Your gain: Learn how to embrace your birthday, despite it being painful without a special loved one to celebrate with you. You’ll also discover some questions to ask yourself to make sure you’re getting the most out of your day, and are spending it in a way that both uplifts you and honors the ones you lost.
Why You’re Here
Perhaps you’re reading this because it’s your birthday, or your birthday is soon approaching, or you just want to mentally prepare. Or, you’re just curious what this post is all about. Whatever the birthday status, a very happy birthday (in advance) to you from me!
But maybe you’re reading this because you’re dreading yours. Maybe you’re dreading having to endure your special day without your loved one there. I want you to know I’ve been where you are. This will be my fourth birthday without my mom (I don’t know how it’s already been four), third without my dad, and second without my dog who held my heart together through the first two.
Though I can only empathize with your situation because each of us has our own, the feeling of emptiness without a loved one on your birthday can feel similar across the board.
Emotions We Feel
Empty. Isolated. Sad. Unexcited and unenthusiastic. Not feeling in the “party” mood. Wishing they could be here to give you a hug. To hear that “happy birthday” come from their mouth in their voice. Be able to celebrate how you once did… all the things.
It’s a difficult holiday (yes, I’m calling it a holiday for the purposes of this blog) to do without our loved ones. It’s especially difficult if it’s your first one. If you didn’t already know or are newer here, my mom passed in December 2019 and my dad in July 2020. My birthday is February 2nd—hence the timing of this blog post :)—and let me tell you… the first birthday without my mom kind of felt like a wash.
What Does “Celebrating” Even Look Like?
In the first year without my mom, it hadn’t even been two months without her and I remember it just being very chill. I didn’t necessarily want to do much. My boyfriend (now husband) and I just spent the day having a nice brunch, went to the winery we both used to work at and actually met at. We had a little wine, and overall it was a beautiful, sunny February day in wine country.
I saw my dad that day, too. I think we may have watched a movie. Truthfully, we just did whatever I could muster and whatever we thought would boost my spirit that day.
How We Used to Celebrate
My mom was a total character. Like, truly something else entirely. I mean that in the best way. Every year since the song came out, she would (quite literally) wake me up by coming into my room and playing “It’s Yo Birthday” by 50 Cent. She found it absolutely hilarious. I, of course, being the “too cool for you” daughter found it so silly in the beginning, but with time I came to laugh and embrace it, too. I mean, I always secretly loved it even if she was “embarrassing herself”, as I would joke.
She did the whole nine yards—always the most perfect “me” cakes. She pretty much always made and decorated them from scratch, and my favorite of hers was a “chocolate chip cookie cake”. Yes, it was quite literally a giant cookie.
Decorations, sweet gifts that only she would know that I loved, all the things. Some of which you can see in this photo from one of my last birthdays with her.
Whatever I wanted to do that day, we did. We’d usually go to a fun dinner. One year we even went to Chevy’s (a Jordan family staple for MANY years) and got the birthday sombrero. My parents were the best at birthdays. Always up for whatever I wanted to do, but no doubt made it a joyful day no matter what.
Cut to my first birthday without either of them. I didn’t even know how to feel, honestly. Similar to the previous year, we went on a fun wine tasting excursion and to our favorite restaurant in Napa, CA that evening. That was about all I could do that day.
Determining How to Celebrate
Let me start by saying this: give yourself permission to do whatever the heck you damn well please. Period. Don’t force a thing. It’s your day, after all! To get you started if you’re stuck here, below I’ve included some things to ask yourself. If it’s the special day of someone else who has lost a loved one, gently ask what they would prefer to do that day.
Questions to Ask Yourself
Get in touch with your emotions and ask these questions very intentionally. Here are some things to ponder:
- What would make you happy to do that day?
- What would help spark even the smallest bit of joy?
- What food or cake would you enjoy? When you have those things, really be present with what’s in front of you and savor every bite. Find gratitude in it!
- Who would you like to be around you that day? Who lifts you up and will bring some light and love to your day?
- Would you prefer to stay inside and hang out, or go out and about? If you’re staying in, what activities would you like to do? Play a game? Watch a favorite movie? If you’re going out, what does that look like?
- How could you honor the loved one(s) who’s missing, if you’re feeling called to do that?
Where To Go From Here
A birthday can be one of the hardest days to get through. I have a post coming later this year that tackles how to handle the birthday of a loved one that has passed (vs. this post which speaks more to coping with your own birthday without them). If nothing else, please know there are so many of us here that can empathize with how low you might be feeling on what should be a very fun, happy day of celebrating another year around the sun.
The LBG community on Instagram is a great place to connect with others that are going through something similar, plus you’ll find other uplifting content to make gains from your losses on a day to day basis—even outside of your birthday.
Be gentle with yourself. If you just want to grieve that day, give yourself that. But remember, we only have one life to live here. We have a (fairly) limited number of birthdays, as you’re probably painfully aware if you’re here because you’ve lost someone.
We’re more than allowed to wallow, but we can’t live there, right? We have to embrace our age, this crazy process of growing just a little older, and focus on the wisdom that comes with that. It’s kind of beautiful, when you think about it.
