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October 5, 2020 Beyond The Dash

Celebrating Birthdays of the Dead

What can you do to honor your dead loved one's birthday?

Celebrating Birthdays of the Dead
Pausing to honor a deceased loved one's birthday is a helpful grief practice for some people. There should be no shame in remembering at intervals to celebrate life. (Getty Images)

Your birthday is your day. Even if you don't celebrate on the anniversary of your birth, people in your life will honor you on this day with gifts, song and special treatment. And in turn, you honor your loved ones on their birthdays too. But what about those who have passed away? 

No matter what, the date of your deceased loved one's birth will remind you of them. Past birthdays, parties, gifts and adventures are painful to recall in the aftermath of a special person's death. That's why some people choose to carry on the tradition of honoring the birthdays of a dead friend or relatives, even though the person of honor is missing from the festivities.

Relationship continue long after death

Just because someone you love no longer walks on earth does not mean your relationship is over. Nor does it mean the relationship becomes stagnant. As odd as it might seem, our dead loved ones stay with us as we live, learn and grow. Changes within yourself mean changes in perspective—this is a lifelong process. And as you change, so does your perspective on the relationships you have with people who've died. 

Though the relationship becomes one-sided, it does not cease to exist. Especially during the many phases of grief, it's normal to feel sudden anger toward the deceased person. As grief becomes part of you, your life will change. When you get a new job, start dating someone new, experience new births in your family, travel or learn new skills, you'll wish that your deceased loved one could be there to share these milestones. Some people speak aloud to their deceased loved ones, sharing daily thoughts and happenings as though the person is there in the room.

So when their birthday rolls around, it's natural to have feelings about it. That's why some people use their loved one's birthday as a chance to remember and celebrate their life. 

How to celebrate a dead person

Most people don't celebrate birthdays of the dead with a birthday party. Instead, the day acts as a recurring memorial for the sharing of memories. Some invite those who knew the deceased person to visit and reminisce, others donate to charity in the name of their deceased loved one, and still others visit the gravesite.

The point is not to languish in grief. If you feel moved to honor your loved one on their birthday, you should allow yourself the time and space to celebrate in your own way. But if the idea of celebrating your dead loved one's birthday doesn't make sense to you, there's no need to go out of your way to remember them.

People often experience grief on the day of their deceased loved one's birthday. Learn what you can do to honor them on this day. (Shutterstock)

Why note the date?

A birthday is a celebration that marks another year of life. When a loved one dies, is there a reason to note the date anymore? 

Anticipating the birthday of a deceased person is a part of grief for many people. It's a perfectly natural way to honor the relationship you shared, even if they are no longer here to participate. That said, many folks don't subscribe to birthdays. If this milestone is something you never celebrated together, you may not feel compelled to do anything special on the date. 

There should be no pressure to start or continue birthday memorial traditions if you don't want to. In fact, choosing not to pause and remember may be a sign you are moving on. It's neither healthy or unhealthy to formally remember a dead loved one at regular intervals—how you pay tribute to them is up to you.

Create an online memorial

If your loved one's birthday is coming up, and you're looking for a way to pay tribute to them, consider telling their story on Beyond the Dash. Even if some time has passed since the death, digital obituaries offer a way for families to memorialize loved ones in a permanent and meaningful way.  

Create an Obituary

The purpose is to publicly remember their life and impact on the world. Share their story with others who knew them, and invite friends to share special memories. By honoring the date of their birth with a digital memorial, you can ensure their legacy lives on.

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