Whether you do something to mark the occasion or not, your loved one’s birthday will always remind you of them. You’ll probably find yourself reflecting on past birthdays, gifts you gave your loved one, and celebrations you shared.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Ways to Honor a Deceased Spouse or Partner’s Birthday
- Ways to Honor a Deceased Parent or Grandparent’s Birthday
- Ways to Honor a Deceased Sibling’s Birthday
- Ways to Honor a Deceased Friend’s Birthday
That’s why many people choose to honor their loved ones on their birthdays, even after they’ve passed away.
Below, we’ll give you some ideas for how to honor a deceased loved one on their birthday, whether they’re your spouse, parent or grandparent, sibling, or friend.
Ways to Honor a Deceased Spouse or Partner’s Birthday
It can feel unnatural to stop celebrating the occasions you shared with your spouse or partner, like anniversaries and birthdays.
And you don’t necessarily have to stop honoring those days after your spouse has died.
1. Uphold traditions
Whether you enjoyed just a few years together or 50 years, you and your spouse or partner probably had birthday traditions.
A birthday tradition could be as simple as enjoying your spouse’s favorite type of cake. You can honor your spouse’s birthday by celebrating the way you would if they were alive.
2. Purchase a keepsake or keepsake jewelry
If you want a constant reminder of your deceased spouse or partner, keepsake or memorial jewelry might be your best bet. And, you can find a nice piece at several price points. Here's what we recommend:
- Memorial diamond: You can send in your partner's ashes or lock of hair to be turned into a memorial diamond or gemstone. For example, Eterneva's ashes (or hair) to diamonds service offers gems in several colors, cuts, and prices.
- Silver or gold locket: Place a tiny photo or memento in a locket and engrave an important date or symbol on the outside. Get a few and give them out to your partner's siblings, parents, or best friends.
- Charm bracelet or keychain: If your partner was had hobbies or collected items, memorialize their favorite things with a small charm. Add it to a keychain, necklace chain, or charm bracelet.
Read our guide on birthday keepsake gifts for more ideas.
3. Spend it with friends and family
Remembering the death of your spouse or partner can make you feel isolated and alone. Rather than spending the day by yourself, you might find it helpful to invite friends and family to join you.
4. Write a letter
Your spouse or partner was someone you could confide in every single day. Without that sounding board by your side, you could easily feel lost and adrift. One way to honor your spouse’s birthday and find solace at the same time is by writing your spouse a letter.
In your note, you can update your spouse about your life now. Fill them in on everything that’s happened over the last year, since their previous birthday. And don’t forget to wish them a happy birthday.
5. Visit the grave
Visiting a loved one’s grave is the most traditional way of honoring special days. You can simply spend time beside your spouse’s grave (or with their ashes), or you can bring special offerings and decorations.
Consider classic decorations like flowers, as well as gifts your spouse would have enjoyed. For example, you could bring along your spouse’s favorite book and read a passage beside their grave.
You can always buy some pretty artificial flowers (like this bundle of fake shrubs and flowers) and lay them on the grave as well.
6. Light a candle
You don’t have to spend all day, or even all evening, honoring your deceased spouse’s birthday if you don’t want to.
Instead, you could simply light a candle in honor of your loved one. Or, you can splurge a little and buy a special memorial candle, like these Ylang Ylang Aromatherapy Scented Candles with Soy Wax.
Ways to Honor a Deceased Parent or Grandparent’s Birthday
Parents and grandparents often go to great lengths to make our birthdays special. When they’ve passed away, their birthdays can remind us of all those loving memories.
Honoring your deceased parent or grandparent on their birthday can be a great way to mark the occasion and cope with feelings of loss.
7. Join together
Being together with family can help the day pass more easily if you’re coping with feelings of grief. It can also help you honor your parent or grandparent’s birthday.
Together, you and your family can share stories about the departed and honor the life they lived.
8. Create a memorial video
If you or someone you know is slightly tech-savvy, you can create a memorial video. Piece together footage and images of your parent or grandparent, and upload the video where people can view it.
Not only is this a great way for you to remember and honor your parent or grandparent—but it also helps others in your family do the same.
9. Create a memorial site
If you’d rather not put together a video, you can create an online memorial page. Using a site like Keeper (save 10% off Keeper with code 'JOINCAKE'), you can easily create a memorial webpage.
Everyone you invite can post messages and remembrances, including photos of your parent or grandparent. P
You can read our picks for the best online memorial sites if you'd like an in-depth review.
10. Make a donation
You might not be able to give your deceased parent or grandparent a gift, but you can make a donation in memory of them.
You can make a donation to a local charity in your area, whether it’s in the form of items or money. Alternatively, you could donate to a crowdfunding campaign. When you sign the donation, state that it’s in honor of your parent or grandparent.
