Author offers Valentine’s advice to grieving lovers

Published: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 @ 2:50 PM
Updated: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 @ 2:50 PM

For those celebrating a new or long-term loving relationship, Valentine’s Day can be wonderful indeed.

But for those who have lost a sweetheart, the holiday can be excruciating.

Just ask Joni Aldrich, who has written two books chronicling the end-of-life journey with her husband and the recovery from grief that followed: “The Saving of Gordon” and “The Losing of Gordon” (Cancer Lifetime Publications, $15.95 and $19.95).

Gordon, who died four years ago of a rare form of cancer, was 45. Valentine’s Day had been special for the couple.

“My husband and I had our first date the Saturday before Valentine’s Day,” Aldrich says. On Valentine’s Day, when a bouquet of carnations was waiting on her front porch, she realized Gordon was someone special. “We always considered Valentine’s Day to be the anniversary of our first date,” she says.

The holiday, especially the first time following a loss, is always difficult. Aldrich says most grief counseling focuses on December holidays, rarely on February.

“Valentine’s Day is a little different than Christmas, although that is also hard,” she says. “Christmas is for your spouse and your family, Valentine’s Day is a close relationship day for lovers to share their love and reinvent their love, so that’s very hard.”

The void can be tremendous for those in mourning who see happy couples all around them and are surrounded by sentimental greeting cards, vases filled with flowers and candy conversation hearts.

Aldrich, who is in a new relationship, says it’s still hard for her to enjoy a festive celebration on Valentine’s Day, and offers these tips for those anticipating a difficult time:

Prepare in advance.

Survival requires looking deep inside yourself to determine what you might do to make this holiday less painful, she says. Know what to avoid.

While it’s important to remember the rituals and traditions you and your sweetheart shared, Valentine’s Day might not be the best time to do either.

“Stay away from restaurants,” Aldrich advises.

“The empty place across the table will cast a pall on any pleasant feelings you’ve managed to work up. Avoid any of the ‘old favorites.’ Order take-out or cook at home, but don’t fix that special dinner you used to make with the person you loved.”

Stay busy.

Chances are you’ve heard advice similar to the following: “Get out of the house! He wouldn’t want you to stop living your own life.”

If you’re dreading the rush of painful emotions and memories that Valentine’s Day will bring, try to plan an activity that will take your mind off things.

“Schedule some quality time with friends and family,” Aldrich recommends. “Play some board or card games rather than watching movies, unless there isn’t a hint of romance in them. This is definitely one day when romance can be very painful. Instead, focus on a new project that you really enjoy, such as redecorating your home.” Other options? Head for the gym or a day at the spa.

Allow the emotions to come.

Remember that grief never fits into a neat timetable, and that it’s unhealthy to pretend that everything’s OK when it’s not. No matter how prepared you think you are or how much of your life you think you may have rebuilt after suffering a devastating loss, grief can still bowl you over with emotion.

“Valentine’s Day is especially tough because not only do you have to deal with your own memories, but your senses are constantly assaulted, too,” Aldrich observes.

“Remember that it’s OK to cry. Let the emotions come — just try to keep them from overwhelming you. Depending on how you feel, you might write a love poem or letter to the one you’re grieving. The point is that it’s OK to remember those whom you loved and lost,” she said.

Turn your love to other treasures.

Although Valentine’s Day is largely marketed to lovers, it isn’t limited to them — in fact, far from it. February 14 is a time to focus on anyone and everyone you love, such as your children and grandchildren and friends. “Love comes in many different kinds of relationships,” Aldrich points out.

“Celebrate those, even though the loss of the person with whom you were passionate still hurts. Every day is a good day to tell those you love how you feel. And don’t forget to love yourself in the process.”

“Try to focus on the fact that it’s just 24 hours; it’s a hard 24 hours, but you can get through it,” Aldrich says.

5 things you should know about Ramadan, Islam’s holy month of fasting

Published: Thursday, May 25, 2017 @ 8:00 AM

Muslims around the globe are gearing up for the holy month of Ramadan, which begins this weekend.

Throughout the holiday, observers fast from sunrise to sunset and partake in nightly feasts.

» RELATED: Muslims in America, by the numbers

Here are five things to know about Islam’s sacred month:

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is the holy month of fasting, spiritual reflection and prayer for Muslims.

It is believed to be the month in which the Prophet Muhammad revealed the holy book — Quran — to Muslims.

The word “Ramadan” itself is taken from the Arabic word, “ramad,” an adjective describing something scorchingly dry or intensely heated by the sun.

» RELATED: Mahershala Ali makes history as first Muslim to win an Academy Award 

When is Ramadan?

The Islamic calendar is based on the moon’s cycle and not the sun’s (what the Western world uses), so the dates vary year to year.

By the Gregorian solar calendar, Ramadan is 10 to 12 days earlier every year.

In 2017, Ramadan is expected to start on May 27 and last through June 24.

Last year, the first day of Ramadan was June 6, 2016.

To determine when exactly the holy month will begin, Muslim-majority countries look to local moon sighters, according to Al Jazeera.

The lunar months last between 29 and 30 days, depending on the sighting of the moon on the 29th night of each month. If the moon is not visible, the month will last 30 days.

» RELATED: 5 inspiring quotes from iconic Muslim women to celebrate #MuslimWomensDay 

What do Muslims do during Ramadan and why?

Ramadan is known as the holy month of fasting, with Muslims abstaining from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset.

Fasting during the holiday is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, along with the daily prayer, declaration of faith, charity and performing the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Last year, according to Al Jazeera, fasting hours around the globe ranged between 11 and 22 hours and in the US, 16 to 18 hours.

The fast is intended to remind Muslims of the suffering of those less fortunate and bring believers closer to God (Allah, in Arabic). 

