be fun, once you are ready for it.
Just a few Don’ts:
- Don’t have a pity party. It is ok to be sad but don’t sink into misery. Misery is optional, sometimes. You can (and will) get through this.
- Don’t get drunk or high. It will only make things worse, and you will hate yourself tomorrow.
- Don’t “awful-ise” – it’s just a commercial holiday after all.
- Don’t get hopeless. Don’t feel that you will never love or be loved again. Don’t give up on love.
Next year will be different. You will know how to survive the holidays. You may even know how to enjoy them with new traditions, new friends, and a new life brimming with new possibilities.