Loss and Life and Birthdays

By: Julie Young

June 23, 2016

There seems to be too much loss lately. Of course what happened in Orlando. It’s too much. Many of my friends have lost loved ones too – mothers, aunts, sons, sisters. Just this morning I found out a high school friend died very suddenly. Her young sons found her unresponsive. She appeared to be so healthy. We were good friends in high school and had reconnected on social media. From all interactions, she seemed so happy and so full of life. Now she is gone and her boys and her husband will somehow need to learn to go on without her.

I had a birthday recently and a big blast of a bash to go with it. Birthdays have been weird for me my whole life. Growing up it was the time of year when I would wonder most about my Korean mom. Was she thinking about me? Did she miss me? Did she remember it was my birthday? (Turns out my legal birthday is not actually my birthday so, no, she wasn’t thinking about me on what I knew to be my birthday.)

Then as an adult birthdays became whatever, a reason to have a party but not much more. I’m an over thinker, we all know this and the fact that birthdays were hard for me for half my life has left a psychological imprint upon me. This, unfortunately, still makes birthdays a bit depressing.

For a while, I went into “not caring” mode with birthdays. And purposefully tried to not do much. Then I had babies and everything, rightfully so, became about them. Especially with their birthday being so close to mine, my birthday often got lost in the shuffle.

Last year, after reading a piece that was written by a woman who had unexpectedly lost her husband, I was so moved by her writing that I decided to take her words to heart. In the piece she admonishes those of us who don’t celebrate birthdays and by extension – life. Damnit! I was going to celebrate my birthday! It worked. I had the big party. But underneath it all, I still had a layer of sadness that my celebration floated upon.

Loss of life is so random. Why do good people suffer through the pain of cancer? Why do young mothers get taken from their sons? I don’t know. Meanwhile, this all makes me feel pressured to live the best life I can. But my birthday depression is a gift that keeps giving and so I struggle against being disappointed in myself.

This year, I was given a birthday fortune though that said, “Real courage is moving forward when the outcome is uncertain.” Seems very appropriate for me and for all of my friends who have experienced loss recently. So this birthday, I am wishing them, and me, real courage.

Julie Young is a former litigation attorney and currently works full-time in the nonprofit sector.  Additionally, Julie is a writer and speaker. She serves on the Board of Nazdeek and is an Advisory Board Member of All Together Now.  Julie holds a B.S. degree in Psychology from Fordham University and a J.D. degree from Cardozo School of Law.  She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and twins.