How I’ll Be Celebrating 32
Seeing A Medium
Full transparency, I always treat myself to a reading from a psychic medium that I know and trust around my birthday. It’s just my way of having a little check-in with my family. I’m not saying you need to go and start believing in mediums or book an appointment with one if that’s not your thing. I know this is a little woo-woo for some people, and that’s perfectly okay. You don’t need to agree with me on this one! But I wouldn’t be honest if I left that out.
I do it a couple of times a year just to feel a little closer to them, and frankly, it’s been incredibly helpful in my healing journey. It makes me feel as though they’re with me, and that there’s so much “life” to be lived, even on the other side… it just looks different now. The things that come out of these readings are really very beautiful and pretty amazing, and it brings me a lot of joy.
But I will say, it’s critical to find someone you trust. I know one of people’s biggest reservations about this is ending up with some kind of quack that kind of sort of doesn’t really read you. Or makes some really high level comments that could apply to anyone. That’s not my personal experience, but it’s a very understandable hesitation. That, and simply not believing that someone has the ability to connect with loved ones that have died. Honestly, so fair!
If this is something you’re curious about, shoot me a DM or email me at email@example.com! There’s also a book I’ve read called Bridging Two Realms by John Holland that provides a lot of insight here, too, if you’re curious. Anyway, do your research is what I’m saying.
Working on Losses Become Gains!
Otherwise, I’m working on Losses Become Gains things today! It truly brings me so much happiness, and it’s how I want to spend my day. It’s a healthy distraction, honestly. It’s my passion, and the many exciting projects I have in the works for this community is what I feel called to do in my life and are things I’m SO excited to share with you all soon enough. I couldn’t imagine celebrating my day of birth any other way than doing something I feel is my purpose here. Why I was put on this planet in the first place.
I’ll probably watch Schitt’s Creek or some other movie that brings me laughter and happiness in between. I might grab a drink with a girlfriend later just to get some girl time, and my husband and I are going out to a nice dinner. I hope to see some out of town friends in upcoming weeks, too, but generally speaking my actual birthday will be fairly low key… plus, it’s on a Thursday this year and most people still have to work, ha!
Treating Myself to Self Care
I’m also treating myself to a little self-care through a manicure, and I’ve had a Massage Envy gift card for forever that I’ve been meaning to use since pre-COVID. Since I tend to carry a lot of tension in my neck and shoulders (which can also have negative long term effects, and who wants that?), I’m treating myself to a session with a lavender add-on and exfoliating foot scrub… because why the heck not!
The moral of the story: however I spend my birthday, it’s always filled with things that uplift me. I encourage you to do the same when yours rolls around!
A Very Special Project (Hint: it involves a Podcast!)
I’m also SUPER excited to share that on Saturday, 2/5, I’ll be recording podcast episode with an absolutely amazing soul I actually met through Losses Become Gains. We connected through Instagram, the synchronicities and connection we had as new friends was just instant, and I truly can’t wait to chat with her more about all things grief, loss, and journeying through life with both. More details to come—I can not WAIT to share this with all of you!!
What I’m Actually Thinking About
I have moments where I imagine what could be happening instead—I can’t really help it. I imagine my parents would have called or texted me to wish me the best, brightest birthday. My mom would have played her silly song when I walked into the house. I would have gone over for my chocolate chip cookie cake and presents.
We probably would have gone on a walk or some other fun place—wherever I wanted. We even watched baby videos occasionally, that was always a fun trip down memory lane. But today… today won’t look anything like that. It’s a pill I’ve had to swallow continuously for 3-4 years now. So what do you do when your birthday or a holiday no longer looks the same?
Make The Day Work For You
These special days won’t ever really look or feel the same ever again, and that’s the sad reality each of us have to come to in each of our losses. It’s par for the course, and that really just takes experience of going through them multiple times. The first is always, always the hardest. Does it hurt each year? For me… yes, it sure does. But each year does sting less, I’ve found.
It’s why you’ll hear me continue to say, “make today work for you.” And you’ll hear me say that about every. single. holiday. Birthdays, Christmas, Hanukkah, Valentine’s Day, the 4th of July or St. Patrick’s Day because it was their favorite, Thanksgiving and camaraderie of the day—whatever it is and whatever this looks like for you.
By the way, I have an entire post on how to embrace the holidays after a loss you can check out here if this is something you’re struggling with.
Remember that your loved ones are with you and around you. I know it doesn’t always feel like it, and it certainly can’t measure up to them being here in person, but they are. They wouldn’t miss a day or an opportunity to celebrate you for the world. Be sure to look out for signs or symbols around your day, too! Coins, Angel numbers, “winged animal messengers” (birds, butterflies, hummingbirds, lady bugs, etc.), tingles or shifts in the energy, synchronicities, or a particularly stunning sunset. Whatever resonates and speaks to you.
And please, don’t forget… have some fun. Another year around the sun is something to celebrate and be proud of.
Get Your Freebie From Me
Don’t forget, I have THREE free tools you can take advantage of if you’re ready to step up your grief work. I’m so, so excited to share these with you! My Gratitude in Grief Journal Prompt, From Grief to Grinning Toolkit, and A Practice in Presence Toolkit are ready and waiting for you to download, all you have to do is click here or the button below.