Seven Things To Do To Stay Sane This Holiday

Cards with hearts and lace are filling drug store aisles. Bags of red M&Ms are on the discount store shelves. And soon that commercial with the kissing teddy bears is going to interrupt your favorite television show.

Valentine’s Day is almost here. Can you say ugh? When your relationship is broken, a day dedicated to love is probably the last thing you want to think about. But there are ways to cope if divorce or separation leaves you alone on a day dedicated to romance.

Peggy Wagner, a 51-year-old mother of two from Bear, Del., said her attitude toward Valentine’s Day has evolved over the years since her marriage ended in 1989. When she was first divorced, she did not go out socially for a few years because she had young children. When Valentine’s Day came around, she focused on her kids and gave them presents to celebrate the holiday. Once she started going out, she said she felt some emptiness around Valentine’s Day, especially when friends talked about their plans or co-workers received flowers.

However, getting involved with the Greater Wilmington Chapter of Parents Without Partners helped, especially at times when she didn’t have a relationship. The support group for single parents and children regularly has dances, including one around Valentine’s Day, which gives members a chance to dress up and mingle, even if they don’t have a date. Wagner said she also sometimes spends a night out with her girlfriends on Valentine’s Day. “Having a source of support, whether a close friend or a formal group like Parents Without Partners, helps, she said. For me, it’s just another day now,” Wagner said.

Jennifer McCarron, a licensed marriage counselor and family therapist from North Wales, Pa., (www.marriage-family, said there is no one way to best deal with Valentine’s Day when you are not in a relationship. “Everyone copes differently and finds comfort in different kinds of activities. Everything has a ritual and tradition,” saidMcCarron, who is separated. “For everything,its aboutt creating a new ritual for yourself and feeling OK that it’s different and that there isn’t a sense of failure.”

McCarron and Eugene Kayser, a licensed marriage counselor and family therapist in Abington, Pa.,( offer these seventips.

1. Ignore the holiday.

Kayser suggests thinking about Valentine’s Day like a holiday for a religion you donot celebrate. Simply decide you are not participating in the activities typically associated with the day.

2. Do something special for yourself.

Go to a spa, take a walk or try any other activity that nourishes you. Kayser said showing love and regard for yourself can make you feel stronger. “You need to self nurture,” he said. “You’ve lost something so you need to take the time to grieve it and take care of yourself.”

3. Go out, but not where you typically find couples.

A trip to the bookstore or coffee shop is good alternatives to dinner at a restaurant. McCarron said activities can help distract you if you are coping with sadness or other difficult feelings. “I think definitely scheduling something in helps so you are not sitting alone in your head,” she said.

4. Spend the day with family, friends or others you love.

Kayser and McCarron said this is a good optionas long as you surround yourself with people who support you. Avoiding people in partnerships that day also might be something to consider.

5. Seek activities with other single people.

“Support groups, speed dating, a movie night or partyat home with friends are some options”, McCarron said.

6. If you have children, focus on them.

McCarron said you can still embrace the holiday by helping them with their Valentine’s cards and remembering there are other kinds of love in life than romantic love.

7. Be mindful of Valentine’s activities that trigger difficult feelings and avoid them.

If, for example, trading sentimental cards with your ex was a favorite activity, stay away from the card aisle around the holiday.

About the authorCharlotte Hale is a freelance writer in Wilmington, Del. She has a journalism degree from Boston University and more than 17 years of experience as a writer and editor for newspapers and magazines in Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, London and Amman, Jordan.