April 24 comes around every year.  It’s not like Leap Day; it never gets skipped on the calendar. 

In two days, my stepchildren will again remember their mother’s birthday.  She would have been 49 this year. 

At least two anniversaries each year should not go without recognition in a grieving stepfamily:  The deceased parent’s birth date and death date.  Throughout the twelve years our stepfamily lived under the same roof, these two days were awkward for me, only slightly outdone by Mother’s Day (yeah, that’s coming up too).  

The awkwardness for me came from:

  • 1) Not knowing the person I was celebrating, and
  • 2) Not knowing how to celebrate these days. What actions were sincere? Meaningful? Enough? Too much? 

My husband and I found that the kids didn’t have suggestions of what they wanted to do.  So we always came up with the ideas.  Now that they live on their own, I hope they’ve found ways to celebrate that are truly meaningful to them. 

Don’t take a child’s statement, “You don’t have to do anything,” as bait.  Do something to let your stepkids know that you as a family choose to honor, in some visible, external way, the life force their mom or dad represents.  An internal clock is ticking loudly in the subconscious during these anniversaries, and marking the date gives kids a way to integrate that ticking into the rhythm of their day. 

Here are some birthday celebration ideas:

  • Light a candle that represents the loved one’s presence and keep it burning as long as you are around the house that day.
  • Write cards or letters to update the loved one about goings on in the kids’ lives. Keep the letters, or burn them if that seems healing, or send them to a relative who would understand.
  • Take a birthday cake to a place that was special to the loved one. Hold the birthday ceremony with that person’s presence there.
  • Buy one, several, or a cluster of helium balloons. Go to an open space and release the balloons to the sky. Don’t stop watching until they disappear into the heavens.
  • Frame pictures of the loved one with his or her children. Give one to each child to keep.
  • Go out to eat at the loved one’s favorite restaurant.
  • Go around and share a favorite memory of the loved one. Stepparents who didn’t know this person can learn more about him or her through the other family member’s reflections. 

Which celebration ideas would work in your family?  Even though my stepchildren are out of the house now, I’ll be lighting a candle on Friday. 

Mama J (Diane Fromme) is a writer, parent, and stepparent located in Northern Colorado.  For more information on her book, Stepparenting the Grieving Child, go to www.dianefromme.com


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2 Comments on They Say it’s Her Birthday

  1. […] the Grieving Child. She wrote a fantastic post on the topic today on her blog. Check out the post: They Say it’s Her Birthday. Diane gives ideas about how you can honor your stepchildren’s mother’s birthday and […]

  2. Morocco says:

    Your post makes me think of my stepsons. I wonder how they are coping? My husband would have been 31 on July 1st. I know it will be a hard day for me and them as well.

    My stepson’s mom was in prison and I still acknowledged it with them by putting together “care” packages for her and baking a cake to celebrate the day.

    I love all of your ideas, maybe I’ll try some with my son!

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