First Valentine’s Day After a Death: 10 Memorial Ideas
This piece first appeared on Cake and is republished with permission.
Unfortunately, grief doesn’t take a holiday. In fact, many people experience worsened feelings of grief on special days of the year. Holidays remind us of the time we spent with the people we’ve lost. And that can be incredibly difficult.
A holiday like Valentine’s Day, which is all about love and togetherness, can leave you missing loved ones who’ve passed away even more. And the first Valentine’s Day you spend without someone you love is often especially hard. You might want to do something to remember and honor your loved one on that special day.
Below, we’ll give you some ideas for remembering your spouse, partner, or another loved one on Valentine’s Day.
Ways to Remember a Spouse or Partner Who Died on Valentine’s Day
Losing a spouse or partner can leave you feeling alone and isolated on Valentine’s Day, no matter how long it’s been since they passed. And this can be true whether you and your partner had Valentine’s Day traditions or tended to ignore the holiday altogether.
Whether it’s the first Valentine’s Day you’ve spent without your spouse or partner, or it’s been years, you can use the ideas below to remember a special person who passed away.
1. Write a love letter
Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to express some difficult thoughts and feelings about your late spouse. Take out a pen and paper and just write down any thoughts that come to mind. Direct the letter directly to your loved one, as though they’ll be reading the note.
In your “love letter,” you can express how much you miss your spouse and describe all of the things that remind you of them. You can reminisce about times you spent together and fill them in on what’s changed since they passed away.
But your letter doesn’t have to be all sunshine and roses. You can also express the difficulty of coping with grief and other deeply personal emotions. You might feel more comfortable expressing those emotions in a letter to your spouse than to a friend or family member.
When you’re finished with your letter, you can put it someplace special, burn it, or even tie it to a balloon and watch it float off into the distance.
2. Give a toast
Gather up your friends and family members for a Valentine’s Day dinner, either at your home or a favorite restaurant. You could limit the party to singles only or allow couples to attend.
Before the day arrives, prepare a short toast to remember your spouse. Your toast can be as simple as, “I know [your spouse or partner’s name] would have loved spending time with you all tonight.” Or you could take the opportunity to share a specific memory or story about your partner. You could also ask if anyone else would like to share a story of their own.
Hosting an intimate get-together has the added bonus of helping you feel surrounded by love and support on Valentine’s Day when you might otherwise feel isolated or alone.
3. Leave flowers on their grave
A time-honored method of remembering a loved one is visiting their gravesite. If it’s the first Valentine’s Day since your spouse passed away, visiting the gravesite can bring up uncomfortable emotions. But bringing a gift meant to honor and remember your spouse can be a cathartic and healing experience.
You can simply pick up some romantic or sentimental flowers, like roses or lilies, or you can choose a more elaborate floral arrangement. You might also want to bring some cleaning supplies, like a rag and spray cleaner, with you to the gravesite. That way, you can clean up the headstone as an added show of honor and respect to your beloved spouse.
If your spouse doesn’t have a headstone, you can place flowers in a meaningful location, instead. To mark the location, you could also create a simple wooden or stone marker with your spouse’s name and a short message.
4. Light a candle
It might seem straightforward, but the simple act of lighting a candle can go further than you might think. To remember your partner or spouse by lighting a candle, all you need is any type of candle and a way to light it. If you’d prefer, you can choose a candle in a scent your partner would have loved.
Set aside a few minutes to just sit and reflect. Take a deep breath, and light the candle. The light of the candle burning represents your loved one’s presence with you on Valentine’s Day.
5. Bury the past
Holidays like Valentine’s Day can make you feel stuck in your grief. And items around the house that remind you strongly of your spouse can make that feeling worse. While there’s no timetable or requirement to “move on,” you might feel like gaining some distance from the hurt and heartbreak.
If the idea feels right to you, you can use Valentine’s Day to literally and figuratively “bury the past.” Doing this isn’t intended to sever yourself from the memories of your spouse or partner. Instead, it’s a way of lovingly saying goodbye and giving yourself permission to move forward.
Find a significant memento or item that reminds you of your partner or spouse. Place it in a small box or bag, and then dig a hole in your backyard or somewhere special to you. Then, hold a small ceremony as you bury the item. You can even say a few words in parting with the special item and mark the burial place.
Ways to Remember Another Loved One on Valentine’s Day
A spouse or partner isn’t the only departed loved one you might find yourself mourning on Valentine’s Day. The date might remind you of precious memories with a parent, grandparent, sibling, or friend. If you want to spend some time remembering another loved one on Valentine’s Day, here are some ideas to get you started.
6. Make a memory chain
A “memory chain” is a colorful way to decorate a room, doorway, or any part of your house for Valentine’s Day. At the same time, it’s a creative way to honor and remember a loved one who recently passed away.
Here’s how you create a memory chain decoration for Valentine’s Day:
Pick up some pink, red, and white construction paper.
Cut the paper into long, narrow strips, just wide enough to fit a short message.
Write down a special memory, describe something you admired about the person, or pen a message to the person directly on each strip of paper.
Finally, loop the strips of paper together to form a chain of alternating colors. You can space out the messages with blank pieces of paper for a longer chain.
To add even more to your memory chain, you can invite friends and family members who also knew and loved the person to write messages of their own.
7. Give a memorial gift
There are very likely other people in your life who are also mourning your loved one’s death. And Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to let them know you’re thinking of them.
Giving a family member or friend a memorial gift is a perfect way to remember your loved one while also offering support. And it can help both you and the giftee feel less alone on a special day like Valentine’s Day.
What you give as a memorial gift is up to you. There are plenty of customizable options available for purchase, from photo frames to crystal photo placards. And there’s always the option of creating a DIY memorial gift.
Ultimately, it’s important to consider what might be the most meaningful to your giftee.
8. Create an altar
Altars aren’t only for religious worship. You can also create an altar to remember a loved one who’s passed away. And your “altar” doesn’t have to be elaborate or over-the-top. You can simply put out a photo of your loved one and light a candle next to it on Valentine’s Day.
If you want to go a step further, you could place some items your loved one enjoyed on the altar. For example, if your friend or family member loved candy, you could place an assortment of different Valentine’s Day treats on the table.
Ultimately, an altar is just a way of keeping your loved one involved in your household activities on Valentine’s Day.
You can remember the person you’ve lost by sharing your love with others. Choose a charity or charity event, and look into volunteering. Giving back on Valentine’s Day can help you remember your loved one and honor their memory in a meaningful way.
If you can, choose a charity or organization that your loved one would have connected with. For example, a veteran’s organization if your loved one served in the military.
10. Make a memory board
Another way to decorate your home with memories of your loved one is by creating a memory board. Gather up photos and other mementos that you can attach to a large piece of poster board. You can also cut out photos and words from magazines or print them out from online sources.
The goal is to create an entire board full of things that make you think of your loved one and their personality. While the board is hanging up on Valentine’s Day, it will feel like a little bit of your loved one is there with you.
Caring for Yourself on Valentine’s Day
There are plenty of ways to honor your loved one on Valentine’s Day, and you can choose the method that feels right to you. Most importantly, though, make sure you take some time out on Valentine’s Day to honor and take care of yourself.
We all know grief takes an emotional and mental toll, but it also takes a toll physically. You could find yourself feeling exhausted from poor eating habits, a lack of exercise, or poor sleep around the holidays.
If you find that’s true, give yourself the space to relax and care for yourself, before you worry about how to honor your loved one. After all, your loved one would have wanted to treat you well on Valentine’s Day. And that’s something you can do in their place.