“Celebrating my birthday without you Dad was so sad and uninspiring.”
Those were the exact same thoughts I had on my first birthday after his death. Rummaging and looking through the old pictures of us together made me feel worse; bring back the nostalgia during the good old days.
Looking back, knowing what I know now, here’s my advice…
How can I celebrate my birthday without my Dad?
Your Dad was there for you right from the beginning and at every major milestone in your life. Spending your first birthday without him is going to be a challenge. Especially if you have an overly affectionate type of relationship (just like me: my Dad and I always greeted each other with hugs and always told each other we love one another when we part) with him.
Many wonder how long is the grief going to last, but the truth is, grief has no expiration date. And in fact, for some, grief can linger around for the rest of their life.
Different people grieve differently and require different kind of help. But in general, most goes through the 5 stages of grief – Denial, Anger, Negotiation, Depression and Acceptance.
While our birthday is supposed to be a joyous occasion, we can take this time to honor and remember our Dad.
But first, how do you cope celebrating your first birthday without your Dad?
Manage Your Emotions
Losing a loved one can put you on an emotional roller coaster ride. In moments when we grieve, we can feel like we have hit rock bottom. But yet, when we recall the joyous memories that we share with our loved ones, we feel happy yet guilty.
When we grieve the death of a person, our minds tend to travel to places we wished they couldn’t go. We start asking ourselves “could we have done more?” Or usually, we start questioning ourselves if we actually love them enough?
Thankfully, guilt is normal and it’s part of grieving. What’s most important is how we handle our guilt in a way it allows us to walk through grief in a healthy way and to feel happy.
Here are my four simple steps to help you manage your emotions:
- Give yourself enough time and space to grieve. Remember, tears need to flow before joy and happiness ever stand a chance.
- Constantly remind yourself that your loved one would want happiness for you and would never wish sadness upon you forever. Learn to embrace happiness when it comes along.
- Allows yourself to feel happy and be in the presence of laughter. If there is a time to feel sad, then there should also be a time to feel happy. Laughter is infectious and it’s the best medicine for a grieving soul.
- Lastly, be kind to yourself, just like how you would be towards others. Give yourself the permission to feel joy again.
Self-Care Is The Best Care
If you’re not ready to celebrate your birthday, perhaps you should consider planning self-care activities to help lift your soul. Remember, self-care is the best care that you can provide yourself with.
Do what you feel like doing on this day, anything but self-isolating. Here are some ideas you can consider:
- Taking your dog out for a walk
- Go for a hike / run
- Do yoga or meditation
- Pamper yourself with your favorite food
- Take a long bath or soak in a bath tub
*According to statistics, meditation helps to improve anxiety and lift mood 77.3% of the time.
Be Grateful And Thankful
During this period of grief, it is easy for your mind to drift towards the feeling of emptiness and sorrow. Instead of focusing what you don’t have, focus on what you have. Using affirmations can help draw the things you want in your life.
However, this doesn’t mean that you should avoid grieving. Grieving is a process that is more than just sad feelings. Try recollecting happy memories with your Dad – maybe your last birthday with Dad. What were his last wishes to you? What did he hope that you would achieve? Perhaps you could list down a list of things you want accomplish this year to make your Dad proud?
Distract Yourself From Sadness
If you haven’t planned anything for your birthday, your negative emotions could easily take over your day and ruin the entire day.
To prevent yourself from feeling sad and lonely, never self-isolate yourself. Instead, start planning activities to distract yourself.
Simple tasks such as cleaning up the house, doing the laundry or try learn something new (eg. Baking) can help keep your mood high and prevent a downward spiral.
Uphold Old Traditions
During my previous birthdays, my Dad used to order a traditional chocolate cake from a particular bakery. For 26 years of my life, the cake has always been the same. It may be a good idea to order the same cake for your current birthday – upholding the tradition and celebrating the way you would if your Dad was still alive.
Writing Your Dad A Letter
If your Dad is someone who you usually confide in for advise then writing a letter to your Dad may be a good idea. This is one good way for honoring your Dad on your birthday. In your letter, you should update your Dad about the life that you currently lead. Fill them in on everything that happened after his passing.
What I have Learnt After Dad’s Death
- There is no simple or easy way to overcome the grief experienced after the loss of a loved one.
- There is no correct way to grieve and grief has no expiration date.
- Many think that once the funeral is over, we automatically return living our lives with normalcy – which is never the case.
- Grief is an individual thing and how we heal a grieving heart differs from person to person
- Set aside time each day to grieve, mourn, and to weep until you have accepted your new reality. You are the only person that can help yourself.
- There isn’t such a thing as “getting over” the death of a loved one. We will inevitably suffer the loss of the loved one, until the day we die.
- Time waits for no man, and every moment with loved one is precious. Never take anyone for granted.
Getting Through My Birthday Without You Dad Was Tough
Your first birthday without your Dad will be the toughest. It will be a unique experience and you may find joy during unexpected moments of grief. Also, you shouldn’t expect your birthday to be like previous ones. Learn to find the happiness and abundance within the brief moments of sadness. With some help and guidance, I believe you’ll get through it.