My family goes a bit overboard with the Happy Birthday song. For starters, there are a lot of us so that means anywhere from 4 to about 20 voices depending on who’s present. Also, everyone can sing to some degree so no one is shy about loudly belting out the lyrics or taking license with the harmonies. At the end of the song, without fail, everyone sings… “and many more”…which is a family tradition that has been around for as long as I can remember (I think some other people might sing it this way but I’ve never met them)
Growing up, I thought this was how everyone sang the song until I started going to friend’s birthday parties. Everyone would hit their big finish with “happy birthday to yoooou” and out of habit I’d find myself trailing off into a solo “…and many moooore…..errrr nevermind”
As an adult, I’ve come to find the verse reassuring and I always sing “and many more” under my breath in hopes that my quiet wish might help to safeguard the birthday boy or girl’s longevity. I know this is superstitious because life has taught me that “many more” is something we can never be sure of. Each and every birthday we have with our loved ones is a gift; I realized this when my mother received the diagnosis that changed her “many mores” to “one more.”
“No more” is the saddest thought of all, and I suspect if you’re reading this you understand what I mean. Logically death means our loved ones never grow a year older, although logic does little to clear up our confusion when their birthday continues to happen year after year. Someone we love is gone, but we find that even in death their birthday still belongs to them; there’s no such thing as “no more,” as long as we’re here on earth to remember them.
There is a misconception among some that holding on to our loved ones keeps us stuck, but the truth is, continuing our relationships with people after they’ve died and learning to love them despite their physical absence is good. Your loved one’s birthday, for however many years they spent on earth, was set aside as a day for you to honor and celebrate them, and even though they aren’t here now, the day can still belong to them. True you may feel pain because on this day their absence feels magnified, but don’t let this be the reason why their birthdays are met with dread instead of celebration.
We encourage you to find your own ways, big or small, to honor and remember your loved one on their birthday. To get you started, we’ve changed up some of the standard birthday elements to give you some ideas for celebrating the day.
Friends and Family
Your loved one’s impending birthday may be looming heavy for their friends and family, but without a celebration to gather for it seems like the only alternative is to suffer alone. The idea of celebrating a deceased loved ones birthday might seem odd to some, which is one reason why those who want to recognize the day might be hesitant to speak up. But if you feel like spending the day with people, do something about it!
Big, small, intimate, elaborate, soirée or small gathering – it doesn’t matter because there are no rules. Think about you, your loved one, and others who may want to recognize the day and go from there. Give people an idea of the plan, let them know you’d love for them to be there, and then let them decide what they’d like to do.
If you want to find a way to honor your loved one but don’t feel up to doing anything big, you could choose an activity to do alone or with one or a few other people. Maybe you’d like to sit alone at their grave or a favorite place for a little while or maybe you’d like to invite a few people along to share memories.
One option is to gather at your loved one’s favorite restaurant. If you think there might be emotional moments or if you want privacy so guests can talk and share memories, you might want to go the extra mile and chip in to rent a special room. At the very least, ask for as quiet a table as possible.
Getting together at someone’s home allows for a more intimate party or gathering. Perhaps someone(s) might volunteer to make a menu reflective of your loved one’s tastes. If you don’t want the menu to fall on one person’s shoulders, you could also plan a potluck where everyone brings one of your loved one’s favorite dishes. If you’re going potluck and the weather permits, you could meet at one of your loved one’s favorite public places like a park or a beach.
Some people choose to simply gather for cake on their deceased loved one’s birthday for their favorite kind of cake. Bonus – the baking of the cake can even be cathartic, check out Litsa’s post on baking her father’s favorite coconut cake if you’re not sure what I mean.
Obviously, you can’t give your loved one a present, but you can still buy them. If you want some good to come out of your loved one’s birthday choose a charity they would have supported that takes donations other than money. Ask the organization what types of items they need and then tell the party guests who’d like to bring birthday gifts to bring one of the items for donation.
Instead of presents, you could also tell guests to bring an object that reminds them of your loved one. During the gathering, you can take a few moments for each person to tell the story of their item (yes, like show and tell!)
People often choose to release balloons on a loved one’s birthday, sometimes with messages written inside. Balloons aren’t exactly the best for the environment so here’s a ton of balloon release alternatives from a website that really would prefer you not release balloons.
Perhaps words like celebration, fun, and happiness are absent from your vocabulary these days but don’t rule out the possibility of having moments of laughter in celebrating and remembering your loved one. Set aside time for reflection and sad emotions, but also leave a little space for joy.
Have you ever celebrated a deceased loved one’s birthday? Tell us how in the comments below.
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