There have been many years when I’ve dreaded Valentine’s Day. The year of my divorce was the worst.

Endless commercials of people in love, frolicking on sun baked beaches, or in some other romantic setting, confirmed that I was an fat, ugly failure. A rejected loser who couldn’t keep a husband.

But there are other reasons Valentines Day can bring discouragement or sorrow. A disappointing marriage, loss or grief, unmet expectations, or just a sense of feeling unloved.

In my situation, I spent several years serving in divorce recovery ministry and that inspired me to help others. I spent time with the Lord instead of listening to the media, and it provided better ways to cope with the apprehension of the looming D-Day.

I’m not advising an unrealistic “don’t think about it,” or pretending the day doesn’t evoke sorrow and nostalgia.

We all long for someone or something special.

For example, when your co-worker gets a bouquet of red roses delivered to the office, and raves about her upcoming romantic dinner. It’s normal to feel discouraged if your plans are with Marie Calendar and her famous frozen chicken pot pie.

We were created by God for companionship, we long for love and connection. This does not astonish, surprise or offend God.

So how do we keep Valentine’s Day from becoming an emotional D-Day meltdown? (And avoid slapping that girl at work with her roses.) Here are a few practical tips on how to cope with, and even thrive on, February 14th.

• Don’t hibernate or wait until the day to make a plan. Force yourself to be with other people, even if only briefly.
• STAY OFF SOCIAL MEDIA. It is known to evoke even more depression as you compare your life with others.
• If divorced, and your child is with the other parent, drop off a valentine or small gift. Or send a sweet text.
• If you have kids create new traditions. Handmade heart-shaped decorations, pizza, cakes or cookies go over great. I know parents that began these traditions when the kids were small and their now adult children still look forward to them.
• Ask God to bring someone to mind who needs some loving attention.  Such as: a college or exchange student, a detention home, a jail or prison, a residence for pregnant girls, an elderly friend, a homebound person, or a shelter.
• If divorced help your child make a valentine for your ex-spouse, the stepparent (if remarried) and/or former in-laws. This communicates to the child your permission to love the other family and it greatly reduces the child’s fear and tension.
• Take notice of a married friend who may be discouraged or rejected. Remember, some of the loneliest people on the planet are married. While others are receiving cards, gifts, and flowers, this day may be a reminder of a spouse who is thoughtless or unloving.
• Try out a new “family focused” restaurant with other parents. Avoid the ones that cater to couples or may have romantic overtones that night.
• Have a potluck supper with each person bringing a favorite chocolate treat.
• Do something completely different. Go roller-skating, skiing, hiking, to the mountains or to the beach.
• Send valentines or flowers to someone who has comforted, loved you or been a great friend with “Thanks for Caring About Me” on the card.
• Write a poem or a journal entry listing the things for which you are grateful.
• Treat yourself to a massage, manicure, or pedicure.
• Treat yourself to cozy bed linens or a new nightgown in a magnificent color.
• Try a new pillow or neck exercises. They work wonders for tension.
• Invite friends over for dinner and use the good linens and china.
• Get enough sunshine. Winter’s shorter daylight hours can take their toll on the emotions. If you work where there are few windows, take a walk during lunch or on your break.
• Exercise. It produces natural stress reducers, and it’s a great way to meet new people. Many gyms have childcare available.
• Buy yourself a present. However, you’ll need to be careful if you have a tendency to numb your pain by spending money.
• Calligraphy your favorite Bible verse, or try your hand at drawing or sculpting.
• Don’t anesthetize your loneliness with drugs or alcohol. These chemicals induce depression that leads to a greater sense of isolation.
• Avoid bars or singles joints. They will produce a temptation to use sex as a way to numb the pain or ease the isolation.
• Tuck away photographs or items that will trigger melancholy.
• Stay away from movies that focus on weddings, people falling in love, sexuality, or adultery. Seek films that are funny with a lighthearted plot.
• Steer clear of music, fragrances, or foods that arouse depressing memories.
• Remember you have a Lover. Jesus is the Lover of Your Soul. And He says you are so beautiful, magnificent, and special that He was willing to die to make certain you spend eternity with Him forever.
• Print out and memorize a Bible verse that proves you are deeply loved and not alone. Such as: Deuteronomy 31:6, Isaiah: 43:1, Isaiah 43:4a, Psalm 91, John 14:8, Romans 8:15, Philippians 4:6-8, 1 Peter 5:7

I pray these suggestions help make your Valentine’s Day brighter.

After all, any day with chocolate as its focus is something to smile about.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Petherbridge. All rights reserved.

Laura Petherbridge is an international author and speaker who serves couples and single adults with topics on stepfamilies, relationships, divorce prevention, and divorce recovery. She is the author of When “I Do” Becomes “I Don’t”—Practical Steps for Healing During Separation and Divorce, The Smart Stepmom, co-authored with Ron Deal, 101 Tips for the Smart Stepmom and Quiet Moments for the Stepmom Soul. Her website is