Grief Diary – What Do You Do When A Loved One’s Birthday Comes Around?

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I have found that writing is immensely therapeutic when it comes to grief. So on a few occasions, when I have felt that familiar pang of grief in my chest, instead of shriveling into a heap on the floor, I have picked up my laptop and let my fingers process my emotions. This is another of those occasions.

What the hell do you do when someone you are grieving has a birthday? Most people have an established routine for commemorating the day they passed, but I don’t think anyone really knows what to do on the birthdays of loved ones who have left us.

Do you bake them a cake and light a candle for each birthday that goes by? Do you visit their grave? Do you write them a birthday card? It’s a bit of a conundrum.

It’s my dad’s birthday on Sunday, which also happens to be my little sister’s birthday. I feel for her on this day every year, because it must present such mixed emotions. On the one hand she has to deal with the pain, but on the other hand, it’s pretty darn cool that she got to share her birthday with her daddy.

Poor dad didn’t get much attention on the 12th of June every year, his birthday sort of got forgotten a little, but it didn’t matter, you could tell how proud he was to share his birthday with my mischievous little sis.

He was happy to sit back and watch the day unfold from the confines of the family video camera. I watched a video the other day where he was singing happy birthday to himself whilst my sister’s kids birthday party was going on outside. He was quite a funny chap.

I think the fact that my sister’s birthday is on the same day has actually helped with my grief, because I’m mainly thinking about my sister and celebrating in some way with her. It wouldn’t feel right to do anything that might upset her on this day. Though I can’t help but wonder what other people do?

In a way, celebrating their birthday is worse than the anniversary of their death, as it reminds you what age they would have been, and what they are missing out on.

Personally though, I have actually blanked out on my dad’s age, I don’t know how old he will be on Sunday and I don’t really want to know. It won’t change how much I miss him.

What I will always remember is how old he was when he died, because that’s the really tragic part, to me, it was far too young. He has so much more to experience, and so many of my life events he would have been overjoyed to see.

At least on the anniversary you kind of know how you are going to feel. It’s always hard and painful, and no matter what you do it’s one of the toughest days of the year.

There’s no set way of commemorating a loved one’s birthday, so you kind of feel a bit lost.

If you are reading this post and thinking oh no she’s in a really bad place poor thing (mum I’m talking to you), please be assured I’m not. I’m merely being human and processing my thoughts in the only way I know how, by writing. I’m OK now, and I will be alright on Sunday, I just need to find a way to pay tribute to my dad.

I stumbled upon a post about grief the other day which outlines just how wrong society has it. Especially people who have the luxury of not having lost anyone yet, they just don’t get it.

They think that after the first year you should start to get over it, and if you are still having issues with grief years later then there’s real cause for concern. Well, it’s been ten years for me, and I’m still figuring my grief out. I don’t think it will ever go away.

I would be intrigued to know what others do on their loved one’s birthdays? I would guess simple things like visiting a special place they went to with that person, spending some time thinking about them, and maybe even lighting a special birthday candle for them.

Whatever you do, however you commemorate this day, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Even if you don’t do anything and pretend it’s just like any other day, that’s OK too.

Grief doesn’t have a schedule. It comes and goes when it wants.

Grief cannot be forced on days that you feel you are supposed to feel sad. The best thing you can do is just listen to your thoughts and do what feels right for you.

Have a cry, revisit some memories, share stories about that person with your family, go for a walk alone or do absolutely nothing. Don’t let society or anybody tell you how you should feel on these days. Your grief is yours alone and you can choose how to cherish those you have lost.



  1. Marjorie
    April 12, 2018 / 3:00 pm

    Reading this almost two years after you’ve published it, on my Dad’s birthday. It’s a perfect post. It expresses everything I feel about this ‘special’ yet difficult day. I took today off because oftentimes, I’m a mess on my Dad’s birthday. I’m just trying to take care of myself so i’m taking a yoga class and getting a facial. A lot of activity. I hope that soon (it’s been 7 years for me), I’ll be able to do something in honor of my Dad, like take a hike in a beautiful place and pick some wildflowers, For now, it’s still too painful. Thank you for posting this. It’s so real and it provides no easy answer. I love it.

    • Kiri Nowak
      April 12, 2018 / 3:36 pm

      Hi Marjorie, thanks for your comment. I’m sorry you’re still having a tough time. There’s no point pushing yourself to do something else, when really deep down you just need to grieve. Have a cry, be down, but just try and process what’s going on in your mind and whilst you will have some very sad thoughts, try and filter them out and focus on positive memories with your dad and think about how he shaped you as a person. Then, one year, you will maybe feel differently and go off and do something to celebrate his life. Everyone is different, you just have to do what works for you. I often find the build up to these occasions is worse than the actual day. Anyways, hope I helped even if in a very small way.

  2. Gregory Sturgeon
    June 11, 2018 / 5:12 am

    My dad passed away 6 years ago. His birthday is june 12th as well. His name was jerry. I have his ashes. Was thinking of taking him to a bar and having a beer with him. Not sure what im gonna do yet.

  3. Rachel
    September 21, 2018 / 7:03 pm

    It’s my Mums birthday this Sunday 23rd Sept we lost her 11 years ago at the age of 47. I always think I’m fine around birthdays, anniversaries, Christmases etc but then I realise I’m actually not. I seem to get upset really easily around these dates without even realising. Tonight my fiancé and I had a silly argument the next minute I’m in floods of tears. I had some alone time and realised its my mums Birthday this weekend, was this reason why I was so upset?
    As the years have passed I now understand that death is something you learn to live with and sadly not get over.

  4. Stephanie
    September 25, 2018 / 6:10 am

    This Saturday is my Dad’s birthday. He passed away November 26, 2016. Last year was his first birthday he wasn’t here and it was horrible. I could hardly function and I cried for days. I told myself this year I’d celebrate his day but the closer I get to September 29th, the more I cry. I don’t see how anyone gets through this. I’d hobeesltly like to just crawl in a hole.

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