How to Survive Your Birthday When You Aren’t Happy

When you’re sad, lonely or grieving a loss, celebrating your birthday is the last thing on your mind. These tips for surviving a birthday when you aren’t happy are inspired by a reader who recently lost her husband…

“I’m turning 40 and experiencing my first birthday as a widow,” says Melanie on 12 Creative Ways to Celebrate and Honor Your 40th Birthday. “Grieving on your birthday changes everything. I feel undesirable, sad and lonely. My husband and I were married for 22 years and we celebrated his 40th birthday with a cruise to the Bahamas, five years ago. I am feeling so much sadness but he’s been gone for almost 10 months and it is better now. His absence is palpable but I’m also feeling a sense of accomplishment. I’m still here, I’m turning 40, and my life isn’t over yet! I know he’d want me to have a happy birthday, eat lots of cake and even raise a glass to his life. My pieces are slowly coming together and I know I’ll survive this birthday. Thank you for letting me share!”

In this article, I flip my tips for having a happy birthday for women turning forty (or 50, or 60). Instead of doing what you’ve always wanted to do or treating yourself in special ways, these tips for surviving a sad birthday will help you honor your life when you just want to crawl back into bed and hide.

Melanie’s comment helped me realize that when writers share tips for surviving loss and coping with grief, they don’t often consider birthdays. How do you survive birthdays after you lose someone you love? Your comments and stories are welcome below…and I hope my ideas help you see a light at the end of your birthday tunnel.

My articles are broken up into five different categories, for a holistic approach to loss and healing. I include your whole self: spirit, heart, soul, body, and brain. And, the separate Blossom Tips help you identify which works best for you.

How to Survive a Birthday When You Aren’t Happy

What do you need? It can be helpful to identify where you’re dry, thirsty, and empty. Some women are always sad on their birthdays, simply because they don’t want to get older. Other women — like me — never cared much about celebrating birthdays, so surviving a birthday when they’re grieving or alone isn’t a big deal.

Everyone is different, which means you need to find the tips for surviving a birthday that work for you. What do you think might make your birthday survivable?

Maybe you need a little spiritual TLC (tender loving care) — so the first tip will fire up your faith. Maybe you need emotional healing (Heart Blossoms) or creative fire (Soul Blossoms). Or maybe you need a kick in the bum! That’s the Body Blossoms tip, for a physical push. And finally…your brain. Maybe you just need to stop and think through the Brainy Blossom.

1. Spirit Blossoms – Be comforted with a birthday prayer

Father God, We thank you for the lives, beauty, and love you’ve given us. We praise you for who You are in Your holiness and glory, strength and power, awesomeness and creativity. We humbly adore and love You because you created and save us.

And, Jesus, we come before you with broken hearts and sad spirits. We’re sad this year on our birthdays…we’ve lost our joy, spirit, love and hope for the future. We feel like facing this birthday alone is more than we can bear. We need Your strength, peace, love. You said You’d come near the broken hearted; we need You now.  We know you hear our prayers for peace and comfort during birthdays that aren’t happy or fun…and we ask You to take our fear and replace it with faith. In Jesus’ mighty name we pray….Amen.

2. Heart Blossoms – Set an extra birthday place at your table

Here’s a tip on how to survive a birthday when you’re grieving from a member of my She Blossoms Facebook Group:

“Surround yourself with people who make you happy! My Mom passed right before I turned 40 and she always made a very big deal out of my birthday. So, it’s one of the hard days without her. Last year I invited my friends and family for dinner, prepared by a chef. I sat a place at the table for my Mom, and it helped me have a happier birthday.”

3. Soul Blossoms – Weave your past loss and new life together

You’re creative, even if you don’t feel it. Creativity isn’t just painting, knitting, writing poetry or doing arts and crafts. You’re creative when you cook a new dish, decorate the walls of your home, plant seeds in your garden, or even plan a new driving, cycling, or walking route.

How can you intertwine the idea of “surviving your birthday” with letting go of the past? For instance, I recently learned of a widow who mixed her husband’s ashes with paint and repainted her living room walls. This was her way of not just surviving a birthday when she was unhappy, but incorporating her husband’s death into her new life. This type of tip on how to survive a birthday when you aren’t happy isn’t for everyone…but the idea remains. Could you use your creativity to weave your past with your future? That might be the best birthday gift you could ever give yourself.

4. Body Blossoms – Avoid a birthday celebration you’ve always wanted

I’ve always dreamed of going on a cruise — not necessarily to celebrate a birthday, but just to experience what it’s like to vacation on the open seas, in an ocean liner! Going on a cruise is a dream come true for me…but if I went on a “happy birthday cruise” when I’m grieving the loss of my husband, I’d feel sad the whole time.

How to Survive a Birthday When You Aren't Happy

5 Tips for Surviving a Birthday When You Aren’t Happy

What is a birthday gift you’ve always dreamed of giving yourself, or a birthday trip you always wanted to take? Maybe this year, you do the exact opposite. Take a trip you’ve never wanted to take; eat at a restaurant you never dreamed you’d enjoy.

