Dear Readers,

Valentine’s Day was yesterday, and some of you will celebrate the holiday this weekend. Several readers share sorrow-filled “takes” on the day. Perhaps you might take a moment to listen to “My Funny Valentine,” a jazz standard sung by both Frank Sinatra and a theatrical version by Ella Fitzgerald. “You’re my funny valentine, Sweet comic valentine … Each day is Valentine’s Day.” For some readers, I think they are glad each day is not Valentine’s Day. For these folks, Valentine’s is stressful.



Dear Carolyn,

My spouse died on Valentine’s Day last year, and I am really dreading Feb. 14, 2018, as the anniversary of his death. I have so many vivid memories of the good times, but when I think of his tragic death, I feel like I am having a heart attack. My chest gets tight and I can hardly breathe.

I tried a few sessions of counseling and that did not work. How do I get over this tremendous sense of loss on Valentine’s Day? Is there something wrong with me? I went to the doctor once thinking I had a heart attack. The medical tests did not show a heart attack. What do I do? I am totally stressed out and sick over Valentine’s Day.


Carolyn Answers …

Valentine’s Day, like other holidays, can be especially difficult. Perhaps Valentine’s Day is even more difficult if you have lost the “love of your life,” and you are still grieving. Betrayal, romantic rejection or even the death of a spouse can strike the otherwise healthy person leaving that person a mess physically and emotionally. You need help. I suggest both trying another counselor and another medical opinion.

I am not a doctor, but there is a real thing called broken heart syndrome, which can mimic a heart attack. Yes, loss of love can be exceeding stressful and can lead to a surge of stress hormones. Women (and less often men) may have intense chest pain. The good news is that broken heart syndrome doesn’t lead to blocked arteries, but could in severe cases lead to short-term heart muscle failure. In rare cases, the condition is fatal, but in most situations broken heart syndrome is treatable. According to the medical literature, it can be a little hard to diagnosis. See your doctor and don’t stop looking until you have a solution.

I suggest you look at doing something totally different that you have never done before. Take a class in something that interests you. Join a book club. Take some dance lessons. Occupy your mind with other thoughts and activities.

For Valentine’s Day itself (or the upcoming weekend when many will celebrate Valentine’s Day), plan something with someone you love or care about. Friends are supportive. Some ideas might be: Grab a friend and go on a “dinner date;” have a spa day; invite friends over for a movie night; throw a singles party; go on an adventure. The world is your oyster. Crack it open and enjoy the pearl.



Dear Carolyn,

I am thinking about breaking up with my boyfriend on Valentine’s Day. I caught him cheating on me. He doesn’t know that I know. Do you think that is too mean-spirited?


Carolyn Answers …

You need to break up, and I wouldn’t waste a perfectly good Valentine’s Day on this dude. Dump him immediately and enjoy Valentine’s Day with your girlfriends. Psychologists have studied breakups and found that breakups are 27 to 40 percent higher on Valentine’s Day than other times of the year. In 2004, Katherine A. Morse wrote her undergraduate thesis, “How do holidays influence relationship processes and outcomes? Examining the instigating and catalytic effects of Valentine’s Day.” The good news from the study is that strong relationships did not breakup, but marginal relationships did not handle the stress of Valentine’s Day very well.

Dear Carolyn,

I just hate commercialized holidays. Why does everything about Valentine’s have to be about spending money for flowers and cards, which I cannot afford? I do have a girlfriend. So, how do I deal with this and not disappoint her? I love her but I don’t want to spend all this money I don’t have. I don’t need another credit card bill.

Oh, and don’t forget the money for the chocolates. I don’t have that either.


Carolyn Answers …

I like your sense of style. I think you are a romantic at heart. I would share your vision for Valentine’s Day with your friend. She may share it already, or she may embrace it when you share it. Holidays are lucrative, and Valentine’s Day is a particularly lucrative holiday for chocolatiers, jewelers, restauranteurs and greeting card manufacturers.

In my blog, Ask, I have suggested several DIY ideas. For you, I suggest you specially design your own Valentine’s date with your friend. Each of you should make your own cards for each other; perhaps even use an old issue of the Rhino Times. Have an unconventional materials Valentine project. Use some crayons or paper friendly paint to draw hearts and cut them out of the old Rhino. Make your own dinner; after all, you have to eat – so make the food creation an event for you and yours. The blog suggests a way to infuse your own cooking oils. Use a candle; maybe one left over from Christmas, which will probably be red and the right color. If you can find a discarded chocolate box, line it with foil and use it for the presentation of a veggie tray at your celebration.


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Note that answers are intended to provide general legal information and are not specific legal advice for your situation. The column also uses hypothetical questions. A subtle fact in your unique case may determine the legal advice you need. Also, please note that you are not creating an attorney-client relationship with Carolyn J. Woodruff by writing or having your question answered by Ask Carolyn.