Newsday's Ken Buffa speaks with a mental health expert about loved ones dealing with grief and depression on Valentine's Day. Credit: NewsdayTV

Valentine’s Day for many, means love expressed through the familiar niceties: chocolates, greeting cards, flowers, a romantic dinner.

For others, it can be a painful day, mental health experts say, one evoking sadness and depression, whether over the death of a loved one or the end of a long-term relationship.

“I think the emotional connection that comes with Valentine’s Day for a spouse that has lost their partner, that becomes an emotionally charged holiday,” said Joanna Formont, a licensed mental health counselor and executive director of SIBSPlace, a nonprofit in Rockville Centre.

It can mean a day spent feeling out of step with the rest of society, according to Formont.

“It’s just really a harsh reminder that that person isn’t there anymore,” she said.

Experts asked about how to cope on the third pandemic-era Valentine’s Day offered a range of approaches to help ease emotional pain attached to the holiday, from seeking the support of friends and family to self-care like yoga, or clinical therapy.

For those hoping to avoid any reminders of Feb. 14 altogether, ubiquitous ads — on TV, in newspapers and online — make it difficult, said Dr. Barbara Fontana, a psychologist based in Shoreham-Wading River.

“It’s almost every place we look we’re being reminded that Valentine’s Day is coming,” she said.

It has been an especially hard time during the pandemic for those who lived alone during periods of extended isolation, experts said.

“Valentine’s Day is just one of the many triggers that can cause you to feel upset, cause you to feel depressed, cause you to feel alone,” Formont said.

Fontana had two basic suggestions to ease the pain associated with Valentine's Day for people who have lost significant others: Be kind to yourself. Be kind to someone else.

The first could involve making a favorite meal, or connecting with a friend who also is without a significant other and sharing a special lunch or dinner, she said.

Or it could involve other favorite activities on what is forecast to be a clear, sunny day with high near 50 degrees: a hike on the beach or in the woods.

“It’s almost like be your own Valentine,” Fontana said. “Do something nice for yourself. You don’t have to have another person to do that for you.”

The second could involve doing something special for someone else — as an example, grandchildren — and turning what might be a dismal holiday into something joyful, she said.

“I really believe that it is in being kind to others that we get the most benefit,” she said.

Support from friends and family is critical for those who have lost significant others to make it through any significant holiday, said Formont, whose organization runs support groups for people who have lost their spouses and still have children at home.

“The power of finding a support group is great,” she said. “Even though friends may say, ‘Oh I understand,’ or, ‘I want to be there for you,’ nobody really gets what you are going through,” she said.

Self-care “mindfulness” activities that can be helpful include yoga, meditation, and deep breathing, she said.

Formont suggested journaling as another way to cope and get through the holiday. Write down present feelings and emotions, she said, or compose a love or goodbye letter to the person you are grieving.

Dr. Scott Krakower, a psychiatrist at Northwell Health’s Zucker Hillside Hospital in Queens, said that if a person recently went through a difficult breakup, he recommends they try to get out this Valentine’s Day and not sit home alone dwelling on the lost relationship.

“We usually say, ‘OK you have broken up, move on to the next thing,’” he said. “I like people to move forward a bit.”

Valentine’s Day “is so triggering when you see everybody else getting flowers and you’re the only one not getting a flower,” he said. “It can be hard on the receiving end if you’re not getting anything and your friends are like, ‘Oh look what I got for Valentine’s Day.’”

He also said it is a good idea not to look much at social media — unless it is to find an event you can attend.

Valentine’s Day for many, means love expressed through the familiar niceties: chocolates, greeting cards, flowers, a romantic dinner.

For others, it can be a painful day, mental health experts say, one evoking sadness and depression, whether over the death of a loved one or the end of a long-term relationship.

“I think the emotional connection that comes with Valentine’s Day for a spouse that has lost their partner, that becomes an emotionally charged holiday,” said Joanna Formont, a licensed mental health counselor and executive director of SIBSPlace, a nonprofit in Rockville Centre.

It can mean a day spent feeling out of step with the rest of society, according to Formont.

What to know

  • Mental health experts say Valentine’s Day can be hard for those who have lost a spouse or gone through the break-up of a serious relationship.
  • Support from friends and family is key.
  • Self-care, such as meditating, yoga, hiking, or making a special meal can also be helpful.

“It’s just really a harsh reminder that that person isn’t there anymore,” she said.

How to cope

Experts asked about how to cope on the third pandemic-era Valentine’s Day offered a range of approaches to help ease emotional pain attached to the holiday, from seeking the support of friends and family to self-care like yoga, or clinical therapy.

For those hoping to avoid any reminders of Feb. 14 altogether, ubiquitous ads — on TV, in newspapers and online — make it difficult, said Dr. Barbara Fontana, a psychologist based in Shoreham-Wading River.

“It’s almost every place we look we’re being reminded that Valentine’s Day is coming,” she said.

It has been an especially hard time during the pandemic for those who lived alone during periods of extended isolation, experts said.

“Valentine’s Day is just one of the many triggers that can cause you to feel upset, cause you to feel depressed, cause you to feel alone,” Formont said.

Fontana had two basic suggestions to ease the pain associated with Valentine's Day for people who have lost significant others: Be kind to yourself. Be kind to someone else.

The first could involve making a favorite meal, or connecting with a friend who also is without a significant other and sharing a special lunch or dinner, she said.

Or it could involve other favorite activities on what is forecast to be a clear, sunny day with high near 50 degrees: a hike on the beach or in the woods.

Be your own Valentine

“It’s almost like be your own Valentine,” Fontana said. “Do something nice for yourself. You don’t have to have another person to do that for you.”

The second could involve doing something special for someone else — as an example, grandchildren — and turning what might be a dismal holiday into something joyful, she said.

“I really believe that it is in being kind to others that we get the most benefit,” she said.

Support from friends and family is critical for those who have lost significant others to make it through any significant holiday, said Formont, whose organization runs support groups for people who have lost their spouses and still have children at home.

“The power of finding a support group is great,” she said. “Even though friends may say, ‘Oh I understand,’ or, ‘I want to be there for you,’ nobody really gets what you are going through,” she said.

Self-care “mindfulness” activities that can be helpful include yoga, meditation, and deep breathing, she said.

Formont suggested journaling as another way to cope and get through the holiday. Write down present feelings and emotions, she said, or compose a love or goodbye letter to the person you are grieving.

Dr. Scott Krakower, a psychiatrist at Northwell Health’s Zucker Hillside Hospital in Queens, said that if a person recently went through a difficult breakup, he recommends they try to get out this Valentine’s Day and not sit home alone dwelling on the lost relationship.

“We usually say, ‘OK you have broken up, move on to the next thing,’” he said. “I like people to move forward a bit.”

Valentine’s Day “is so triggering when you see everybody else getting flowers and you’re the only one not getting a flower,” he said. “It can be hard on the receiving end if you’re not getting anything and your friends are like, ‘Oh look what I got for Valentine’s Day.’”

He also said it is a good idea not to look much at social media — unless it is to find an event you can attend.

Montauk dredging complete … Downtown Mineola development … American Thrift  Credit: Newsday

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Montauk dredging complete … Downtown Mineola development … American Thrift  Credit: Newsday

Lattingtown house fire ... Roosevelt HS ROTC robotics ... NYS LI water quality grants ... Mets spring training

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