For instance, I once accompanied my husband on a business trip to Germany. I never wanted to go to Germany but I fell in love with the country and the people! I actually stayed a week longer than planned; he went home alone while I toured Berlin and Munich. This one of my favorite 40th birthday gift ideas for women: travel to places you never wanted to visit. You’d be surprised at how this makes a birthday more survivable.

5. Brainy Blossoms – Forget about your birthday

A cognitive tip for surviving a birthday you aren’t happy to celebrate is to simply ignore it. What would it feel like to pretend it doesn’t exist?

Nobody says you have to celebrate — or even acknowledge — your birthday. I never understood what the big deal was about birthdays, truth be told. I never liked being the center of attention; the last thing I wanted was to be the focus of a birthday party, dinner, or celebration. So, take a page from my book and pretend there is no birthday this year.

What do you think? Your comments – big and little – are welcome below! I read every comment, and would love to hear from you. And don’t worry: I won’t give advice or tell you what to do. Nor will I offer more tips on how to survive a birthday when you aren’t happy.

May you find the strength and courage you need to walk into the next season of life…and Blossom into who God created you to be.


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3 thoughts on “How to Survive Your Birthday When You Aren’t Happy”

  1. Hi Laurie
    Thanks for your kind thoughts. You are so right – ‘A lifetime of love and companionship doesn’t just disappear’. I think in my case – I want him to be remembered, I want my great loss to be respected, and I would want any birthday wish to be noted how much it must hurt to be without him. I want my circle of friends & family to feel free to talk about him, he was such a larger than life personality, a genuinely happy, impossibly funny, kind and compassionate man, who has left a crater sized hole in the lives he touched – especially mine. When he walked into the room – the mood just lightened – because he was a naturally funny man with a razor sharp sense of humor, impeccable timing, with his twinkling eyes & silly boyish crooked smile. He knew how to find something funny in a person, without hurting their feelings – but made them feel special & able to laugh at life with him. He also could be serious, and listen to a person’s troubles, and gave them hope in the Lord. A person could trust him with their secrets – he would not betray their confidence. He taught me so much – especially gratitude for the life that God gave back to him after his earlier years and troubles with drugs & alcohol, he gave God the credit for saving his life, and me made me so proud to be his wife. I think that anyone who has lost such a so beloved person in their lives, doesn’t want them to ever be forgotten.

    My husband is still such a huge part of my life – even part of my identity, because we both morphed into one entity. I don’t really have the hang of walking thru this life without him yet. I don’t think I ever really will. Till death do we part is so cruel in a way – my love for him hasn’t died just because he did. I realize that God gave me such a special gift in him, and he told me that last night in the emergency room, how much he loved me, and thanked me for always staying by his side. I guess that was our good bye, because shortly after that – he lapsed into a coma, and never regained consciousness. I know he didn’t want to leave me, but there was just too many things wrong with his physical body. But – if the Lord allows, my Beloved will be looking in on me, and praying for me, and waiting until we are reunited again. On that wonderful, Glorious Day

  2. I like your 5th suggestion – forget about your birthday! My Birthday recently passed – March 5th. This was my 2nd birthday without my beloved husband. He passed away July 18, 2016. It seems like it was only last July, instead of almost 2 years ago. I didn’t want any celebration, or even mention of my birthday – but of course – no one would listen – they sent me cards & a few gifts – which I did not want. My husband used to make me the most romantic & loving cards on the computer, and would have one & a little gift for me waiting on the end table in our rec room – for every occasion. After 34 years together – I am not interested in anyone else – I am now 67 – no one is beating a pathway to my door anyway – and that’s the way I want it. All I wanted was for the birthday to be over as soon as possible, and it was a relief on the 6th. In a space of about 7 months – I lost my husband, my mother, and my best friend – so celebrating my birthday just didn’t mean anything.

    The one thing I want for my birthday is to be with my husband, and that isn’t going to happen – so nothing else matters. I don’t want to seem ungrateful – God is still good & faithful, but this relatively new life as a widow is sad, lonely, and sometimes suffocating – to look too far ahead without him. I just loved being his wife, and not doing well as his widow. “They” keep telling me that his job on earth was finished, and the Lord called him home, but mine isn’t finished yet, so I am here until the Lord calls me home too. I sure wish the Lord would show me why I am still here. I want to live what’s left of my life for Him, but haven’t been making much progress at that at all.

    1. Dear Lovey,

      I’m sorry for your loss. And, I’m sorry your friends and family didn’t listen to your birthday wishes! I have family members who do the same thing – ignore my requests – and it drives me nuts.

      Thank you for being here, and sharing your thoughts on birthdays after a husband dies. I can’t imagine the loneliness. A lifetime of love and companionship doesn’t just disappear, and I suspect you’ll always be lonely without him. With great love comes great loss, great suffering. I wish I had the right words…you’re in my thoughts and prayers.

      What is helpful — what can people say that is actually helpful to you?