Wishing ‘Happy Birthday’ After a Loss: 20+ Message Ideas


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Remembering to acknowledge the hard truths in life alongside wishes and hopes for someone on their birthday doesn’t have to be labored. Just offer genuine feelings so that they understand you have the best of intentions. Sometimes what’s needed most is a simple act of love and reassurance, especially on someone's birthday.

Cards and Gifts to Say 'Happy Birthday' After a Loss

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In the following happy birthday messages, you may be able to find something related to your situation and setting. Remember, it’s important to offer words of love and be considerate of the environment and medium needed for those feelings to be received well.

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.

How to Say ‘Happy Birthday’ After a Loss Via Email or Letter

Example of how to say "happy birthday" after a loss via email or letter with images of a laptop and envelopes

Letters and email will work for family members and close friends. However, from their perspective, it would seem unfeeling if the sentiment isn’t also followed up with a call on their birthday day as well.

1. “I’m sorry dad isn’t around to celebrate, but I hope that you remember all the times he was.”

On your sibling’s birthday, you may consider writing him a letter to remind him of the times that dad was present. Your dad may not be there to eat some cake, but he’s alive in memories and thoughts, so share them.

2. “Mom, it’s your first birthday without Dad, and I know you’re missing him, especially today. I wish he were here with you on your big day. Love you.”

Here’s where a letter is much more appropriate than an email. Because the first year after someone passes is the most difficult, survivors go through 365 days of firsts. But, it’s especially hard on those who were married for a long time, so skip the email and buy a stamp.

3. “Happy Birthday, Darling! I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss your big day.”

Scheduling an email to be sent to your spouse posthumously can be done using digital legacy sites. That way, you know that you’re still able to send them love after you’re gone.

4. “Although we don’t know what you must be going through, just know that we are sending our love. Give our best to our niece and nephew. Happy Birthday, brother.” 

If you’re looking for ways to support your deceased sibling’s spouse on his birthday, don’t forget to put a letter in the mail. Becoming a widower at a young age is life-altering. 

5. “Toni, you must be missing Mieraye with every core of your being today. I wish I were there to give you a big hug and tell you happy birthday in person.” 

This message works for the parent who has lost a child. The pain is ever-present no matter how many days or years go by, so reserve a soft spot for them on days of meaning.

6. “Auntie Sue, I wish I was there to hug my favorite aunt on her special day! Uncle Jerome is always popping in my head, making me laugh—like he always did.”

Tell them a story. Give the recipient of your email a chance to remember their loved one through your eyes. No matter what the tale, they’ll like being reminded of all the little quirks each year.

7. “David, I hope my letter brightens your day a little bit. I’ve enclosed an old photo that I came across one of you and grandpa when you were a tyke. Happy Birthday.”

Sometimes the right sympathy gift is the one that’s hiding in plain sight. Plus, you can be sure that never-seen-before photos will always brighten a person’s day.

» MORE: An online memorial is a perfect ending to honor and celebrate someone's life. Create one for free.

Saying ‘Happy Birthday’ and Acknowledging the Loss via Text or Direct Message

Example of how to say "happy birthday" after a loss via text with an image of a hand holding a phone

Sending a text message or DM to tell someone you are sorry for their loss is appropriate in some cases. For instance, friends, cousins, or acquaintances won’t think negatively about a social media DM, but you’ll probably want to send a letter to your sister or favorite uncle.

8. “Happy Birthday, Lori! The photo that’s coming through was from the winery concert last summer. You can see the mischievousness in Amber’s eyes perfectly. How she loved you.”

Has someone in your inner circle recently lost their partner? If so, look for a picture to send to them along with a text message. Just in case they’re in a sensitive location, send the picture after your message to be prepared.

9. “Karen, I just remembered that today is your birthday! I hope you’re still planning on making rhubarb pie and setting a place for your brother.”

Coworkers won’t be offended by a text on their birthday. They’ll be touched that you remember and that you are thinking of their loss as well. 

10. “Happy Birthday, my dear friend. I only just saw that Maja passed away a few months ago. I can only imagine what you must be feeling today.”

