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.
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.
Your thoughts are welcome below! I don't give advice, but you can get free relationship help from marriage coach Mort Fertel.