February is a month that represents a variety of things to me. Cold weather (accompanied by dirty gray snow), the Super Bowl (Go Packers!), mid-winter vacation, and another government holiday (President's Day) where I'll undoubtedly trudge over to the post office before realizing it is closed. I would be amiss, however, if I failed to mention that February is also a month that represents LOVE. For each year, on February 14th, us Americans celebrate (or protest) the holiest of all Hallmark holiday's....Valentine's Day! I am neither a lover or hater (no pun intended) of this holiday, however, I do enjoy a good excuse to go out to a nice restaurant and pick out a sappy romantic card for my husband.
Today, on the eve of this grand holiday, I spent a couple of hours engaged in one of my least favorite (but necessary) weekly chores. I went grocery shopping. As soon as I walked through the door of my local supermarket, it was if Cupid himself assaulted me with all things red, pink and "heart-y". A huge Valentine's Day display greeted me in the foyer (staring me down as I sanitized my shopping cart) and it seemed as though a similar display was stationed at every congested turn in the store. Strategically displayed between the cereal aisle and natural food department was an entire aisle devoted Valentine's Day. Well, let me rephrase that. It was a partial aisle. About half of the aisle was littered with boxes of chocolate, picked over Toy Story and Dora the Explorer cards and a variety of stuffed animals holding stuffed hearts. All things I would expect to see at a store on the day before Valentine's Day.
Where things get confusing is that the other half of the aisle was already set up with chocolate bunny's, ceramic bunny's, grass filled baskets, Peeps and those delicious Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs (my greatest springtime vice). That's right, the store is all set to go for Easter! A holiday that is a month and a half away! Now, those who know me personally, would probably classify me as more of a "planner" than a "free-spirit", but as I stood there in the grocery store today I found myself thinking, "Man, what is the RUSH?".
It didn't take me long to come up with a logical explanation that would justify this Half Valentine's Day/Half Easter (with a little bit of St. Patty's Day and 75% off Hanukkah gear mixed in) aisle. My Answer: This is America. In America, we eat our fast-food fast, drive fast and want to get rich/thin/qualified as fast as possible. Slowing down is often not part of our repertoire. As a grief and loss counselor, I meet with bereaved individuals who often express a desire to resolve their grief FAST. Most of the time, this is not because they want to, but because they feel they have to. In recent years, American culture has fallen victim to trying to find the fastest, easiest and preferably the most painless avenue we can to "get over" our grief. Yet, to heal in grief one must turn inward, slow down, embrace pain, and seek and accept support [Source: A. Wolfelt]. Unlike our commercialized approach to holidays, grief is not something that should (or feasibly can) be rushed through. Your grief journey should not be about "finding the fast way out" or measuring how "well" you are doing compared to others around you. The human heart doesn't heal according to a time clock. When it comes to embracing grief, fast is certainly not better [Source: A. Wolfelt].
As we approach February 14th, I challenge you to stop and smell the roses (literally and metaphorically). Even if you choose not to celebrate Valentine's Day, make it a point to tell someone special that you love them or do a small charitable deed before the month of February is over. For those of you who are grieving the loss of someone you love, my heart and prayers go out to you. I encourage you also to slow down, find a safe place to share your grief, mourn openly and remember that in order to heal your grieving heart you must allow yourself to feel your grieving heart.