• Dr. Sharon Livingston

Why Valentine’s Day Is Often the Saddest Day of the Year

Contrary to popular belief, Valentine’s Day is not always filled with love. Studies show that if there’s one day that finds many people down in the dumps, it’s Valentine’s day.

Traditional times of celebration can be very stressful. Instead of rejoicing at Thanksgiving, Christmas or Valentine’s Day, people are reminded of how their lives are not what they hoped for. They feel lonely, unappreciated, dejected and a little hopeless.

Loss and unhappiness are a normal part of life. With the emphasis on the romantic feelings of Valentine’s Day, it's easy for someone who is struggling with loneliness to feel out of the mainstream, as if they have done something wrong because it is hard for them to feel happy and celebratory.

We’ve all had disappointments and hurts. Even for myself, a diehard romantic who warmly embraces the good feelings sparked by Valentine’s Day, there have been painful times – times that left me feeling alone, sad, wounded and upset.

Not every Valentine’s Day is spent with a partner. For those of us who value relationship, that’s uncomfortable..

I remember walking around and around Central Park after my divorce five years ago. I'd moved back to NYC from New Hampshire after my husband moved out. It was a shock. I didn’t expect it. Yet, there I was, alone in Central Park walking, walking, thinking, wondering what was next. I was dejected and shocked -- yet ever optimistic.

Even in my darkest moments there has always been a belief and longing for something that would set my heart on fire, a glimmer of something possible, positive, alluring and fulfilling.

As a little girl I imagined my Prince Charming who would sweep me off my feet and rescue me from everyday life. As I got older, my imagination added texture. I’d picture him gazing into my eyes and we’d be transported into a different reality – one fueled by fire and ice. I was the heat to ignite and set us both on fire with hope and inspiration. He’d be the ice to cool and calm and create a solid base.

Yet, how could I fill that empty space, especially on the most romantic day of the year?

How many people have a picture-perfect Hallmark Valentine’s Day existence? Far less than we are made to believe. It’s a commercial event. So of course, vendors of Valentine's fare want you to think that everyone lives the Valentine’s life.

Most people are reluctant to tell you about their pain, especially when it comes to their love life. That doesn’t sound sexy or alluring. Who am I if someone doesn’t love me? Yet few of us live an idyllic, romantic life without loss or wounds.

The good news is that there are things you can do to be loving to yourself, by yourself or with others.

To start, be prepared by being your own Valentine. How are you going to love yourself on Valentine’s Day, regardless of whether or not you’re in a relationship? It’s most important to first love yourself.

Write a love letter to yourself. Remind yourself of what makes you a unique individual worthy of love. For extra credit, mail it so it arrives on Valentine’s Day.

Plan a “romantic” evening for yourself, even if you’re alone. Start out with a little exercise to get the blood flowing Go for a walk wearing something you feel very comfortable in or even better, one that makes you look great. Take a long relaxing bath. Enjoy a nice dinner choosing your favorite foods. Find a good movie. Visit with a friend on Zoom or phone and eat and watch the movie together.

Listen to a book. Take a class online on something you’ve always wanted to learn

Do something creative – draw, paint, sing, play music, write a story, a poem . . .

It can also be healing to confide in others, especially those who are willing to share back. It’s a relief to hear, “Yeah, I get it. I’m still devastated by my guy/gal leaving. I thought [s]he was my soulmate…”

What if you could find new friends who share your thoughts and concerns, your feelings and beliefs. You can. The Internet is such a great resource for connecting. You can look for potential friends on Facebook. There are also groups that deal with your concerns.

Much of the appeal of social networking sites is the ability to share moments of stress and sorrow and receive care and support from friends. Online support groups help too.

A long-term traditional way of helping yourself during Valentine’s day and other holidays is to help those who are less fortunate. Volunteer and provide services and comfort to the neediest in society.

Working with others on a volunteer basis also provides opportunities to make new friends and contacts, to create new relationships. With so many unemployed these days, time is a commodity that is abundant and can be shared in many meaningful ways.

How else do you renew your own spirit? What have you done in the past that worked? Why not get some old and or new friends to brainstorm Valentine’s Day ideas – in person or online.

I know Valentine’s Day is supposed to be for lovers, but It goes beyond a physical union. It’s a heart connection where we feel a blossoming of joy, of delight, of something larger than each of us as individuals. It’s a recognition of universal oneness, beliefs and values with others we care about – lover, friend, child, parent. It’s a reminder and affirmation of love and life.

For me, Valentine’s Day promises sparkle, playfulness, hope and caring. It’s at once exciting and a bit melancholy and sentimental. It opens our hearts and helps us to appreciate those we love and, when we can bare it, forgives those who have wronged us.

Sometimes we need the ear of another person to help us hear our own thoughts and feelings and remember what we care about.

If you’re feeling stressed, lonely or anxious you can join my Wednesday Evening Group at 7pm EST. Here’s the link. https://www.eventbrite.com/myevent?eid=138953113503

And please feel free to contact me for an infusion of Valentine’s Day inspiration: