This past week we celebrated my son Aaden’s 10th birthday. Knowing exactly how difficult it can be to navigate a birthday after a baby has died I thought it would be helpful to share a few specific ideas about how to do so. Listen in to this week’s podcast episode as I share 12 specific ideas for celebrating, as well as a few thoughts from my experience having walked through 10 birthdays without my son here on earth. I hope this episode is helpful to you and makes what could be a difficult day a more joy-filled one.
12 IDEAS FOR CELEBRATING BIRTHDAYS WHEN YOUR BABY IS IN HEAVEN
Make or order a special birthday cake or cupcakes.
Visit the cemetery or visit a spot that is special to remembering your baby
Have a release: sky lanterns, butterflies or balloons
Make or buy a personalized piece of jewelry(with baby’s name, birthday, foot prints, birthdate, or initials)
Write a letter to your child.
Buy a book that is age appropriate for the age your child would be
Do random acts of kindness.
Plant a garden or a tree.
Create a memory box or a specific way to collect or display your child’s special things.
Get a tattoo of your baby’s name, birthdate, handprint or footprints.
Go shopping for age appropriate toys for the age your baby would be turning & donate them to children’s hospital.
“Adopt” a child through sponsorship program with the same birthday as your child.
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[00:00] You are listening to the joyful morning podcast, episode number 12. This past week we celebrated my son Aaden’s 10th birthday, knowing exactly how difficult it can be to navigate a birthday after a baby has died. I thought it would be helpful to share a few specific ideas about how to do so. Listen in as I shared 12 specific ideas for celebrating as well as a few thoughts from my own experience, having walked through 10 birthdays without my son here on earth. I hope this episode is helpful to you. It makes what could be a difficult day, a more joyful one.
[00:38] You’re listening to the joyful morning podcast, a podcast about finding joy and hope and healing amidst pregnancy or infant loss. I’m your host, Ashley profit. In my goal is to remind you you are not alone in your grief and that there is joy to be had even amidst morning. I’m so grateful you’re here.
[01:03] Celebrating a birthday of a baby who has died can be as painful and as awkward as it sounds. The days leading up to my son’s first birthday, we’re filled with dread and overwhelming sadness. I missed him desperately and wanted nothing more than to be planning a first birthday party, both cupcakes and balloons and little baby games, but instead I was trying to figure out what in the world does a mama do on the birthday of her child when her child is no longer living? Along with the overwhelming grief, I was plagued with insecurities constantly overvaluing what people would think of me should I celebrate my son’s birthday? So my first word of wisdom to any grieving mother who is anticipating a child’s birthday, do your best to lay aside the idea that what people think of you, your grief, or how you should or shouldn’t celebrate as any actual weight or influence.
[01:55] I say do your best because I understand how difficult it is to lay aside what others think of you, especially if your spouse, partner, family members, our friends aren’t supportive or simply don’t understand. Give them the benefit of the doubt and remember, they do love you. They’re most likely confused about how to be feeling and how to love you well too and without getting defensive because you don’t have to defend how you feel. Help those around you to understand how you’re feeling and what you need by communicating often, even if it’s awkward. My second thought is to make a plan in my experience now 10 years of birthdays. It doesn’t actually matter what you do to celebrate so long as there’s some kind of plan in place. See, a plan protects as it makes, communicating about the expectations for that day necessary, which is especially important on a day that is filled with so much emotion.
[02:53] In today’s episode, I’m going to share 12 favorite ways to celebrate a child’s birthday, who’s longer alive for our family. The sweetest tradition over the past few years hasn’t been one specific tradition and instead has been to ask the question, what would a little boy turning blank years old want to do on his birthday? The answers to that question are helpful and honoring his life and not just trying to create my idea of a perfect day. So if you’re anticipating your child’s birthday, simply ask what would a little girl or a little boy turning blank years old want to do on his or her birthday? And then let that dictate how you celebrate. If you are stuck with no real reference points for coming up with an answer to that question, consider asking a friend who has children similar ages that your child will be turning. That’s a simple way to invite another person into your grief journey, giving them an opportunity to mourn and to celebrate with you.
[03:51] And if they happen to look at you like you have two heads when you ask because they might help them understand what it feels like to simultaneously grief, death, and desire to celebrate life. The more we can educate people on baby loss and grief, the better. So let’s talk about 12 different ways to celebrate birthdays after your baby has died. My first idea is probably a really obvious one. Make or order a birthday cake. This is probably, like I said, the most obvious birthday tradition. I love that you can involve the entire family in the making or the decorating or simply the eating. You can decorate it with your child’s name on it. You can add candles and even seeing happy birthday. We love making our cake as a family each year. The second way is to visit the cemetery decorated with flowers or you could go to a quiet, beautiful place that makes you think of your baby.
