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Not so Happy Birthdays: Dealing with Grief Caused by Illness

     Yesterday was my happiest birthday in eight years. The past eight birthdays have been less than happy because I have found myself at different stages of illness, isolation, and grief.  Happily, this year was different. 
     This year, I felt blessed and not just content, but overjoyed with all that I have.  No, I am not where I would like to be health-wise, and my physical condition absolutely affects my social, emotional, and spiritual health.  However, one thing I have let go of is comparing myself and my life to others, including my healthier self.  When my friends have birthdays many have surprise parties, go out drinking with crowds of friends, and the like.  Often when my birthday rolls around I've been too sick to get out of bed for weeks and I haven't been communicating with even my closest friends simply because I haven't had the strength.  Expecting my birthday to be the same as a healthy twenty- something's birthday always set me up for disappointment, anger, and grief.  Just because I'm different and my celebration is different does not mean that I am loved any less or that my life is worth any less.  Once I let go of external comparisons, and accepted myself at each stage of illness and wellness, pain and ease, I was freed  up enough to enjoy my birthday.  
     Birthdays of all special occasions have been big for me because they are symbolic days celebrating both the passage of time and love for the birthday girl (me!).   Yesterday, I felt the love and support that I so often long for when I spend days on end alone and in pain, unable to get out of bed.  It is so easy during those prolonged periods of illness and isolation to feel as if I am invisible and inconsequential.  Then on special occasions there is self-imposed pressure to have the best experience possible to make up for all of the days, weeks, years and all of the special occasions I have missed due to illness.  I see this as part of my grieving process but wonder if anyone can relate?  Do you ever feel especially pressured to make happy memories on birthdays or other special occasions because of lost time due to illness?  Do these occasions trigger feelings of grief over time lost?  Do you ever compare yourself to others and feel lonely or inadequate because of your journey with illness?


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