Valentine’s Day: Love, Loss and Healing

By Feb 8, 2012January 28th, 201549 Comments

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Today, we’re sharing a very special Valentine’s Day story from Mary of The Mama Mary Show. She reflects upon how one man in her life made Valentine’s Day very special…and inspired her as well.

Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day is typically a holiday reserved for lovers, many of my most precious Valentine’s Day cards did not come from a significant other. Rather, they came from the other man in my life, my dad.

For as long as I can remember, he sent hand-selected greeting cards to my sisters and me, every year on Valentine’s Day. I always looked forward to finding the frosty or hot pink Hallmark envelope in my mailbox, with the words “Do not open til Feb 14th.”

Despite his intimidating and sometimes overbearing demeanor, he was also a very sensitive and thoughtful man, with a soft spot for the women in his life. So in addition to showering my mom with a card, flowers, candy and a little bling, bling, he would also send a card to all his daughters to let us know he was thinking about us. I think he also wanted to make sure we received something in case we were either a) single or b) dating a loser who didn’t think to buy a card.

Valentine’s Day 2001 came only 12 days after my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given only a few months to live. He was much too weak to go out and purchase cards, but I couldn’t bear the thought of not having at least one more card. So, on February 10th, I headed to Rite Aid and picked out seven Valentine’s Day cards, one for each of his ladies. I thought it would be a nice surprise for all my sisters and my mom who were all certainly thinking the same thing; that we had seen the last of our special cards from Dad.

Later that night I brought the bag of cards into his den and laid them on his desk. He smiled. The moment was both magical and awkward; there was an elephant in the room…the unspoken reason behind my purchasing the cards. But nevertheless, he was touched and I think very glad to have the opportunity to wish his lovely ladies one last Valentine’s Day sentiment.

Although I had purchased the cards myself, I still felt that flutter of excitement to see mine arrive in the mailbox on February 14th. I couldn’t wait to open it, for it was not the card itself that I looked forward to every year, but it was the handwritten message inside. He always took the time to write a unique, personalized, heartfelt note in each of his cards. I never once received a card from my father that did not have a handwritten note in addition to the pre-printed message. He was “old-fashioned” that way. And sentimental.

When I lost my dad to cancer in 2001, I had no idea how I would rebound from the loss. His death was my first experience with bereavement and I stumbled through it, just like most people do. After emerging from the fog of intense grief, I realized I wanted to turn my experience into something positive, that could potentially help other women who were going through a similar loss.

In 2008, I began collecting stories from women who had lost their fathers and this past December I published Dead Dads Club: Stories of Love, Loss, and Healing by Daughters Who Have Lost Their Dads. Creating this book was a remarkable, cathartic process for me and I am hopeful that it will bring healing and hope to other women of “the club.”

Dead Dads Club

Through working on this book, and writing blog posts like the Valentine’s Day post above, I have come to realize that writing is a profound source of healing. Because of that, I am also launching a website called DeadDadsClub.com later this month that will be a collaborative site, encouraging people to write about their loss. If you are interested in submitting a story about your father and/or your grief process please email me at mary [at] deaddadsclub [dot] com.

My book, Dead Dads Club, is now available on Amazon.com.

We love Mary, this story, and how she’s using her writing to bring healing to others. Have you suffered the death of a parent? We’re giving away one copy of Dead Dads Club to one of you – to enter,  just leave a comment on this post with a way for us to contact you.

About the Author

Mary Burt-Godwin

Mary Burt-Godwin has been host of her own site, The Mama Mary Show, since 2008 where she blogs and vlogs about parenting, pop culture and everything in between. She recently published her first book, Dead Dads Club, and is launching a website with the same name in early 2012. She is a freelance writer for TodaysMama.com, Legoland.com and several corporate clients. She she’s not parenting or writing, she’s busting her moves like Jagger at hip hop dance class or watching GLEE and tweeting via @MamaMaryShow.

Want to Write for Us?

Are you interested in guest posting for The SITS Girls? Then let us know! Our super easy process is described in this post. We’d love to drive more page views to what you have to say.

About Alina Thomas

Alina is a Northern Virginia wedding photographer based out of Leesburg, VA. She has a passion for arts and design, and strives to express it through her work. She is creative at heart and loves nothing more than sharing her knowledge in photography with other Virginia wedding photographers on her blog each week. Alina loves being a new mom to her first-born and spending time with her husband who helps her run her businesses. Please feel free to follow her on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or Google+.


  • Karen says:

    I lost my dad suddenly 7 months ago. Worst day of my life! I never thought about losing my dad, but we lost him to a massive heart attack. My whole world stopped at 33 years old, when I have my own family that is also grieving, it’s hard to think anyone could feel worse than I am feeling. My dad was also the man of the house with 3 girls and my mom so he spoiled all of us for every holiday, and all the traditions he had. Reading your story helps me realize the difference between sympathizing and empathising. Thank you for sharing!

