Advice from Amy: Honoring Grief

By Amy Dickinson | January 11th, 2022

An anniversary of birth and death, and ‘lucky to have been loved’


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Advice columnist Amy Dickinson responds to two letters honoring grief: someone who is not sure how to send birthday greetings to a relative whose father died on his birthday and a woman who realizes she is ‘lucky to have been loved.’


Dear Amy:

I have a relative, “Steven,” whose father passed away on Steven’s birthday.

Five years have passed, but yet it still feels odd when texting or writing out his card with a big “Happy Birthday!”

While I want him to enjoy his day, I know the feelings are mixed with missing him and guilt of celebrating his birth on an anniversary of his father’s passing.

What are some appropriate messages I could use in lieu of the standard “Happy Birthday”?

– Wondering

Dear Wondering:

This is tough. I suggest that you convey: “I understand this might be a day of big and mixed emotions for you, but I hope you find good ways to celebrate. I’m always thinking of you, and I carry many very happy memories of your father.”

‘Lucky to have been loved’

Dear Amy:

A recent statement in your column, which I read in Seattle, struck hard!

You wrote: “You mourn because you experienced the privilege of being loved.”

As a widow of five years, and someone whose husband had dementia for five years before that, it really hit home. I realized that I was so lucky to have him for the time that I did. Sometimes it seems like a dream.

I have passed this phrase on to my grief group.

Four of us have been together since 2017, and we continued to meet through the pandemic.

We all agreed that we were privileged and lucky to have been loved.

Thank you for your writing.

– Grateful

Dear Grateful:

Thank you. My own experience with intense grief has led me to frequently explore the tougher emotions, looking for ways to learn from them.

Grief groups like yours are a true lifeline – a safe place to mourn, to commune, and to form friendships forged from tough steel.

Carry on, move forward, and continue to support one another.


Want to get even more life tips from Amy? Read more of her advice columns here!


In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart – ranging from when a spouse demands immediate attention to DNA surprises. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2021 by Amy Dickinson

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