When someone dies, you may adopt certain rituals after the death. These rituals may help you cope with your grief or feel closer to the person who has passed away. For example, you might decorate a grave to honor a deceased loved one on their birthday.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Birthday Grave Decoration Ideas for a Parent or Grandparent
- Birthday Grave Decoration Ideas for a Child
- Birthday Grave Decoration Ideas for Another Loved One
The concept of decorating graves isn’t a new one. If you’ve ever left flowers on a grave, you’ve participated in this time-honored tradition. Decorating a grave on the deceased’s birthday is a unique subset of this common ritual.
Family and friends can come together to decorate the grave in a way that’s incredibly personal and meaningful. Instead of a sad occasion, it’s a great opportunity to celebrate the life of the deceased. Here, we share some inspiration for birthday grave decorations.
Birthday Grave Decoration Ideas for a Parent or Grandparent
Your parents are there for you from the moment you’re born. After they die, it can be easy to feel alone and adrift. Celebrating your late parents on their birthdays is a great way to regain a sense of connection.
1. Flower arrangement
Not every cemetery allows you to decorate the graves of people interred there. But almost every cemetery will at least allow you to place a simple bouquet of flowers on a grave. This simple and classic gesture is a perfect way to honor older parents who appreciated traditions.
Many people like to use artificial flowers for graves, as they last longer than fresh blossoms. Look over the rules and regulations of the cemetery before you buy your flowers. Some cemeteries only allow fresh flowers. Leaving artificial blooms may be considered poor grave flower etiquette.
2. Religious ornaments
If your parents were religious, leaving something symbolic of their faith is one way you can honor their birthday. You can get yard and garden signs mounted on stakes that can be placed in the ground on top of a grave. They might be shaped like a cross, angel, or dove.
You’ll notice that the symbology referenced is mostly Christian. That's because many other religious traditions eschew the practice of decorating graves. Just be sure to check cemetery guidelines on staked decorations before putting them up.
3. Personalized memorial plaque
When a parent dies, so much gets left unsaid. There’s also only so much room on a headstone. How do you sum up a person’s life in just a few words? You can get an engraved metal memorial plaque customized with a special message to your mom or dad.
These plaques are waterproof and can be mounted on stakes and planted right onto the grave. They’re also relatively inexpensive, so you can replace them on subsequent birthdays if you’d like.
4. Graveside wind chimes
Wind chimes are often given as a memorial gift. The thought behind that is that when the wind blows the chimes, your deceased loved one is around you. If you’ve been comforted by wind chimes, bring another set to your parents’ grave. It’s another way to feel connected to them.
5. Pet-shaped memorial stone
If your parents had a pet they adored, you may want to reunite them symbolically. You can get a stone carved in the shape of their beloved pet. It’s also possible to get a resin model cast of their pet. This is a sweet and very personal decoration.
Birthday Grave Decoration Ideas for a Child
The death of a child is especially poignant because of the many milestones the child will never get the chance to celebrate. Decorating a child’s grave on each birthday can bring solace to friends and family members.
Get our free checklist for navigating loss 💙
Enter your email to get your free roadmap for the steps after loss in your inbox.
6. Grave blanket
In the upper Midwest of the United States, grave blankets are a common gravesite decoration. It is thought that the tradition originated with the Scandinavian settlers who settled the region.
A grave blanket consists of evergreen boughs woven together into a large arrangement. It may be accented with flowers, ribbons, or other decorative elements. They are most often used in the winter months, as the hardier evergreen withstands the climate well.
Beyond their practicality, grave blankets have a lovely symbolism. Laying one over a grave can help you feel as though your loved one is warmed and cared for throughout the winter. This can feel “right” on the grave of a young child.
7. Graveside garden plot
Some cemeteries allow people to construct a raised flower bed on top of a grave. Family members can then tend to that flower bed over the course of the year.
For parents mourning the loss of a child, this gives them an outlet to pour love and attention into caring for a living thing. It can also make the gravesite feel more personal and homey, which is especially appreciated on a child’s grave.
8. Biodegradable balloons
A birthday celebration doesn’t feel complete without balloons. But you may worry about leaving balloons on a grave, as they are not environmentally friendly. However, biodegradable balloons are an eco-conscious alternative. This allows you to have a birthday graveside celebration for a child without having an accidental negative impact.
9. Colorful birthday wreath
Normally, you take special care in picking out decorations for a birthday party. You can channel that same kind of creativity and put together a colorful birthday wreath. Incorporate colors and symbols that the child loved in life. This is a great way to bring color and brightness to a grave while still meeting the rules of most cemeteries.
10. Birthday cake-shaped flower arrangement
A whimsical flower arrangement is another great option for a child’s graveside decoration. Silk flowers or real flowers can be arranged to resemble a tiered birthday cake.
Carnations are a popular choice in these arrangements, as their ruffled blooms have a lot of texture and volume. This kind of decoration is customizable, so you can pick the colors and flowers that best represent the deceased.
Birthday Grave Decoration Ideas for Another Loved One
We all encounter people during the course of our lives who have a big impact on us. Celebrating their birthday after they’ve died is a beautiful way to show how much they meant to you.
We all have certain people that we turn to in life when we want to talk about something important. If a deceased friend or loved one was your confidant, a loss is probably especially difficult to process.
Write out your feelings in a letter. Fill a birthday letter with joyous news you would share if your loved one was still alive. A friend who celebrated your triumphs would be proud that you are still striving for greatness. Be sure to secure the letter so that it doesn’t blow away.
If you have a loved one who served in the military, you can honor them by placing coins on their headstone. This tradition is thought to have originated during the Vietnam War era. Because that conflict was so controversial, leaving coins was a more subtle way to pay your respects. Each coin has its own significance:
- Penny: A penny simply signifies that someone visited the grave, and can be left by anyone.
- Nickel: A nickel signifies that a person who trained at boot camp with the deceased has come to visit.
- Dime: A dime signifies that someone who served with the deceased paid their respects.
- Quarter: A quarter signifies that someone who was with a soldier when they died has come to see their grave.
13. Engraved memorial stone
Whenever possible, it’s best to use grave decorations that are made out of natural materials because there’s less risk of pollution. An engraved memorial stone makes an excellent decoration.
You can have a larger stone engraved with a memorial quote, or a small stone engraved with a single word. The words may have a meaning that only you and the deceased would understand. That makes this kind of decoration uniquely personal.
14. Ceramic photo medallion
Several companies provide a service that allows you to send in a photo. That photo can then be printed on a ceramic tile that will stand up to the elements. If you have a favorite photo of yourself and your loved one, putting it on a ceramic tile is a wonderful graveside decoration.
15. Flower-shaped brass grave decoration
If flowers feel too ephemeral for your liking, look for small brass tokens shaped like flowers. Ornaments like these have a sense of permanence that makes them an appealing birthday decoration.
Celebrate Deceased Loved Ones with Birthday Grave Decorations
There is a common misconception that mourning rituals are always inherently sad. But there are also more uplifting ways and grave birthday decorations to remember deceased loved ones.
Decorating the grave of a loved one on their birthday can be a beautiful way to honor them. It allows you to focus on the happier memories your loved one would want you to hold onto.