Valentine’s Day

I love holidays! I love making them special for my family. I love decorating. I love making special treats. I love surrounding the holiday with joy. I simply love having some extra special days during the year to throw extra love and kindness around like confetti to people who may or may not be expecting it. I love the added silly memories with my children. I love how holidays also evoke memories from my childhood and how my mom went all out to make them special for my brother and me. The joy was always contagious except for Valentine’s Day.

You see February 14th, Valentine’s Day, was the due date of our first baby. We never got to celebrate the birth of that child because I miscarried. That date became a dark day for me and one that I did not want to celebrate for years after. Valentine’s Day was never something my husband and I made a spectacle of for one another but we did used to enjoy the evening in making dinner and watching a movie together. After I miscarried I would not even let him mention Valentine’s Day. Some may feel that was selfish on my part but I just could not do it. He understood and secretly I think he also preferred to let it go instead of revisiting what the day meant for us.

I remember sharing with a very close friend why I wasn’t my “normal joyful holiday self” on Valentine’s Day a year after I miscarried. I didn’t offer up the information but she asked and it all came spilling out. She expressed that she could not understand why I was still hurting and had assumed my husband forgot the holiday or we had a fight. This friend also made some surprising remarks, one of them being “Were you that far along, I can’t remember?” I vividly recall feeling like I would throw up. Who cares how far along I was or if you felt I was far enough along to be upset or not? I was pregnant and I lost the baby and my heart ached…every…day.

I went through all kinds of emotions and so did my husband. We just expressed them, or should I say held them in, differently. I faced the taboo of not talking about it because it was uncomfortable for other people. I found it interesting that no one, except my mom, ever asked how my husband was after it happened. I especially loved the sentiment that “it happens to a lot of people” or “it happened for a reason.” I knew and understood all the rational pieces. I just did not want to know them and I certainly was not accepting (at the time) that I lost a baby for a reason that I did not know. They were raw emotions. It took me time to heal emotionally and mentally.

My husband on the other hand grieved with me initially (and we both went through the angry stage hardcore) and then it was over for him. I don’t mean this in a negative way at all. He just figured we would move on and eventually have children and that although it sucked it was what it was. Neither of our ways of dealing was right or wrong. We each handled the miscarriage how we needed to and the support was there even if the other did not understand or agree with the emotions or actions of the other. In hindsight, there are definitely ways I think we both could have been better for one another, but hindsight is always 20/20, right?

Interestingly enough Valentine’s Day ended up coming back to life for me a few years after the miscarriage. You may think it was because I finally had a child. You are wrong. I actually felt quite guilty making the holiday special for my first son and even celebrating it. It was not until my second little guy came along and we were about to celebrate his first Valentine’s Day that it hit me. I knew this was going to be the first Valentine’s Day since my miscarriage that I wasn’t going to “fake it to make it” (because after my friend’s reaction I NEVER told anyone again why I wasn’t a fan of Valentine’s Day and I NEVER showed any degree of not being my “normal joyful holiday self”).

What changed? Why was I going to be okay this go around with the holiday? It was something I read that ironically I had been saving because I thought someone would need to hear the words one day.

Beautiful Person

If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it.
If he had a wallet, your photo would be in it.
He sends you flowers every spring.
He sends you a sunrise every morning.
Whenever you want to talk, He listens.
He can live anywhere in the Universe, but He chose…your heart.
Face it, friend – He is crazy about you!

I have no idea who wrote this and in all these years I have never even tried to look it up. The paper had been in my journal for years, being saved for someone who would need it. The day this fell out of my journal as I was going through my papers, I cried. I actually sobbed for the whole evening. My boys were in bed and my husband was on night shift; and I sat sobbing, clutching the words that touched my soul and made me see that all I was harboring over the miscarriage of my baby could now be set free. I desperately needed the release and these simple yet powerful words granted me permission.

My baby will live in my heart always. My baby is in the heart of all my children. My baby provides simple winks and whispers to me exactly when I need them. When I need to say hello or say I am thinking about him, he listens. I may not understand the why but I realized that day that I did not need to. I learned a lot from the experience about me, my faith, my body, the attachment that is unexplainable until you have it, my husband, others who have experienced it, others who have not experienced it and more. I also learned that holidays (specifically Valentine’s Day) and how I like to make them special is completely separate from my loss. My family deserved me to be me…and you know something? I deserved to be myself. I made the decision that Valentine’s Day would no longer be a dark time for me but one filled with light and joy again.

Valentine’s Day recaptured its position on the holiday list and the joy surrounding it is contagious! I love making the day special for my children, family, friends and even strangers. I love all of the traditions I started with my children and coming up with new and fun ideas each year. I love that every Valentine’s Day I take a few moments for myself to say I love you and until we meet again I cherish every wink and whisper you send me. I love that since my second son’s first Valentine’s Day, 9 years ago, there is always a special wink or whisper for me on Valentine’s Day. It is the same thing but presented differently every year.

In every loss we experience there will be an opportunity to let go of the pieces that are holding you back or even holding you down. Letting go of those pieces does not mean forgetting or that you won’t still feel, it very plainly gives you the permission to live fully again – to experience happiness, joy and love without feeling guilty. No one can tell you how to grieve or how long it should take. Only you can live and learn in that process and then make the choice to be yourself again. You will be different, but different is not necessarily a bad thing. Do it your way but don’t get too lost in the journey that you miss the opportunity to let the pieces go.

I will leave you with some of the traditions and fun we have on Valentine’s Day:

  • February 1st – 14th I put a heart on each of my kid’s bedroom door that has a word describing their father and I love them
  • I cover the floor of the bedrooms of my kids with foam hearts in all sizes
  • I write a Valentine’s Day message on the mirror in the bathroom
  • I decorate the table and we have a special breakfast
  • I put a special treat in their lunch boxes
  • We always make Valentines for their classes together and a few extra to hand out randomly
  • Heart shaped pizza (this year I found heart shaped pasta so I switched it up)
  • Hot chocolate with heart marshmallows for an after dinner dessert
  • Book bins with Valentine’s Day books get put out in the beginning of the month (my boys are getting older at 9 & 11 so the bins have books “they love” but my daughter at 6 still enjoys all the themed ones)
  • Family Game Night or a Movie (the kids pick)

 

KOM editor’s note: The quote above is by Max Lucado.

Taralee A. O’Malley-Hurff is an educator, a philanthropist and a published author. Her book, 100 Things To Do Before You Are 10, is the go to resource for family bonding and adventure. Taralee has passionately contributed to the fields of special education and early childhood education since 1998, meeting her students as needed in the home or in school. She excels at recognizing each child’s unique gift and successfully ignites their love of learning through exploration, discovery and play. It is through this work that Inspired Education was born. As a philanthropist, Taralee currently serves as the President of the Board of Trustees for the Southern Regional New Jersey Early Intervention Collaborative. This is her 6th year as a Board Member. Taralee enjoys family life in Southern New Jersey with her husband and three children.

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