Plush heart

A Valentine for a friend

Tracey Columns

Dear Tracey,

I would like to give my friend of thirty-five years a special Valentine’s Day this year. Maybe you can give me some ideas on how to do that?

Her husband of almost forty years died last spring. It was totally unexpected. They had a very special marriage and he was loved by many. Naturally, she’s had a rough time of it. She told me last week she’s really dreading Valentine’s Day because her husband would always surprise her with something very special. She said she just wished it would all go away.

I thought I could take her out-of-town for a long girl’s weekend but I don’t want to make things worse. She loves visiting San Francisco and I’ve spent a lot of time there. (Her husband wasn’t much of a city guy, so they didn’t go there nearly as often as she would have enjoyed.) I can think of so many things she’d like to do and things she’s never seen. Is this a good idea or is there something better you can come up with? I know I can’t make her pain go away but maybe I can at least help her through a tough day.

Thank you. I always read your column. You help so many of us.

Loyal Friend

Dear Reader,

What a good friend you are! This woman is lucky to have you in her life. I appreciate your sensitivity and kindness.

Valentine’s Day is difficult for many people. I’m not sure what percentage of the population actually has a relationship that lives up to all of the hype but clearly, it can be a rough day. It is especially challenging for all of the people who have experienced a heartbreaking loss. Sadly, everywhere they look, the world is dripping with red hearts and banners advertising what they are missing. It feels a little more like “Salt in the Wound” Day for them.

I think taking your friend out-of-town for a little girlfriend road trip is a wonderful idea. Sharing a change of scenery with you might be a very nice thing for her, especially if you two went to San Francisco. How nice for her to have an adventure full of new experiences, all enjoyed with her very own special tour guide.

However, in spite of my enthusiasm for your thoughtful idea, I think the first thing you need to do is speak to your friend directly. While it’s difficult to bring up this painful subject, asking her about what she might want and/or need is in order. I’d invite her to design a day that truly meets her needs. Maybe the two of you hole up in her house and watch funny movies all day. Or perhaps all she wants to really do is look through old photos and cry her eyes out. In other words, let her decide how to make it through the day.

And don’t be surprised if she is absolutely clueless about how to manage Valentine’s Day.That’s the difficult thing about grief, there is not a rule book for how it is supposed to go. You can begin making also suggestions. Toss out the San Francisco idea, including all of the places you want to take her. Too much? Maybe it would be fun to have a girlfriend’s sleepover on February 13, right down to popcorn and bad movies. (This way you would wake up the morning of Valentine’s Day under her roof and then, be supportive all day long.) What about a long, luxurious day in a spa?

Sadly, it may be that all your friend wants is to be left entirely alone that day, with just her memories and her broken heart. Respect her wishes … and then ask if you can at least check in with her at some point in the day, gently reminding her that Valentine’s Day is also about celebrating the love friends share.

Thank you for your caring.

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