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Not Just Another Birthday

February has rolled around again, and with it comes another birthday. However, this February is not just any old February, and my birthday this year is not just another birthday.

This birthday feels different because it is different. You see, this is my first one without a mother and without a dad. I am not looking for sympathy, and I am not fishing for happy birthday greetings either. No, I’m writing about this because as is usually the case, when I write something out, generally I feel better. And perhaps doing so might help someone else who’s grieving feel better too.

This year, not only will there be no phone call and no card in the mail from my mother, there will be no phone call or card from my dad either. I should have saved a few of those cards.

It’s an odd feeling to realize you are no longer anyone’s child.

Of course, I will always be my mother’s daughter. I will always be my dad’s daughter. Not even death can change that.

I read an article last week that I really appreciated called, “The Grieving Need You Most After the Funeral”. My favorite parts of the article were these two sentences:

Death is a date on the calendar. Grief is the calendar.

I love that – so much truth in those eleven words. And yes, some days I still feel quite lost.

After a certain amount of time passes, it seems you’re supposed to be done with the messy parts of grieving. And so now I am mostly a private sort of griever.

Every date on the calendar is like a container of reminders and with every passing year all the dates, all the containers, continue to fill. Some reminders are pleasant, some not so much.

And every year when February 1st rolls around again, I am reminded that, yes, I’m another year older and hopefully wiser, too.

But, my birthday is also the reminder of the day cancer first rudely interrupted the smoothness of my family’s life. Cancer was the uninvited and very unwelcome intruder that showed up on my birthday in 2004. That was the day my mother told me she found her lump.

Cancer has been lurking around ever since.

For the most part, my birthday memories are wonderful though. I’ve been blessed through the years and I know it.

Linked all together, my birthdays make up pieces of the timeline of my life, as do yours, of course.

This year’s birthday marks my first without a dad as well as without a mother.

Not just another birthday indeed.

If applicable, do you have advice on how to handle no longer being anyone’s child?

How do you feel about the quote I shared?

Do you sometimes grieve quietly because you feel you’re supposed to be “done” now?

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Not just another birthday

Not just another birthday


Monday 27th of March 2017

These blog posts are very helpful. My elderly father died in early February. It's hard, indeed, that some people don't understand how to express sympathy after the death of the elderly. I will always cherish the last few years, when I spent a lot of time helping Dad. It's a profound experience to lose someone at the end of their having a full and rich life. There's sadness, relief, and even joy in remembering their life. Truly, he won the game of Life and I honor him for all he experienced. And I miss him so very, very much.


Tuesday 28th of March 2017

Laura, I am very sorry for your loss. I agree, it is a profound experience. I miss my dad terribly. Thank you for sharing about yours.

Beth Gainer

Thursday 16th of February 2017


I'm sorry you have had to celebrate a birthday without both parents. As you said, you will always be their daughter. Hugs to you. xoxox



Sunday 19th of February 2017

Beth, I will indeed. And knowing this definitely helps. Thank you for reading and thank you for the hugs, too.


Wednesday 8th of February 2017

Hi Nancy, thank you for sharing the quote. It truly hits home. I've now lost both my parents to cancer. My dad 10 yrs ago after a secondary cancer took his life and now my mother who had been cancer free herself for 17 yrs until this past Sept.

From the time she received an official diagnosis in mid Oct to her death was 2 weeks. When we first suspected her cancer was back if never entered my mind that she couldn't fight it and survive as she did before. The first words out of her mouth were " what do we do and how do we fight it". She was a fighter herself and also didn't think of giving up so to hear terminal was devastating. I didn't have time during those 2 weeks to really deal with the knowledge that I had as I was desparately trying to get all her affairs in order to her satisfaction so she could pass in peace. I am my mother's daughter and I do what needs to be done first and then I deal with myself. She died the day that I told her everything was done. She asked me if she could go now and I said yes. I sat with her like I promised and 4 hrs later she was gone. So now I deal with all the affairs that go with being an executor.

I completely understand your feelings around your birthday. Mom made sure that on my birthday we would go out for a nice meal. When my dad was alive it would be the 3 of us. I do have a sister but we aren't close even though we live doors apart. Other than a card there is no acknowledgement of my birthday. This year I will be on own. To me my mom was my sounding board, my friend, the one person who truly showed me how much she loved me in the years after my dad passed.

We went out for lunches and suppers on a regular bases as we were both alone. We were at one another's homes everyday. If one of us had a doctors appointment in the city the other went for company. I miss all of that. Even the things that would drive me crazy. You are completely right. We are never ever ready or prepared for this loss. I thought for sure my mom would be around for at least another 10 years. I've lost the 2 most important people in my life. Some days I can shut it all down and push through and then like you said yourself the bubble will burst.

I do go out for meals with a few friends and I have my 2 golden retrievers at home. I don't know what I would do without my two girls to keep me company, but I also know I've never felt so alone in my life. I talked to my mom everyday in life and I still do. She was a daily part of my routine. I would have never wanted her to stay being as sick as she was at the end but I give Cancer shit everyday for taking her from me. I miss her everyday and I so wish I could pickup the phone and hear her voice.

Happy Birthday Nancy and hugs.


Wednesday 8th of February 2017

Beth, I'm sorry about your mother. Your loss is very recent and so, of course, your emotions are still very raw. It's really hard to realize, internalize and ultimately accept that you're no longer no one's child. i'm not there yet. You mother's health declined so rapidly, too, making you feel quite rushed in a lot of ways. I love that quote and thinking about it is comforting to me. I hope it is to you too. Again, I'm very sorry. Thank you for sharing about both your parents. Take care of yourself during this difficult time.


Sunday 5th of February 2017

Wishing you many more healthy birthdays, Nancy.

I wish I can offer you some helpful advice or something that would help heal the pain you're experiencing right now. All I can say, and you already know this, is that when you love someone wish such intensity, pain comes with it too. I never really had a father so I never missed that. My mother (grandmother) died when I was a teen, and of course, I miss her always. I am not sure how I will react when my biological mother dies as we have a complicated relationship. I do hope she lives a very long healthy life. I also hope we're both at peace with our relationship. It's been hard not having someone I can openly talk to about everything and to always feel like I am welcomed.

I love that quote you shared. There is so much truth in it. I wish people could understand that. Maybe they haven't loved someone with the same intensity as we have? Or maybe they just grieve differently. I am not a quiet griever, especially when it comes to my grandma (maybe with cancer, I am a bit different now). Some people have advised me to pray so that I am not so stuck in the past. They don't understand my grandma represented many roles in my life (crying as I write this - see?). I believe we grieve forever. If there's something out there, after death, I wish to see those faces again. Meanwhile, they'll live in my heart forever.

Big hugs to you, my friend. xoxo


Monday 6th of February 2017

Rebecca, Your words are helpful, so thank you. I don't believe grieving means we are stuck in the past. Like you, I believe we grieve forever too. Thank you for your kind words and understanding. And btw, your Grandma must have been an amazing woman. xo


Sunday 5th of February 2017

Nancy, please let me wish you a birthday that promises the year ahead is filled with love and the building of new memories, even as you look back and remember those moments past. Bittersweet is a word far too familiar in our lives, I believe. But still, I'm glad we have you in this world. Happy birthday.


Monday 6th of February 2017

Catherine, Thank you for your lovely words. Hope your new treatment goes well. xx

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