Not sure how to acknowledge a loved one’s birthday after they’ve died? You’re not alone. It can feel awkward or strange in the lead up to their Big Day, knowing that they’re no longer here to celebrate.
Do we throw a party in their honour? Or do we ignore the day altogether?
Should it be a day of mourning? Or a day of joy?
Truthfully, we’re all different, and the way we choose to recognise the birthday of a deceased loved one can differ based on how far we are into the grief journey, how we (and our family and friends) deal with grief, and knowing what our loved one would've wanted for their special day.
If you’re wanting to celebrate their birthday and bring joy to the day? We’ve compiled a list of our favourite ways to acknowledge their birthday, so you can celebrate in a way that feels comfortable to you, and true to them.
1. Celebrate how they would’ve!
Were they a thrower of big parties? Did they bake themselves a cheesecake every year? Maybe they were famous for throwing a dinner party or high tea, annually, on their birthday?
There’s nothing more special than throwing a birthday party (or executing a tradition) they usually would’ve. This can be a lovely way to honour them, now that they’re gone, while also comforting their other loved ones who – no doubt – will be missing them on this day.
2. Make a list of their favourite places, foods and activities – and then tick them all off!
Did they love hiking or bushwalks? Maybe they had a favourite go-to cafe around the corner from their house they used to visit every morning on their way to work? Ask family and friends to brainstorm some of your loved one’s favourite things, and then create an itinerary for the day that everyone can follow (either separately, or together).
3. Host an event for their friends and family.
Don’t feel up to organising activities or traditions they used to? Why not create a new tradition for their loved ones to look forward to every year? Consider hosting a brunch or afternoon tea in their honour. This can be a great way to comfort loved ones on a challenging day – especially for those who aren’t sure how to approach the day.
4. Make a donation to a charity of relevance.
We’ve mentioned this before, but donating to a charity can be the perfect way to honour the deceased. We’ve compiled a list of charities in this guide, but make sure you do your own research to ensure you’re donating to an organisation you believe in and that feels relevant to you and your loved one.
5. Book a trip away.
Sometimes attending events and planning activities on their birthday can feel a bit full on. If you’re still in the early stages of grief and mourning, you mightn’t feel like celebrating their birthday at all, and sometimes heading away can be the medicine you need to escape your ‘normal’ environment where nothing feels ‘normal’ anymore.
6. Drop cupcakes off at their close friends and family.
Not everyone will want to celebrate or acknowledge the day with others, and that’s a-okay. A nice way to respect the boundaries of others can be to drop off some cupcakes or cookies at their doorstep. This allows everyone to celebrate and/or grieve in their own way while also feeling as though they aren’t alone.
7. Organise a game of Kahoot, virtually or in-person.
Oh, we love a good game of Kahoot. Who doesn’t?! Kahoot allows you to create a game of trivia on a specific topic (ie. Your loved one), and all players can compete via their phones.
It can be fun to invite everyone over to your house for afternoon tea or post-dinner to play, or alternatively, you can send through a Zoom invite so everyone can play from the comfort of their own homes. It’s fun, lighthearted, and competitive. The recipe for lots of fun.
8. Visit their grave, or the location where the ashes were scattered.
Of course not every individual chooses to be buried or have their ashes scattered, but if your loved one opted for one of the above, it can be nice to head to the appropriate location to honour them.
Consider sharing your favourite stories about the deceased, buy (or pick) a beautiful bunch of flowers on the way to leave at the site, or write a letter to them you can read out loud to everyone present (or just to your loved one).
It’s no secret that the first birthday (or the first few birthdays) of a deceased loved one can feel challenging and uncomfortable. We hope that this list helps you decide on a way to acknowledge their day in a way that feels special and authentic to them, while ensuring the day isn’t all doom and gloom.