Someone told me that the first year after the loss of a spouse is a series of “firsts.” First Christmas without your loved one, first birthday, and so on. Valentines’ Day would be near the top of that list, since it’s the holiday that celebrates love and relationships.
One of the most important things Jim taught his sons about successful relationships was “pay attention to what she likes.” So for Valentines’ Day, I never got that big, bright red heart-shaped box all decked out in ribbons and lace, because that is not what I really liked. Store-bought manufactured chocolates don’t qualify as “real chocolate” in my opinion. The best chocolates are crafted with dedication and love. Every year, I looked forward to a small, plain white box of handmade truffles that Jim had personally selected from the shop that made our wedding cake. That said “love” to me in a way that a big red heart never could.
It's All About the Laughter
Jim wasn't one for the grand gesture, but he always could make me laugh. One year he excitedly presented me with jewelry-type box. I opened it and found a small plastic soldier that had been painted turquoise. "It's an aqua marine!" he said. Aquamarine was our son's birthstone. Later on, I got the real thing, but that silly plastic soldier is the gift I remember most.
No one will ever make me laugh like that, but that doesn’t mean I won’t laugh again. When you are grieving, you are also surrounded by people who want to help, but aren’t sure what to do. The best thing you can do for yourself, and for them, is to ask for what you need.
Recently I asked for a Girl’s Movie Night with some dear friends. We watched “Trainwreck” and howled at Amy Schumer’s raunchy humor. Another weekend, I joined another group of friends for a quilting retreat. Being surrounded by colorful fabrics and beautiful projects and loving support took most of the loneliness away. I also knew that I could just go and sit quietly by myself if I needed to.
Navigating the landmines of memory in the first year means creating new memories – different ones that are filled with love and laughter. Love comes in many forms, and it is waiting for us to reach out and claim it. If you are struggling with a holiday, ask yourself “how can I make this one special in a different way?”