Honestly, I couldn’t believe my heart could still ache with such fervor. My emotions and grief took over, somewhat unexpectedly. I was caught off-guard. I had forgotten how hard celebrating the birthday of a child who is no longer alive is.
We agreed early on in our grief journey that our son’s birthday and anniversary of his death were sacred days to our family. This decision was based purely on a desperate attempt to make sure that his life was never forgotten. Not by the world. Not by us. That may seem like such a strange statement and yet a mother’s biggest fear after losing a child is that this precious life will be forgotten.
And yet life happens. Basketball games get scheduled. Work commitments get scheduled. And deadlines get scheduled too. Life moves on.
And I forgot how much that hurts. A basketball game scheduled on your son’s birthday is no big deal if he’s here. If he’s the one out on the court playing. You just go get pizza afterward and surprise him with his favorite ice cream cake and a bunch of balloons and probably a new lego set because both of his brothers are obsessed with legos so I imagine he would have been too… But a basketball game scheduled on your son’s birthday when he isn’t here feels like the world has literally forgotten him.
So we as a family fight to remember and honor and celebrate him. Not for him, because let’s face it, heavenly birthdays are most likely more amazing than anything he would experience here. But we celebrate for us. Because he was and is ours. God chose us to be his family and so on his birthday we remember him and we celebrate him. No matter how awkward. No matter how hard. No matter what people think.
- Sometimes that means saying no to important things in order to say yes to the most important thing for our family on that day.
- Sometimes that means shifting our schedules and deadlines and important projects in order to be fully present on that day.
- Sometimes that means disappointing people and feeling awkward or a bit strange.
- Sometimes that means letting go of important goals, dreams or desires just for a day in order to love our family and celebrate well our son.
And the most important way to make sure that all of the above happens is to make a plan. A few tips for making a simple birthday celebration plan are below.
MAKE A PLAN
- MARK YOUR CHILD’S BIRTHDAY ON YOUR CALENDAR AT THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR.
- I know you know their birthday but this is so nothing important gets accidentally scheduled on that day.
- BLOCK OUT THE WEEK OF YOUR CHILD’S BIRTHDAY.
- I’m not saying you need to go on vacation but making sure you aren’t scheduling major important things the week of; from my experience I need as little to do and conquer and be that week as possible.
- MAKE DECISIONS BEFOREHAND.
- Emotions are heightened and decisions just feel weightier the days leading up to the birthday and especially on the birthday. So “should we get pizza or should we just make lunch at home” should be decided beforehand to eliminate the weight of trying to make a perfect decision in the moment when emotions are already spilling over.
- START PLANNING THE MONTH BEFORE
- This doesn’t mean you need an elaborate birthday party or crazy in-depth celebration, it just means begin the conversation with your family about what you want your child’s birthday to look like this year. Having this discussion is vital and the earlier you can have it the better.
- Believe me, I know it’s hard. I put off having the conversation this year until the last minute because I felt like I just couldn’t emotionally handle the conversation and yet putting it off only made it harder.
- DISCUSS & PLAN THE FOLLOWING:
- What will you do on that day?
- What needs to happen in order to make the above happen? (i.e. buy balloons or a birthday cake, book a hotel room for a night away, etc.)
- Will you invite others to join in your celebration?
- What commitments will you need to back away from?
- What already scheduled things will you need to say no to?
- What special traditions will you continue?
- What special traditions would you like to start?
I know your heart is aching if you are reading this. I know that more than anything you wish you could celebrate your child’s birthday like a normal birthday should be celebrated: with birthday candles and birthday cakes and making wishes and eating too much sugar. I am so sorry. My heart breaks with you because I too know the pain of celebrating birthdays when your heart is broken. And yet there is hope. Hope that amidst the grief and deep sorrow of missing our son we have found SO much joy in celebrating our son’s birthday. These days are some of my sweetest and most cherished as we enjoy sweet family traditions like making our own birthday cake and singing to him in heaven. We often dread the day, for good reason, BUT with a simple plan of celebration and remembrance I think you will find much joy on a day that is meant to be joyful.
praying for you today.