Losing a parent is one of the hardest things you can go through. Your parent is someone who cared for you your entire life, and it can make you feel lost to lose them. When it happens, birthdays will be especially hard. However, you should use it as a time to celebrate them. Here are 5 reflective ways to commemorate a late parent’s birthday.
Look at Old Pictures/Watch Old Videos
If you are lucky enough to have pictures and video of your parent, you should watch them on their birthday. It’ll make you feel good to see them in their younger, happier years. You can find relief in the fact that they have experienced plenty of happiness and life.
This may be hard to watch, but setting a time to do it throughout the year will make it a somber and reflective experience. Some people make altars, some talk to their late parents, some get together with siblings and watch the home movies. What matters is that you don’t let their memory fade away because remembering is being put on hold Make the time and set the tone to be respectful and to teach your children about the things you loved about their grandparents. They will keep you closer together and you will be able to have those warm feelings that accompany the memories flush back to you and your family.
Cook Their Recipes
Did mom or dad have certain recipes they would cook every year? You should get the recipes and work together to cook them. Eating these items on their birthday really keeps them alive. You may never be able to make the meals quite like your parent did, but you can still try. You may even be able to pass the recipes down to your children.
Memory makes up 80 percent of our sense of smell. When you cook and recreate the family recipes you will likely have memories flooding back. Not only will you be able to hand them down, but you will honor their memory by taking the time to learn something they did for you. Go ahead and play their favorite music over dinner and show them that you love them.
Decorate Their Tombstone
It’s nice to visit their tombstone every year. Throughout the year, it might not have gotten enough love. It’s a good idea to put up some decorations to show it some attention. Do your best to clean the area of weeds yourself. You can also call for flower delivery of a beautiful arrangement to be placed at the grave site.
This is something that you can do even if you live out of town. You can send them flowers or pick them up and take them yourself. Feel free to talk to them out loud. Visiting their tombstone with your family will lead a conversation about their life and mortality. A healthy dose of these conversations in age appropriate settings can help lessen the grief and loss when they’ve seen firsthand someone deal with it in a healthy way. The way you deal your grief will set a tone for your children. Grieve the way you want your children to grieve you. Celebrate your parents the way you want to be remembered.
Write Them a Letter
One of the worst parts of not having your parent with you anymore is that you can’t talk to them. Well, you can’t talk to them in person. You can still communicate with them in your own way. You can write a letter to them. Tell them about what has happened in the last year. You can tell them about how difficult it is to go on without them and how much you miss them.
This is a great way for you to be able to express the complex reality that comes with parental relationships. You can tell them things about yourself that you were not able to while they were alive. You can express the hurt that they may have caused, and the love for the things they did right. Relationships are complicated. They are not a binary good or bad in most instances. If you have a complicated relationship you can make sure that you express yourself without having to even complete all your sentences or make the letter coherent. Write your thoughts and burn them, float them down a river, or put them in a balloon and let it fly through the sky.
Spend Time with Family
You probably aren’t the only one grieving. Other people cared for your parent, too. Get together with these people. You can all tell stories together and celebrate life. It may even allow you to bond with people in your family.
Having time with other people that are grieving will bring you more closure and a sense of validation to the feelings that you may have with such a difficult day. The rest of the world may go on as normal, but within the walls of your home there can be a little sanctuary of loved ones shining a light for a beloved parent.
There is not one single way for you to grieve or commemorate your late parent. You may want to talk about them while your siblings may want to have a moment of silence. The way that one deals with emotion cannot be planned. Just because your way is different than what someone else does doesn’t mean that one is better than another. Remember that you should focus on a way for you to process your emotions. You may even want to change what you do next year from this year.
It may be uncomfortable to know what to do with so many emotions that are coming to the surface. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Everyone may be in different stages and need different things. However, choose your own way to honor your parents memory by acknowledging their existence in a loving way.