When the Birthday Girl Misses Her Mom

March 5, 2023

It’s my birthday and as I sit at your grave, staring at the beautiful picture of you etched into your headstone, I can’t remember exactly how many birthdays I’ve spent without you. The first one felt surreal, the second felt harsh and paralyzing, and then the 3rd and 4th and those that followed stung in new ways that I couldn’t have predicted.

This one, as I count from the dates carved in front of me, I realize is my 6th. My 6th birthday since you’ve been gone. And it hurts just as much as the first. In fact, it hurts in new ways and new places because in some ways I’m a completely different person than I was.

The person that everyone gathers to celebrate today is a very different girl than the one you knew. That fact both feels so right and so wrong, like both an accomplishment and like a total failure. Don’t ask me how such contradictory things can simultaneously be, just know that they are.

I think back to the day that started it all– the day someone placed me on your chest or your stomach and announced that I had arrived, that you were now a mother. I think back to those moments that only you remembered and would later tell me all about– always with a smile and a proud expression of love. From that very first meeting and introduction you were a one-of-a-kind mother, which is why it hurts so much that you’re not here.

Later we’ll gather with family and friends, and they’ll sing and celebrate me, but the real hero of this day was always you. You did the work. You did the hard things. I simply arrived. This is a realization I only had after you died. Before we lost you, I always loved this day and the attention it brought. I always loved the carefully selected gifts and how you made me feel so special. You made sure the spotlight was always on me, the birthday girl.

But then, you were gone, and my birthday didn’t feel the same. It lost its shine and its excitement.

It hasn’t felt the same since you were here to spoil me with an icecream cake and our traditional hibachi feast. It hasn’t felt the same since you’d text every single person in the family to make sure no one forgot to wish me a “Happy Birthday.” It hasn’t felt the same since you were here to make things incredible, in only the way a mother can.

So, now, I sit here at your grave instead of beside you at our favorite restaurant. I sit on this cold grass, instead of tucked beside you in your favorite chair. And it all feels so wrong. And it all feels so unfair. And it feels like being suffocated and ripped wide open all at the same time.

And I know this would devastate you. It would be the last thing that you’d want on my birthday, or any day for that matter. You always wanted to encourage, and inspire, and light the way with insurmountable faith. You’d never want to be the source of pain or sadness. So I try desperately to honor your wish for me and my life. I try to collect my brokenness and glue it all back together with your legacy and your love. I try not to let this day break my resiliency or my confidence that you’re not as lost and absent as it feels like.

And as I wipe my tears and place my hand on the dark stone with your name, I honor you. I thank you. I celebrate you. This day has always been yours as much as mine. I wish I had realized this sooner.

Thank you for this day.
Thank you for this life.
Thank you for all of it.

It may not be a ‘happy’ birthday without you, but it can still be a beautiful one.

Here’s to us, Mom. Here’s to us.

xox, Chels

3 comments so far.

3 responses to “When the Birthday Girl Misses Her Mom”

  1. Crystal Vernon says:

    My mom made such a huge deal over my birthday. She passed on 5/24/2021 & her funeral was 5/28/2021 & my 49th birthday was the next day. I was totally numb over all that had happened during the week. So 2022 I turned 50 & my mom would have went over board with that one. I sat in the recliner all weekend & cried

  2. Sarah says:

    Tomorrow will be a month since I lost my beautiful mum, in 2 weeks it will be my birthday and I just want to run away. Im absolutely lost right now. Thank you for sharing such beautiful words, it’s a small comfort that I know I’m not alone feeling like this.

  3. Debbie says:

    Hey I get the birthday thing. My Mom passed right after my birthday in 2020. Last year, 2023, I turned 60. She would have done a ton of things for that one! Also, I would have had a card as soon as I woke up. It’s not the gifts, it’s the look on her face as she gave them to me! The smile that tells me she loved me from the first minute she saw me. That’s what I miss, the Mom love! I miss her presence and her hugs!

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A wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.

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