  • Beautiful post. I lost my Dad to cancer August of last year. Some days it still feels unreal.

  • Megan says:

    I lost my dad in 1997 to lung caner, that spread to his brain and lymphnodes. He was diagnosed in may and died august 14th. I was only 7. I shortly lost my nana after that in November of 1997. I wish that I had gotten cards like your valentine’s day cards, but I can hardly remeber him at all, and just wish he could be here to see my sons grow up.

  • Becky S says:

    I lost my dad in 97 to cancer, it was the brain tumor that took him but his whole body was being eaten away by the disease that started in his lungs. I was 17 my little sister was 9 and our baby sister was just 7. I’m thankful for those 17 years I had with that wonderful man but there hasn’t been a day that has gone by in the last almost 15 years I haven’t missed him or felt the pain of his loss. The only thing that’s gotten me through some of the toughest moments is my beautiful sisters and the bond we forged through that tragic loss. One of the most healing moments we’ve shared besides reminiscing was the day we got our matching tattoos in his honor. Your book sounds amazing and I know the 3 of us would all be honored to share our stories on the site.

  • Shell says:

    Coming from SITS. I lost my dad a week before I turned 7. He was 32 and had terminal cancer. Your book sounds great.

  • Patricia says:

    Your story reminded me of my dad as he did the same thing ~ every Valentine’s he would give me a special card and chocolates. And, also like your dad, he had such a gruff exterior but, boy, was he a pussycat when it came to me. We had the sweetest connection. I’m looking forward to reading your book.

  • Ali says:

    My mother was taken from our family before we ever really got to BE a family. While I know the pain of loss, I never had the joy of experiencing a relationship with my mother. Had I, I can only imagine how much deeper my pain would be than it already is.

    therehanfamily [at] gmail [dot] com

  • Thank you for sharing this post… This really touched deep inside my heart and made me cry… I am deeply sorry for your loss I can imagine how hard it was to you…

  • Tonya says:

    Beautiful post, Mary. I’m sending you a little extra love this Valentine’s Day, my friend. xo

  • Oh wow, I have tears in my eyes! What a beautiful, heartwarming post.
    I, thankfully, have my dad in my life and can’t imagine him being gone-I can’t imagine either of my parents being gone, so I can’t even imagine what all those strong woman telling their stories went through.

  • Amy says:

    I lost my mom at 20, but am fortunate to still have my sweet daddy. However, my daughters lost their father almost six years ago, when they were newborn and just turned two years old. Now grade schoolers, they’ve been raised by me alone and have no memories of the man who loved them so much. We lost him suddenly, so he had no chance to leave a legacy for them. I have no idea how their loss will eventually affect them and would love to hear about women who experienced a similar loss as young children. Thank you for creating a space for girls like my daughters.

  • Kathleen says:

    Beautiful post. I lost my dad to pancreatic liver cancer… No matter the age lose your dad is hard.

    • Mama Mary says:

      Sorry for your loss, Kathleen! Watching a parent die from cancer is a brutal thing to experience. Let me know if you’d be up for contributing to the collaborative site. mary [at] deaddadsclub [dot] com.

  • Laura says:

    Amazing post…I lost my Dad when I was 19, I still have the last christmas card he gave me…it means a lot.

    Laura x

    • Mama Mary says:

      So sorry to hear of your loss, Laura. It’s amazing how special those keepsakes can be. If you are interested in contributing a story about your dad to the website, email me at mary [at] deaddadsclub [dot] com. xo

  • Galit Breen says:

    This is a stunning post, Mary.

    You? Are amazing!

  • Holly says:

    Mary, thank you for sharing this book and for sharing part of yourself. I am so sorry for your loss, no matter how long ago it was.

    I just returned from the funeral of my brother in law. He lost his fight with melanoma and is leaving two teen girls behind. He was one in a million. The funeral was on Superbowl Sunday, so you would think it would be a little empty. Not a chance. The place was packed. Everyone loved Jerry.

    How soon is too soon to gift a copy of your book to my nieces?

    Kind regards,

  • Amy B. says:

    Our daddies are our first Valentine’s. They love us no matter what. Thank you for this sweet post.

  • What a touching story! My dad is getting older…and has diabetes now. I know he doesn’t have much time left. I can’t even imagine a world without him. He’s 6’4″ and always been larger than life – a head taller than everyone around him.

  • Kat says:

    Great post Mary! I hate being a member of this club. My Dad died when I was 7 and my step dad died when I was 20. I like to think of myself as an expert when it comes to dealing with grief at all ages. So proud of you and your book!

