This past weekend I turned 37. More important than inching another year closer to 40, this was my first birthday without mom. Over the last few weeks as my birthday drew near I found myself getting anxious.
Birthdays bring up a lot of different emotions. Fear of getting older and what that means. Disappointment concerning what our lives looks like vs. what we thought it would look like. Excitement over birthday parties, presents and celebrations. Gratitude for living to see another year. I admit to feeling a mix of all of these. However, the overriding emotion that I was dealing with was fear of experiencing my first birthday without my mom.
I was afraid that I would be overwhelmed with grief. I feared being alone and feeling abandoned. Typically I would spend my birthday with my mom. We would go out to dinner or maybe to the casino. Then, on the weekend closest to my birthday I would go out with my friends. This year I had plans with friends for Saturday. So, I tried to be proactive and come up with a plan for Friday, my actual birthday.
My original plan did not come together how I thought it would. I felt my anxiety rising as I tried to shift to plan B. Then I had a realization. Losing my mom left a huge hole in my life. I knew that I would feel the weight of that whole on my birthday and I was trying to fill it up with other people and activities. Once I realized what I was doing I knew that I was doing myself and my mom a disservice. Noone or thing could take my mom’s place. I needed to accept that missing her a little more than normal on special days like birthdays was normal and Ok. Instead of trying to distract myself from it I needed to accept it.
I still went on and tried to plan something fun for my birthday. However, I stopped trying to create a day where I’d be too distracted to miss her and to go with the flow. My anxiety decreased. Even without pressuring myself I ended up having a good day. My plan A and then B fell through but I went with the flow and plann C ended up being nice too.
The next day I went out with friends as I usually do. Although I did miss my mom I still had a great birthday weekend. I felt celebrated, loved, and grateful. I survived my first birthday without mom.
How have you coped with birthdays and special occasions after losing a loved one?