It’s that time of year again. It’s my birthday. This Thursday, the 4th of May, marks the anniversary of the day I came into this world. Now that I am a mom, birth-day has a whole new meaning.
While I am so grateful for my life and so grateful to be alive, I don’t love my birthday.
What’s interesting to me is that the birth-day itself is one of the first grieving experiences we have in life. It is a beautiful representation of the definition of grief that we use at the Grief Recovery Institute, “the conflicting feelings that come at the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.” It is a transition where there is a mixture of emotions for all involved.
As a baby, we have to come out of the warm, dark, cozy womb to be in the loud, cold, bright world… no wonder we cry when we arrive. We are helpless and fully reliant on those around us.
As parents, we are typically excited to welcome this new person into our lives, and we are also saying good-bye to our old way of being. We can be full of joy and fear, excitement and doubt, pain and comfort. The conflicting feelings are many, and that is grief.
Since my mom died in 2008, my birthday has been particularly hard. I used to think it was because my mom made my birthday so special. While that is also true, I have also come to understand that it was really our day, not just my day.
So what do I do to enjoy my birthday as an adult? Here are some tips from a popular blog I wrote a couple years ago:
1) Do something nice for yourself. Don’t wait for someone else to get you what you want. Be proactive with your desires and then anything that others do for you is just a bonus.
2) Spend some time on your birthday writing in a journal. This will allow you to reflect on the last year, set goals for your year ahead, and find gratitude.
3) If you find yourself missing someone in particular, think about what it is that you miss about them. What would you do if they were still part of your life? Perhaps you can find a way to do something that honors that longing. (For example, I know I really missed my mom and her ability to make my birthday special. So, I think about how I can create a special day for myself.)
4) Do volunteer work or another activity that reminds you how grateful you are to be alive. By helping others who are less fortunate than you or honoring those who have died, you gain valuable perspective and feed the intrinsic value to serve.
5) Give yourself permission to feel however you feel. Remember the old song, “It’s my birthday, I can cry if I want to”? Let this be a guideline for you. If you are feeling sad, allow yourself to be sad. If you feel happy, that’s great too. Whatever you feel, it’s your birthday.
If you are struggling on your birthday, download my 7 Days to Thriving eBook here, to get started on your journey to thriving.