HAPPY birthday...really?


Birthdays are important events in our lives – it is often a day of celebration and giving or receiving gifts – recognition of your life on earth, even a thankyou for being you.

But what about when the person you loved most in this world is no longer in this world – what happens on that significant day, the day they were born, the day that should be their special day, the day you once said thankyou for you.

I am part of a grief group – a beautiful collection of women from around the world who communicate online and offer emotional support to each other in our daily lives.  Some of these women talk about going to their late husband’s favourite place to eat along with their kids, some talk of doing their late spouses favourite activity and some say that it is just too hard now for them to do anything.  And that is ok.

 I have another beautiful friend who when they get together to remember this special day they take out a journal and write down their memories and then share them with each other, allowing whatever emotions they have to be expressed and reading over the previous years memories.

For me, the very first year that this special day came up, as a family we took a drive, bought fish and chips and sat by a river to eat them, we went for a walk and we remembered, we bought movies he would like and his favourite chocolate, we wrote in a journal and we had some laughs at the memories.  The second year I decided my late husband wanted to give the kids some money each and that way we said happy birthday and remembered the generous part of his life.  But the third year it was just too hard. 

"I am not sure why the third year was harder, but it simply didn’t seem that happy."

I was grateful for those in my world who knew it was his birthday and gave me a hug, no words needed.  But I really didn’t even want to tell the kids it was their dads birthday.  Was this selfish? Maybe. But I didn’t have the emotional reserve to deal with any added grief that day so I acknowledged it was a birthday and did nothing more.  And for me, that is ok; for me, I did what I needed to do.

Every person is different, every relationship is different and we all deal with our emotions and our grief differently. 

For some it is important to still remember. For others it is all too difficult.  All I know is that this is an individual and very personal event and that each of us should feel that it is ok to remember and it is equally ok to forget. 

On this rocky and unexplored terrain of grief we should feel free to do just what we need to do, for us.  And that it is all OK.


By Kate Lithgow