    • Mama Mary says:

      Thanks Kat! I know you can relate to this post, being a two-time card-carrying member of this stinking club! I actually wrote another post about him today that was in response to your prompt and will link up tomorrow. xo

  • Cathy says:

    What a beautiful post Mary. Your Dad sounds like he was an amazing and loving man who made each of his girls feel special. I’m so sorry that you all had to lose him to cancer. I lost my Dad as well, in 2003, to a brain tumor. It’s something we never get over and I’m mostly sad at the fact my kids lost their Grampy way to soon. He was such a wonderful Grandfather. I bet your book is touching and I’d love to read it and I will keep watching for your new website.

    • Mama Mary says:

      Thank you so much, Cathy, for your kind words. I am sorry to hear about your loss too. Would love to have you contribute to the site if you feel up to it. You can email me at mary [at] deaddadsclub [dot] com.

  • Melissa says:

    I’m so blessed to have read this post today. I lost my Dad last month and the grieving process isn’t a pretty one. I’ll contact you about contributing.

    • Mama Mary says:

      So sorry to hear about your loss, Melissa! Oh wow, you’re in the height of it now and I am sending you strength as you venture through your grief. I posted on my blog today about the first time I really saw the sun after he died. Sometimes the darkness is unbearable, but it does get better. Would love to have you contribute to the site, but only when you’re ready. Love and light!

  • Stefanie says:

    As is always the case, when you write about your father, I am moved to tears. What a beautiful story.

  • TiffanyRom says:

    I am the blessed daughter of a wonderful dad.

    Thank you do much for sharing this!!!

  • Penelope says:

    That is so sad, I am not looking forward to being in that group 🙁 My dad is getting older, and I was always a daddy’s girl, and it would be devastating.

  • Randi says:

    That is the most thoughtful dad in the whole world. I wish my own dad had been that intentional with his daughters growing up. If I ever have a daughter, I know my husband would be that intentional man. I think a dad like that shows his daughter(s) that they are special, important, and deserve the best.

  • Carolyn West says:

    Just beautiful Mary. I never had a real relationship with my father and I spent so many years wishing for a father just like yours – one who would care enough to even send a birthday card. It’s taken a long time for me to let go of that fantasy, but I am doing everything I can to make sure my husband is the kind of father who lets his daughters know every day how much he loves them.

    • Mama Mary says:

      Carolyn, thank you for sharing that, because that kind of relationship can be as difficult as the grief from a loss. I’ve had several women as if they can contribute a story about their “dead but alive” dad who hasn’t been around and I will be doing that on the site in the next few months. I think it really speaks to a lot of father/daughter relationships that are not all sunshine and Vday cards. xo

  • Marie Cole says:

    The good ones always die young…This made me cry, so sorry for your great loss. 🙁

  • Charlotte says:

    I lost my last living grandparent, my grandfather, this past week so I feel as though grief is something on my mind a lot more these days. I absolutely love the concept of this book and how she turned something so painful into a beautiful, cathartic way of coping with loss.

    Mary, your father sounds like he was a very sweet man who loved all the women in his life very much. This is incredibly touching and I hope you hold on to those letters whenever you want to feel his presence once again.


    • Mama Mary says:

      Thank you, Charlotte, for you kind words. I have an entire scrapbook filled with all of his cards. Such a treasure. : ) I am sorry to hear about your grandfather. Sending love and light to you!

      • Charlotte says:

        I’m so glad to hear you held on to those beautiful keepsakes. And thank you, too, for your well wishes. Keep up the great work!

  • What a wonderful Valentine’s Day message! I so admire this writer for turning her experience into something that will undoubtedly help others. I bet lots of us have dads who have sent those Valentine’s Day cards, and it reminds me to teach my teenage boys to do the same. It’s important! I’ve written a humorous chapter in defense of Valentine’s Day in one of my books, but this is so much more meaningful!

  • viviene says:

    Awww.. now you gave me an idea to give my parents a Valentines Card this time every year. Your dad is wonderful. You are so blessed to have him…

  • I haven’t lost a parent – I think the book is intended for someone who has (the free one, I mean – I may go buy a copy because it sounds like powerful reading) so don’t enter me in the drawing. But I wanted to say that the memory of buying your father those Valentines Cards so that he would not be dead while he still woke each morning is a beautiful vision.

  • I lost my dad to termInal brain cancer in 1987. I was 22. I still miss my dad! I feel the loss for my little boys who never met him.

    • Mama Mary says:

      So sorry to hear about your loss. I feel that similar loss when I see my daughters and know he never got to meet them. If you’re interested in writing for the upcoming collaborative site you can email me at mary [at] deaddadsclub [dot] com.

    • Kat says:

      Penelope my Dad died to terminal brain cancer in 1986. I hate that my kids only know him through pictures.

  • There is definitely something special about the Dads in our lives. I love your description of your dad, sometimes intimidating, overbearing, but with a soft spot for the women in his life.