Similarly, you can give the gift of your time and service to honor your deceased parent or grandparent’s birthday.
Find a local animal shelter, homeless shelter, or charity that’s in need, and ask whether they could use some assistance on that date. You can use a number of online services to find organizations in need of volunteers. You can even get your friends and family on board.
Ways to Honor a Deceased Sibling’s Birthday
The relationship between two siblings can be one of the closest there is. When you lose a sibling, it may feel like you’ve lost a part of yourself.
On your deceased sibling’s birthday, it’s common to feel grief and loneliness. Honoring the date of your sibling’s birth can help ease those emotions and give the day a more positive tone.
12. Have an adventure
You and your sibling probably shared some incredible memories. Some of those memories might include adventuring—even if it was just in your own backyard.
To honor your deceased sibling’s special day, you can take them on an adventure with you, in spirit. Choose a location or activity that you know they would enjoy. It could be someplace they frequented in life, somewhere they never went before, or someplace on your travel bucket list.
13. Host a dinner
If you and your sibling shared a friend group, their birthday is the perfect time to get those friends together. Chances are, your sibling’s friends are also thinking about your sibling on their birthday.
Serve a special, intimate dinner at home, and share stories about your sibling. Ask everyone to share one memory that they think of the most often, or one that’s the most meaningful to them.
14. Share their story
If your sibling passed away from an illness or in a preventable accident, you can honor their birthday by sharing their story.
It may be as simple as creating a short Facebook or blog post describing the events surrounding their death. Alternatively, you could create a memorial site, as mentioned above.
15. Create a memory jar
For your deceased sibling’s birthday, you could create a customized “memory jar.” Take any large jar, bottle, or container of your choice (you can even just buy a set of Ball jars on Amazon and give them out to loved ones) and customize them however you see fit. You can attach meaningful quotes or even photos of your sibling.
When friends and family enter your home, encourage them to write down a memory they shared with your sibling. Have paper and pens available on the table next to the memory jar. Then, your guests can share their memories by putting them in the jar.
16. Traditional cake and candles
When you were kids, you and your sibling might have looked forward to blowing out candles each year on your birthdays. You can still celebrate your sibling’s birthday in this way, even though they’re no longer there to celebrate with you.
Bake or pick up your sibling’s favorite type of cake, and decorate it with candles. You can place the number of candles that represents how old your sibling would be on that date, or as many as you want. Then blow out the candles on behalf of your sibling.
Ways to Honor a Deceased Friend’s Birthday
Loved ones aren’t always part of our family, technically speaking. When a close friend passes away, you can go through all of the same stages of grief.
And when your friend’s birthday comes around, you might find yourself wanting to do something special on that day.
17. Give to their loved ones
If you knew your friend’s family fairly well, it can be a lovely gesture to give them a gift on your friend’s birthday.
If you feel comfortable doing so, you can give a customized gift, like an engraved photo frame or wind chime. Write a sympathy note to go along with your gift, to let the family know how much your friendship meant to you.
18. Reflect on photos
If you and your friend took dozens of selfies together over the years, looking at those photos is a great way to honor their memory.
However, looking at photos can often be too painful when the grieving process is fresh. It’s important not to push yourself beyond your comfort level.
19. Light candles
As mentioned above, honoring a deceased loved one can be as simple as lighting a candle.
Spend a moment thinking about your friend and how much they meant to you throughout the years. Just one moment of silence can often be enough to honor a deceased friend.
20. Throw a birthday party
If your friend was into birthday parties, you can throw them a party even after they’re gone. It could be a large soiree or just a small get-together with those closest to you.
You can play your friend’s favorite music or play their favorite games throughout the night, as well as saying a few words if you’d like.
Don't forget the balloons, candles, and other decorations! You can find plenty of relatively inexpensive birthday party decoration sets on Amazon.
21. Share on social media
Many of your social media friends may have known your deceased friend, too. They might enjoy seeing a message about your friend’s birthday, and maybe even a photo.
It’s always important to be careful when you post a message about someone on social media. Be mindful of who might see your post. Will they be uplifted by your message, or would they rather not be reminded of your deceased friend’s birthday?
If you feel comfortable posting about your beloved friend on social media, keep the message short, sweet, and positive.
Remembering a Deceased Loved One’s Birthday
On your deceased loved one’s birthday, it can feel good to honor their special day or hold a memorial. But if your special person never enjoyed birthday celebrations, it could also feel unnatural.
If throwing a birthday memorial bash doesn’t feel right, you can simply give yourself a moment of silent reflection.
Most of all, it’s important to allow yourself time to grieve and cope on your deceased loved one’s birthday.
Post-loss tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, the emotional and technical aspects of handling their unfinished business can be overwhelming without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.