[04:47] For us visiting the cemetery where my son is buried is difficult. We live in Florida and he is buried in Virginia, so we have to improvise most years and while I would love to be able to visit his grave every year, it has forced us to be creative in the ways we celebrate and honor his life. Since the obvious solution isn’t always available in the past. We have visited other cemeteries in our area and put flowers on babies graves there and the years. We can’t be there in person. We live vicariously through our friends in Virginia who send us photos of them visiting our son’s grave on our behalf on his birthday every year, whether in Virginia or here in Florida. We go somewhere beautiful. Even if just for the day being out in God’s creation is bomb to my soul. It reminds me to look up and look out and to remember God being out in nature is the sweetest reminder that he cares even about the smallest of his creations, that he is in control and he cares and he holds it all together.
[05:45] This year we my three young children and my husband and I were able to visit the cemetery for my son’s 10th birthday. We made the 13 hour drive to Virginia just to be there, and while there we took our time. We sat down on the soft Virginia grass and we talked together. It was a really beautiful day with blue skies and white puffy clouds and the Blue Ridge mountains as a backdrop. We each took turns sharing one thing we had learned about God from Aaden’s life and his death. Obviously this can feel a little bit hard or confusing for younger siblings, but we don’t think it’s too early to start those conversations, so we simply guide them through it. We ask them lots of questions, encouraging little minds to draw their own conclusions and when they get stuck, we helped them along and say things like Aaden’s life and death remind us that there is eternity, that there is life after this, and then we talk about heaven.
[06:38] We might also say something like, the Bible teaches us in psalm 1:39, that God knew Aaden, that he made him and that he even knew how many days he would live and that neither his life or his death, wherever out of God’s control. We went around and one by one shared a few things we were learning or have learned and we sang happy birthday and then we sing a hymn together. We ended our time at the cemetery with a prayer thanking God for our son going to a grave or to the place you’ve spread ashes or even just to a beautiful spot might feel awkward. Like, okay, what do I do here now? And we’ve certainly had moments like that in the past or at least I have. So maybe think about it a little beforehand and come up with a just a small plan in your mind.
[07:23] It can be simple like just be still and listen or read a book out loud or read your favorite song or sing a song or say a prayer. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but having a little plan in place may make it a bit more comfortable and allow you to celebrate a little more on your baby’s birthday. The third way that you could celebrate a birthday is by having some kind of release like a sky lantern release or a butterfly release or even a balloon release. I haven’t ever done a sky lantern release or a butterfly release, but I want to so badly. It just seemed so beautiful. You could invite your friends or family to join you for this sweet moment and I think the same thing I mentioned for visiting the grave applies here as well. Consider having a plan in mind for that time.
[08:11] Maybe you say a prayer, read your favorite Bible verse or write messages on the lanterns are the balloons. Maybe you read from your favorite Bible passage or your favorite children’s book, or you sing a song together and then you do the release of the balloons or the butterflies or the lanterns. Any kind of moment like this feels really magical, really special, a real celebration of life. The fourth way that you could celebrate her birthday is by making or buying a personalized piece of jewelry. I just think this is such a special way to honor a baby’s life. Having a beautiful piece of jewelry that fits your style that you could wear daily imprinted with your child’s name, birthdate, initials, or even tiny footprints just feels really special and yes, you could do this anytime throughout the year, but why not wait and gift it to yourself on your baby’s birthday?
[09:00] I did this this year and it made the item just feels so much more special, and now every time I look at it, I think not only of him, but also of his 10th birthday. The fifth way would be to write a letter to your child. You could even do this every year, keeping them in a specific journal or specific envelope just for letters to your child. You could write about what’s been hard during this year of grief or what has brought you joy, what you miss about your baby or what you longed to know about him. You could write about all the ways that God has met you and your grief that year to be reminded the following years of God’s faithfulness in different ways. This is something that each family member could potentially participate in, each writing their own letter number six by a book that is age appropriate for the age your child would be turning.
[09:52] I love this idea so much maybe because it feels like an opportunity to mother your baby, going to the bookstore and thoughtfully choosing a book each year reflecting on his or her life as you do so loving and remembering. This is a simple tradition that you could also invite friends and families into giving them a tangible way to be a part of the birthday celebration. I’m remembering each year you can collect more and more books in and keep them in the same special spot. You can pull them out each year and read them to each other. Number seven, you can do random acts of kindness in your baby’s honor on a day that could potentially feel so hard and broken. Looking for ways to serve others moves your eyes off of your own pain and onto those around you. It’s a reminder that loving others amidst your own pain will never be in vain and it will certainly bring about joy and hope to you’re hurting heart, not to mention honor your baby in the most special way.
