Valentine’s Day can be difficult for survivors of domestic violence. Our society has marketed this day towards happy, healthy couples and for individuals who have faced abuse, it can make this day feel rather disheartening. Social media is often full of unrealistic presentations of happy couples and this can create feelings of unworthiness, provoking individuals to ponder their own decisions.
On the other hand, many survivors who do leave an abusive relationship, may face what’s known as Stockholm syndrome after abuse. This is essentially when you feel compassion for your abuser and struggle to get over the break-up as you still miss being with them. On Valentine’s Day, it can be extremely easy to fall into a cycle of reminiscing on the positive times you had with this person, because let’s face it, even an abusive relationship can have good days. That’s essentially what keeps survivors holding on. They hope one day this person will change, and focus on the fond memories they may have had at the beginning of the relationship. During a pandemic, it can be especially challenging, as there is little distraction to help dissipate these thoughts and in some cases, triggers.
So, let’s find ways that Valentine’s Day can be a day full of self-love rather than sorrow. This day should be about admiring your inner strength, and celebrating you as a wonderful individual deserving of recognition.
1. Write a love letter to yourself
A personal love letter is a great way to reflect on life, and recognize all the qualities that make you special and unique. It’s similar to telling yourself positive affirmations which help re-frame negative self-talk. The more you tell yourself that you are worthy, kind, smart, and a good human being, the more your mind will believe it. One of the first steps to healing is self-love and a love letter to yourself is a great way to begin or continue the process. This article on Glamour has some amazing examples of letters survivors wrote to themselves.
2. Participate in self care
Why not make Valentine’s Day about treating yourself! Relax and do what makes you feel good. Self care can be as small as doing your makeup (something many people actually find therapeutic) to colouring, writing, taking a bath, going for a walk, speaking with your therapist, or even unplugging from social media.
3. Be around those you love
We’re in difficult times as the pandemic is still present. However, if you live with friends or family that you like, try initiating a movie or dinner night, and have a fun day of celebrating the ones you love! This day isn’t only for celebrating romantic relationships. If possible, go on a socially distant outdoor walk with a friend to switch things up.
4. Take advantage of the day full of chocolate and bake something delicious
Baking is another act of self care and for many, is extremely relaxing and a great way to unwind and relieve stress. Not only are you creating something delicious but baking actually allows you to express creativity.
5. Call a helpline if you begin to have upsetting thoughts and feelings
There is no shame in calling a helpline on Valentine’s Day. If you need that extra bit of support right now, you should absolutely reach out and get it. Sometimes having someone who doesn’t know you, listen to your problems can be a great relief.
6. Be gentle with yourself
Remember, it’s okay if you feel certain upsetting emotions on Valentine’s Day. Your feelings are valid, and normal so don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re only human and quite frankly doing the best you can. In fact, just reading this article is such a wonderful step. You are loved, and so worthy.
If you are currently in an abusive relationship, we recognize how challenging this day can be and how it can be even more difficult to leave on the days leading up to it. There is a pressure that Valentine’s Day will solve certain issues, and that with flowers, chocolate, perhaps a necklace, this day can be special and peaceful. We recognize that you may be holding onto those grand gestures, those moments of kindness, and that on this day your heart yearns for some form of love. The pressure of any holiday can make it harder to leave, especially the ones that are based on love. Know that you are worthy of kindness and respect. This is not your fault, you are not alone, and you are appreciated and loved. Please, seek support by involving a trusted family member or friend, and contact a hotline that can help guide you in leaving (we will have them listed below). If you’re in immediate danger call 911.
Written by: Taryn Herlich
Resource Link For Helplines In Canada