“Happy Birthday” after a Death?

At this time last year I wrote about MLK Jr., Kennedy, and me. It should be on my mind again this weekend, but this year I hardly remembered why the third Monday of January is recognized as a national holiday. It’s not the late Dr. King’s birthday I’m remembering.

Birthday candles and party favors (photo by Teresa TL Bruce, TealAshes.com)

Birthday candles and party favors (photo by Teresa TL Bruce, TealAshes.com)

It’s my husband’s. My late husband’s.

And my mother’s. My late mother’s.

When Mom died a little over twenty years ago, I worried over whether anyone else would remember her birthday. I didn’t want her to be forgotten. And I knew I’d miss her even more on her birthday than I did every other day without her.

Celebrating my husband’s birthday without my mother’s was hard, but he helped me get through each of hers. He said things like:

“I know today is a hard one.”
“I’m sure you’re thinking of your mom today.”
“I miss her, too.”

When my husband died a little over five years ago, I couldn’t face the thought of Mom’s birthday without him.

And I couldn’t face the thought of his birthday at all. I was too broken.

A dear friend came to spend time with me. She listened when I cried and ranted. She reminded me to eat (and made me food when I still forgot). By her presence, she showed me how much she cared.

Even though these pieces are glued back together, this broken mug will never fully be whole again. (Photo by Teresa TL Bruce)

Even though these pieces are glued back together, this broken mug will never fully be whole again. (Photo by Teresa TL Bruce)

And that she remembered. By doing so, she helped me gather up pieces of my fragmented self.

Fast forward five years — to now.

My life is good again — different, but good. Most days are much easier to get through than they were in the first couple of years after he died.

But some days — like his birthday and like my mom’s, which fall so close together — are harder than others. On those occasions, grief leaks more easily through the patched-up holes where I put myself together in my new normal.

If you know someone who is grieving lost loved ones, share your memories of them.

And if you know their birthdays, let them know you’re thinking of them then, too.

4 thoughts on ““Happy Birthday” after a Death?

  1. In my family, and also my wife’s family, dates with significance tend to clump together: births, deaths, and anniversaries. Eventually that translates into these clumps of pain and memory. I am so sorry this is true for you, too. Thank you, as always, for taking your private pain and turning it into learning for others. This website is a blessing.

    I wish you comfort this week, and always.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. elainemansfield

    I hear you and know the struggles with those birthdays. I’ve deal with birthdays by creating an intentional ritual on my husband’s birthday. It helps. You probably do that, too. This year during December holidays, my sons and I decided it was time to redesign my husband’s ancient and nearly unusable website and make his articles and work shareable and findable (those google words). I knew it would be loaded because his old site was full of the work he loved and the life he loved. I put it off for seven years. It will be finished tomorrow, nourished by my tears. I added more that he didn’t have on his site. More about him. In time, I’ll add a few blogs I’ve written that are about him more than us. Maybe that’s a good thing to do on his birthday.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a labor of love, Elaine. I think I can understand why you “put it off for seven years.” You waited until you (and your sons) were ready. I’m glad you’ve been able to complete this project to share your late husband’s words with many, may souls. Yes, that sounds like a fitting way to spend his birthday.


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