[10:49] To do this, simply make a list of random acts of kindness and then do them throughout the day in honor of your baby’s birthday. If you have more children, you could even make a game of it. You could also leave a note or a little card that says, random act of kindness done in honor of my baby’s birthday. If you want, you could invite your friends and family to join in celebrating your baby’s birthday by doing random acts of kindness to you could create a Hashtag and invite them to share their acts of kindness there so that you can follow along. Number eight, you could plant a flower or a garden or a tree. Each year I add something new to our garden. My garden is in our home. I have so many house plants and many of them remind me of my son. Some still kept alive nearly 10 years ago from his memorial service.
[11:40] Others we have purchased on his birthday or heavenly birthday over the years. I love that when I look around my home, I have reminders of him everywhere and the reminder that each year God sustained us. One more and one more, and one more. After that, you can have a tree planted in your baby’s honored, a local park or the hospital where they were born, or another place of significance to you. I love that planting a tree or planting a garden of some type represents life. What a precious way to celebrate your baby’s life. Number nine, another way to celebrate a birthday would be to create a memory box or just a specific place in your home to collect or display your child’s special things. All the memories and momentos that you have from their life. Would you believe that after almost 10 years, I’m still working on this.
[12:31] It has changed over the years and moved from trunk to box to antique hat box, back to the trunk, and now items are in various places spread throughout my home. But I remember on my son’s second birthday feeling really desperate to have one specific way to treasure all my special memories of him. We were scouring the local antique stores, looking for just the right thing that day, uh, kind of antique dealer gifted us the Hatbox after she learned what we were looking for and why. And while that old hat box wasn’t exactly what I was looking for and not quite big enough to hold all of my son’s things to this day, it sits in our bedroom and reminds me of him in that birthday. Putting together the actual box of special things could be really special. But if you’ve already done that, you could simply make it a tradition to pull out that memory box every year, look through it, and remember and talk about your baby and celebrate his or her life.
[13:28] This could also be the place where you store those birthday letters that you write each year. Number 10, you could get a tattoo using your baby’s name and birthdate or footprint or another symbol that represents their life to you. I think this could be so special and while I haven’t quite been brave enough to actually go through with it yet, I’ve heard from so many mothers who said this was just the sweetest, best way they could have ever celebrated their baby’s life and they forever have a permanent reminder of their baby with them. Always. Number 11, go shopping for age appropriate toys for the age of your baby would be and donate them to a children’s hospital just like intentionally and carefully choosing the right book for your child each year. This idea feels incredibly special away to mother your baby on their birthday, to think of them and remember, and to celebrate and to grieve all at the same time.
[14:26] If you have other children, this is something tangible you can invite them into as well as a way to celebrate their brother or sister in heaven. Number 12, my last idea for celebrating birthdays, at least for now, you could sponsor a child through a sponsorship program with the same birthday as your child. Through compassion international, we adopted Kinzer Parsley. A little boy from Haiti who’s birthday is the same day as my son’s heavenly birthday. Each year we send him a birthday gift in honor of our son’s birthday. Kenny Z, as we lovingly refer to him, reminds our family that even amidst death, God is bringing life into this world. We pray for him every night, every night. That child who I’ve never met reminds me that my son’s legacy and his memory, his wife is remembered and honored and cherished. In closing. For me, the anticipation of the birthday has been the hardest part.
[15:27] Each year I asked questions like, how will I feel? How will I want to celebrate? How can I make it perfect? I want it to be perfect every year and in reality it will never be perfect and that’s okay. I think I just want you to know that anticipating the days and the weeks leading up to your birthday will likely be very difficult for us. We seem to always be caught off guard in a bit confused as to why we were feeling such a weight of sadness or anxiety or frustration. Every emotion seems to be heightened the days leading up to a birthday or anniversary. With that being said, this year felt a tiny bit easier instead of prolonging the planning of his birthday like I have done every year leading up to this year because I just didn’t want to think about it or I just didn’t feel like I had the capacity emotionally to deal with it.
[16:21] This year. I determined to be thoughtful about the planning and to do so early before it felt emotionally wrecking to do so. And again, the plan doesn’t have to be elaborate. Like I said at the beginning. In fact, the simpler the better and it’s worth the work because like I said at the beginning, it forces you to communicate expectations and desires to anyone else who might be involved, so you’re heading into an emotionally difficult day on the same page, on the same side, so make a plan and make it early, and then celebrate, celebrate life and restoration and healing and peace, peace that goes beyond understanding and a future hope for the day when God will make all things new. Thank you so much for listening, friends. Yeah,
[17:09] I pray this episode blesses you today and in the years to come as you thoughtfully plan sweet celebrations that honor your baby’s life. Until next time, thank you for listening to the joyful morning podcast. If you loved this episode, let us know when the reviews in, share it with a friend for show notes. Head over to the joyful morning.com.