Do you have a high school friend with whom you reconnected on social media? Then it’s an appropriate means of communication. However, as this is so sensitive, a DM would be more considerate than pasting it on their wall.

11. “Keaton, even though times are rough right now, I wanted to wish you a happy birthday. I hope you find some sunshine in your day. I’m here if you need someone to talk to.”

In text messages, it’s not always necessary to bring up why someone might be feeling sad. Just leave the line of communication open so that they know you’re available to help a grieving friend.

12. “I wish we had reconnected under better circumstances a month ago at Uncle Ed’s wake, but I hope that you have Happy Birthday, Melissa.”

This message works for those situations when your extended family can only reconnect during significant events, even if a wake or funeral isn’t the best of circumstances. 

13. “Take the day off tomorrow and spend it with your family. I hope you have a happy birthday.”

As a boss, it’s essential to show heart to your employees. If one of them has just gone through a traumatic loss, send them a text the night before their birthday to let them know you’ve got them covered.

14. “We have appreciated you and your family throughout the years and know this is a tough time for your family. But our whole staff wanted to let you know we wish you well on your birthday.”

Good clients become work families. When that happens, it’s crucial to remember their events along the way.

15. “I know I won’t see you today, but I hope you have a wonderful birthday even though you’re going through so much pain.”

While it’s challenging to find the words to express hope while a friend is experiencing great sadness, it’d be inappropriate not to acknowledge the apparent hurdle they’re facing.

» MORE: Grief can be lonely. Create space for your community to share memories and tributes with a free online memorial from Cake.

Ways to Say ‘Happy Birthday’ and Offer Condolences If You Can See Them Face-to-Face

Example of how to say "happy birthday" after a loss with an image of two people

Because some people find more difficulty in self-composure in public places, consider the place and time when mentioning emotional traumas. In particular, be considerate of work environments or situations wherein decorum is a must.

16. “This must be a tough day for you after just losing Spike just last week. But we still wanted to bring in a cake to celebrate your day.”

For many, losing a pet is like losing a child. And when these horrific events happen so close to big days, the loss can seem impossible. Even so, it’s still appropriate to celebrate birthdays at work.

17. “Happy Birthday, Sis. I know this is a hard one, but we’re all here for you.”

If there’s a family dinner planned for your sister’s birthday, you’re likely going to be in someone’s home. So, offering heartfelt condolences won’t be publicly traumatic.

18. “When we lost your mother, I never thought I’d get to a place where I’d be okay again. But I am sure that Caleb and grandma are looking down on us right now and wishing you a wonderful birthday.”

Finding the right words to convey your feelings after your child has lost their son or daughter might be better presented if you can find a way to offer hope.

19. “Akemi, I just wanted to offer you my condolences again. I realize that this is your first birthday without Bruce by your side, but I still wanted to wish you a happy birthday.”

If being a good boss is necessary, so is being a good employee. You may want to offer your words in an office location wherein your boss won’t feel like they need to save face.

20. “I still can’t believe he’s gone either. But I’m so glad that I am here to celebrate your birthday.”

If you and your sibling just lost a parent, these words will help you both get through what still hasn’t sunk in yet. Skip a restaurant setting and offer the words in a place where you can both be emotional without worry.

21. “Happy Birthday, Mom. I saw a cardinal on the branch outside, so I know Dad is with you today.”

Some people believe that seeing an animal after someone has passed means that they’re looking out for you. If your parents had a spirit animal, they might find comfort in the recognition.

22. “Jackie, Dennis mentioned that you had a birthday coming up and he wanted me to make sure I told you he still loves you.”

Often, neighbors can become the closest of friends. So, if your coffee buddy had a final message for his bride before he passed away, here’s how to make sure she still feels him even when he’s gone.” 

» MORE: Online obituary that is 100% free. Honor a loved one beyond a newspaper.

A Year of Firsts

The first year after a loved one passes is the toughest because they haven’t had time to process all of the big days without them present. That means birthdays (and holidays) are likely to be very emotional. I hope you’ve found a few options where you can glean the perfect message and make them appropriate.

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