How to deal with the birthday of your Mum or Dad who’ve died. Happy birthday to my Dad.
It was my dad’s birthday over the weekend. I did a ‘how to handle mother’s day when you’ve lost your mum’ post a couple of weeks back, so thought that instead of writing what would be a similar blog I’ll tell you instead what I did on my dad’s birthday.
On Saturday just gone he would have been 63. He was 57 when he died and it’s worth noting that my dad was one of those people who bitterly hated getting older so I doubt he would have been doing much celebrating on the day had he been here.
One of the biggest problems with grief is that we think we are supposed to do it for a long time and that if we don’t do it we are bad children and disloyal to our parents. Often, without even really thinking it through, we imagine that the best way to show we love our parent and honour them is to be very, very upset. This isn’t quite how I see it.
On their birthday you may feel upset. You may not. You might think about them a lot. You might not. Hey, whatever happens and whatever you feel this birthday round is fine. Here is what I thought and did on Saturday to honour my dad in what I think is a much better way than just being in pain.
I thought about him consciously – partly because I was aware of his birthday and partly because I knew I’d write this blog so was paying closer attention and being more mindful of how I treated the day, so that I could tell you about it. And I did the stuff that matters to me. Yup, that’s it.
I figured what my dad would love best from me is to see his daughter being herself and making the most of her life and doing what she is here to do.
So I spent a good part of the day helping a friend with something important to her (if you know me you know that friends are my everything) and having a couple of glasses of wine in the sun, gossiping and planning. Then I left her to meet some other friends and spent the rest of the day with them, one being one of my newest but closest friends. We chatted about what we are all up to and generally joked (got this from my dad. He had one of THE dryest senses of humour you’d ever come across) and laughed the night away over drinks.
But here is what I mostly did with the day to honour my dad. I spent a lot of that day thinking about what I am doing, the difference I want to make in the world, and why. Common themes for me the last few months in particular, but on this special day I put a lot of focus on thinking about who I am and what I want to do with who I am.
And I think that is the best way to honour a parent you’ve lost.
I hate to admit this in public, and please don’t hold it against me, but a few years ago I was inspired by a young woman I saw on ‘America’s Next Top Model’. She talked about her grandmother teaching her ‘to be the best Tiffany she could be’.
I think the best way I can honour my dad is by being the best Kristie I can be. Now being the ‘best Kristie I can be’ isn’t as cringe-worthy as it sounds. It doesn’t mean being the best little girl-scout/girl-guide anyone has ever seen, crossing every little old lady across the road, and rescuing lost children and animals in my spare time. It means appreciating that there is only one me and making the most of that fact. This life I live is a gift from my mum and dad…and from my grandparents, and their parents and so on. (Though my mum and dad, naturally, have done more obvious work with me than the rest.) No matter what our parents say they want us to do, at the very heart of it what they want is for us to enjoy our lives and be fulfilled.
So on my dad’s birthday I did what would make my dad the proudest. I spent the day being me, enjoying being me, and thinking about what this ‘me’ has planned for the future. By being the best me I can be I am also the best legacy I can be.
So why don’t you give this a try on your parent’s birthday too: if you’re upset and miss them that’s fine. If you think about their death that’s fine too. But make sure you spend some time thinking about your own life, who you are, and what you love doing. Because you, no matter who you are and what you do, are one of the best things they ever did. They made a difference to this world just by bringing you into it.
Out of interest I just googled my dad’s name – Ian West – to see if there was any chance that he had ever been uploaded anywhere…and it was no surprise that he hadn’t…so here he is. (Excuse the quality – these are some old but fave pics of him and my family).
Happy birthday to the man who gave me this life and who, through his life and his death, taught me some of the most valuable lessons I have ever learnt, and inspired me to do something that matters to me with this life of mine.