Coping with birthdays

Birthdays are normally a time for celebration and for bringing people together. But after someone dies, special times like birthdays can be very painful.

Coping with birthdays after a death

After someone dies, celebrating the fact that we are a year older can feel like the very last thing we want to do. You may find that friends and relatives want to mark the occasion when you’d rather forget about it all together.

The person who died might have been the one who made plans with or for you, and you might no longer have the same options for marking the day. This can make it difficult to celebrate.

 If the person who died was older than you, there may come a birthday when you overtake them in age. This can often trigger feelings of grief even if they died a long time ago.

How to cope with your birthday after someone dies

  • Remember it’s your birthday and you should do what’s right for you. 
  • If you want to ignore the day, especially if your bereavement was quite recent, that’s fine.
  • It’s also very normal to want to organise normal happy times (as much as is possible) – it doesn’t mean you care less about the person who died, or won’t have other days where your focus is on them and on your loss.
  • It’s OK to buy yourself a present, maybe something you know they would like you to have. 
  • If you have young children, and the person who died would normally have helped them to prepare for your birthday, you might want to ask a close friend or relative to help them.
  • It can help to think and plan in advance what you would like to do, but leave in a bit of flexibility. It’s fine to change your mind about what you want to do too, as how you’re feeling might change on the day.