My 35th birthday came a month into widowhood. One of my best friends took me out to dinner that evening. You really know who your closest friends are when it comes to celebrating birthdays and holidays in the first year. After all, how do you make it a celebration? Why would I want to celebrate my birthday on the first year of being a widow? Well, thank God for shock in the grief process. At least I was still numb when my birthday hit.
Now fast forward seven months and Nelson’s 35th birthday was upon us. The shock of my husband’s passing had worn off by then. I was still trying to accept my loss and move on. Somehow, I had to make it through the day. “Girls, let’s have a birthday cake for Daddy and invite some of our friends over,” I suggested before my 6- and 7-year-old daughters darted off to play. “Can we have ice-cream too?” Jessica asked as Nicole squealed with approval. “Yes.” I smiled at their happy faces.
I invited Angela and Sal’s family from next door along with Kelly and Joe’s family from across the street. It was a bittersweet get-together. We all sang “Happy Birthday” to Nelson and then blew out a candle. The kids ate their cake and ice-cream then ran off to play. We sat and reminisced of our memories we had of Nelson. I needed this day of reflection with some of my close friends. It validated a beautiful marriage I had and a celebration of Nelson’s life.
I was no expert, but I believed our celebration of Nelson’s birthday had a healing effect on all of us, including our friends. It gave us an opportunity to reflect on favorite memories we had of Nelson. It brought us sadness, joy, and laughter. This in turn helped us take another step forward. We didn’t have to forget and not talk about our grief of losing a loved one, rather it gave us all a chance to share how much this person meant to us. A gratifying experience.
We kept this tradition alive for many years. Of course as life goes on and changes, this ritual eventually ended. It served a purpose during our years of healing. Whether it’s a birthday cake, or another way of celebrating your loved one’s life, it’s an important part of healing. It’s a way to validate how important this person was in your life and shows your children that their parent is not forgotten!
I’m curious to know what others have done on their loved one’s birthday. It might give other widows some ideas who have that date looming in front of them at this time. Somehow we have to get through the day. We can ignore the elephant in the room or we can accept the fact that though our loved one is no longer with us physically, they remain in our hearts forever. Let’s share the love with others. How did or will you celebrate his birthday?