February is a month when love is celebrated. I’m thinking of all of you who have suffered a loss and are grieving. Valentine’s Day can be especially difficult when someone we love has died. We are grieving because of the love we have for them, the love that still connects us. Grief and love are intertwined.
“Grief is the price we pay for love”.
— Queen Elizabeth II
We all know love heals, but when someone is taken away from us, it’s like a well of without. When my husband Jim first died, I was certain I would never love anyone else ever again. Then, love seemed like a broken bow on a violin – and I thought the music would never return. And although it took time, the music eventually came back and I fell in love again. I found there was room in my heart for my grief and my love for Jim alongside a great love for someone else. But it’s important to remember there is no timetable when we are grieving. You’ll know when you’re ready again.
Earlier I recommended the beautiful book, “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi, about his terminal lung cancer diagnosis. This book is now a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize! After reading the book, I found this heartwarming love story in the Washington Post about how Paul’s widow Lucy fell in love with John, the surviving spouse of another memoirist, Nina Rigg (The Bright Hour.” ) Nina’s husband John reached out to Lucy at his dying wife’s suggestion that Lucy would be able to help him with his grief.
About their new relationship, John Duberstein said “I’m surprised by how ridiculous it is and how natural it is at the same time”.
“When they read the words of the two people they loved so profoundly, perhaps their old lives seem woven into their new life, one love spilling into the next, families merging, past and present overlapping”.
Two Profound Love Letters
Eva, My Love – Everything Has to End
Author and journalist Stieg Larsson wrote this gorgeous letter for his long-term partner, Eva, who found the letter in his belongings after he passed away from a heart attack at 50-years old in 2004 – “To be opened only after my death.”
He had written the letter prior to a trip to Africa in 1977 when he was just 22. This letter has so much to teach all of us! Read the whole letter here.
In the letter, Stieg advises her of the following:
“Pain will fade with time, even if that’s hard to imagine right now. Live in peace, my dearest love; live, love, hate, and keep fighting…”
I am taking a writing course on love with Laura Lentz and it’s been incredibly opening for me! I wanted to offer you two writing exercises if you want to write your own love letter after reading the letters above.
- Write a letter to someone you love who is no longer with you, telling them everything you always wanted to say.
- Write a love letter to someone you love who is still alive – a child, a parent or a lover – to be opened only upon your death.
Consider this – why wait? If you have done exercise two, give the letter to those you love today; let them know how much they mean to you now in honor of Valentine’s Day.
I close my newsletter with this quote on love:
Grief, I’ve learned, is really just about love.
It’s all the love you want to give but cannot.
All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes,
The lump in your throat and the follow part in your chest.
Grief is just love with no place to go.
Love to you, and Happy Valentine’s Day!
Debbie Augenthaler, LMHC, NCC, is an author and psychotherapist in private practice in New York City, where she specializes in trauma, grief and loss. Her award-winning book, You Are Not Alone: A Heartfelt Guide for Grief, Healing, and Hope combines her personal story of devastating loss with practical insights and simple suggestions for healing. Join her Facebook community, Grief to Gratitude, and follow her on Instagram.