Grief Notes

September Birthday Celebrations

13th March 2019
Plate of blueberry pancakes with 1 blue candle


I am finally getting round to publishing some long overdue blog post drafts, here is the first one, going back 6 months ago to late summer / early autumn…

If June into July was a time of shock and July into August was a time for escape, September might have been getting back to some sort of new normality but not here. September is always a whirlwind in our house.

It brings the start of the new school year (and this year, Imogen started Reception too), the turn to autumn, it’s very almost our wedding anniversary (2nd October) and we have two out of four family birthdays.

The first September birthday is Andy’s.

Right from the day he died, Seren has asked if we can still celebrate his birthday. In this, like with lots of things, I am guided by the children on what is the “right” thing for us to do and as it was so important to her, it was important to me that we celebrated.

I wasn’t exactly sure how we should do it. I’ve never celebrated a late relative’s birthday before. Some sort of party? I felt too emotionally fragile for that. Taking the day off for an adventure somewhere? Another complication was that the birthday was also the first day of term. Seren had missed so much school in the summer term, I was so keen for her to start back with her peers and be as “normal” as possible. I didn’t want to give her another reason not to go to school. Should I pretend the birthday was the day before? I realised she would have figured out I was lying.

I also didn’t want to have drawn out discussions about it over the summer so I didn’t bring it up until we got back from Spain at the beginning of September. In the end, the plans seemed to easily and naturally come together. Which is always the best way.

The day before the birthday we did our usual birthday / end of summer family day out – though to somewhere new. We started with the Tower of London then walked over to the Walkie Talkie building and had ice-cream (them) and Prosecco (me) sat in the Sky Garden overlooking London. I love being up high and looking out over the rooftops, I really find it helps me breathe.

The girls running around the Tower of London Seren looking out over London from the Sky Garden

One the walk back to the station, we had an impromptu visit to Paperchase and bought birthday candles and decorations – mostly glittery and unicorn themed, not very Andy but hey, the girls were happy. We rose early the next morning and I made the usual birthday pancakes, which we stuck a candle in and sang happy birthday. No cards or presents (actually a few friends sent me cards) but lots of love and sparkles.

Birthday breakfast pancakes

Seren was happy to go to school as long as we went out for a birthday dinner. Whilst she was at school, Imogen and I made a cake and friends visited. After dinner out, (where the girls mainly stood on the terrace waving at school friends) we came home to decorate the cake. I halved it and they each decorated their own half. Imogen went with a football theme and Seren chose a beach design. We lit candles and sung happy birthday again.

Football and seaside birthday cakes for daddy

Watching the girls sing “happy birthday daddy” was one of the most heartbreaking moments of my life and I am in tears thinking about it almost 6 months later.

I’m glad we did it though and we will continue to celebrate the day. Lives are busy and as the years go on, I think it’s good to have these markers in to remind us to take a step back and remember. I still put my dad’s birthday in my calendar and I am going to make sure I put my grandparents birthdays in too and do something nice to remember them on those days.

Seren's horse-themed birthday cake

A couple of weeks later we celebrated Seren’s 7th birthday. She had a great time celebrating and I enlisted several helpers so I didn’t feel the absence of my right hand man too much. Well, not in a practical sense anyway. She said she had the best day ever and I admired her ability to live in the moment.


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  • Reply Caroline O’Donoghue 8th April 2019 at 9:03 am

    Oh Sian. I love the decorated birthday cakes! I almost cried too reading this. Agree entirely about overthinking stuff and then it slips into place. Another big well done from me xxx

    • Reply Sian 8th April 2019 at 6:47 pm

      Thank you lovely xx

  • Reply Beth 8th April 2019 at 11:59 am

    Heartbreakingly beautiful

  • Reply Beth 8th April 2019 at 11:59 am

    Heartbreakingly beautiful

    • Reply Sian 8th April 2019 at 6:47 pm


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