Red hearts, candy and flowers are everywhere you turn.
It's a time for warm, fuzzy, positive feelings about love and relationships.
It's Valentine's Day, a reminder of how wonderful it is to be in love.
But what about the love that didn't last forever?
Love may be wonderful when it's true. If it's just not working out, love can be anything but wonderful.
When that happens, love can leave us feeling shattered, unlovable, abandoned, and very much alone.
February 14 can bring pain that is truly excruciating.
What can you do?
Dr. Mary Guindon of the American Counseling Association advises broken-hearted individuals to let time be the healer.
As time passes and you gain distance from the breakup, she said.
This advice is of little use when the ache is new and the agony is immense.
To get you get through this initial period of pain, Dr. Guidon offers the following tips:
- Recognize this as a loss, similar to the death of someone close to you. That means you will mourn. That's natural and inevitable. Don't beat yourself up or feel guilty for being sad or angry.
- Acknowledge that the day will come when you will get better. When you have the flu, you know it won't last forever. Think of this pain as a flu of the heart. It's going to go away, too.
- Take care of yourself physically. Get lots of rest but don't languish in bed. Exercise. Eat well and sensibly. This is not the time to junk out nor the time for stringent dieting.
- Put structure in your life. Stick to your regular schedule as much as possible during the week. Make plans for evenings, weekends and holidays.
- Realize you really aren't alone. Seek the support of others. There's nothing to be ashamed about. It's OK to accept comforting, but don't wallow in repeated story telling. Instead, do something for or with someone else.
- Invest your energies in life. Surround yourself with things that are alive: plants, pets, and kids. Nurturing others is a fantastic way to nurture yourself.
- Be aware of the rebound. This is not the time to rekindle old, failed relationships, nor the time to start a new one. You need time alone to get to know yourself again.
- Start something new, interesting and involving. Develop a new interest or rediscover an old one. Take a class at the community college, pick up that craft project gathering dust, go on a tour, even if it's in your own town.
- Forgive your ex-lover. Forgive yourself. Celebrate the good in the relationship ended, but don't hold on to mementos from it. They can keep you stuck in the past. Honor what you had, then let it go. Burn, bury, throw out, or give away those reminders. Don't go out of your way to revisit those special places. And don't contact your ex-lover, hoping for unrealistic reconciliation. Accept that when something's over, it's over.
- Reaffirm yourself. You have value. Be gentle with yourself. Your life is well worth living. Anticipate a positive outcome and accentuate your positives. Learn from this experience and evaluate your own growth. Take stock and make realistic adjustments where you need to.
Taking these simple steps can help minimize that pain and put your life back on a positive, solid footing.
Before you know it, you will be able to commend yourself for your courage and your survival.
Then, next Valentine's Day, you may be a participating member of the relationship celebration.