During the month, Muslims also abstain from habits such as smoking, caffeine, sex, and gossip; this is seen as a way to both physically and spiritually purify oneself while practicing self-restraint.

Here’s what a day of fasting during Ramadan is like:

  • Muslims have a predawn meal called the “suhoor.”
  • Then, they fast all day until sunset.
  • At sunset, Muslims break their fast with a sip of water and some dates, the way they believe the Prophet Muhammad broke his fast more than a thousand years ago.
  • After sunset prayers, they gather at event halls, mosques or at home with family and friends in a large feast called “iftar."

» RELATED: Photos of famous Muslim Americans

How is the end of Ramadan celebrated?

Toward the end of the month, Muslims celebrate Laylat al-Qadr or “the Night of Power/Destiny” — a day observers believe Allah sent the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad to reveal the Quran’s first verses.

On this night, which falls on one of the last 10 nights of Ramadan, Muslims practice intense worship as they pray for answers and seek forgiveness for any sins.

To mark the end of Ramadan, determined by the sighting of the moon on the 29th, a 3-day celebration called Eid al-Fitr brings families and friends together in early morning prayers followed by picnics, feasts and fun.

Does every Muslim fast during Ramadan?

According to most interpreters of the Quran, children, the elderly, the ill, pregnant women, women who are nursing or menstruating, and travelers are exempt from fasting.

Some interpreters also consider intense hunger and thirst as well as compulsion (someone threatening another to do something) exceptions.

But as an entirety, whether Muslims fast or not often depends on their ethnicity and country.

Many Muslims in Muslim-majority countries, for example, observe the monthlong fast during Ramadan, according to 2012 data from the Pew Research Center.

In fact, in Saudi Arabia, Muslims and non-Muslims can be fined or jailed for eating in public during the day, according to the Associated Press.

But in the United States and in Europe, many Muslims are accepting of non-observers.


How not to celebrate Cinco de Mayo

Published: Tuesday, May 02, 2017 @ 11:28 AM

Cinco de Mayo is Friday, and before everyone gets ready for happy hours and parties, it helps to go in with a plan.

>> Read more trending stories

There are plenty of ways to celebrate the day, which commemorates Mexico’s victory over France in the Battle of Puebla on May 5 1862, during the French-Mexican war.

Make sure you do not do any of the following:

Dress up in sombreros and fake mustaches

There is no need to "dress up" for this day, but if you do, do not wear a sombrero, mariachi suit, serape, fake mustache or anything of the sort if you are not a member of that culture. Those things have historical and cultural significance, and donning them just for a day caricatures and stereotypes people. That's not fun.

Go out and get drunk

There is nothing wrong with drinking in moderation and doing it socially, but responsibility is key. What is the use in celebrating a day if you get sick or can't remember it?

Make English words Spanish by adding an "o" on the end

Not only does it not make any sense, but by doing this, it makes fun of another language and turns it into a joke. The same goes for plays on the holiday name, so no parties or themes like "Cinco de Drinko."

You can make a margarita cupcake or a fun cocktail, or have dinner at a family-owned Mexican restaurant. There are plenty of ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo without doing any of the three above.

Woman turns son's hospital bed into giant Easter basket

Published: Tuesday, April 18, 2017 @ 5:14 PM

Marine2844/Getty Images/iStockphoto

A woman turned her son’s hospital bed at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, into a giant Easter basket, and social media loved it.

>> Read more trending news

The hospital posted the image on its Facebook page on Monday. Within 24 hours, the post has nearly 2,000 likes and nearly 400 shares.
“The lengths great parents will go to for their precious children,” one commenter wrote. 

The family is showing support for the post and have commented that they hope this becomes a trend for patients at the hospital every Easter.

Why is it called Good Friday and what’s so good about it?

Published: Friday, April 14, 2017 @ 12:14 PM

Pictured is a mosaic of Jesus Christ inside Messina Cathedral on the Piazza del Duomo in Messina, Sicily.
Eye Ubiquitous/UIG via Getty Images

Christians believe Jesus was mocked publicly and crucified on a solemn Friday two thousand years ago. Today, the calamitous day is celebrated as Good Friday.

But what’s so good about that?

>> Read more trending news

One answer is that at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, “good” may have referred to “holy” in Old English, a linguistic theory supported by many language experts.

According to Slate, the Oxford English Dictionary notes the Wednesday before Easter was once called “Good Wednesday.” Today, it’s more commonly known as Holy Wednesday.

And Anatoly Liberman, a University of Minnesota professor who studies the origins of English words, told Slate if we consider the alternative names for Good Friday, such as “Sacred Friday” (romance languages) or “Passion Friday” (Russian), this theory makes a lot of sense.

Another possible reason for its moniker — a theory supported by both linguists and historical evidence — refers to the holiday’s ties to Easter Sunday, which celebrates the resurrection of Christ.

Because Jesus couldn’t have been resurrected without dying, the day of his death is, in a sense, “good.”

“That terrible Friday has been called Good Friday because it led to the Resurrection of Jesus and his victory over death and sin and the celebration of Easter, the very pinnacle of Christian celebrations,” the Huffington Post reported.

A third answer, some believe, is that the “good” in Good Friday was derived from "God” or “God’s Friday” — the way the term “goodbye” comes from a contraction of the phrase “God Be With You.”

Still, not everyone refers to this day as Good Friday. For example, 

The Catholic Encyclopedia mentions that, in the Greek Church, the holiday is known as "the Holy and Great Friday." In German, it's referred to as "Sorrowful Friday."

And as aforementioned, “Sacred Friday” and “Passion Friday” are also used.

In addition, because the holiday is also commemorated with a long fast, Good Friday was also referred to as “Long Friday” by the Anglo-Saxons.