Marking a Loved One’s Death Anniversary

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Grief is full of milestones. The first birthday after the loved one dies. The first Christmas, Mother’s or Father’s Day. All these occasions remind us of who we’ve lost. So, it’s no surprise that many fear the arrival of the death anniversary. How to get through the day?

For some people, the day is the same as any other. But many find it a struggle: a day when it’s impossible to escape the fact of the loss. The first year can be particularly hard.

So, what do you do on the anniversary of a death? We all deal with grief differently. What works for one person might is not good to another. Whether you like to keep busy and distracted or prefer to take a time of solitude to remember and honour your loved one, there’s no right or wrong here.

We’ve put together some ideas to help you find something that might work for you:

  • Visit their final resting place. Take flowers or place something special there if you can.
  • If you still have them, perhaps now is the right time to scatter some or all of their ashes, somewhere meaningful.
  • Write a letter or a poem. ‘Post’ it by putting it on a fire, burying it, or sending it out on the river, or a lake, or the sea.
  • Light a candle for them.
  • Do something you used to like to do together – bring a friend or a family member if you need support.
  • Get away from the house for a day or two. Take a trip you’ve been meaning to take.
  • Play their favourite song.
  • Plant something – a tree, a rose bush, anything – in their memory.
  • Throw a dinner party with other people who knew your loved one well and share stories.
  • Have a family gathering and raise a glass in their honour.
  • Go for a long walk. Take someone you feel comfortable to talk about your feelings or walk alone and have some quiet time to think.
  • Look at photos of the person you’ve lost, watch videos, or read their letters, emails and texts.
  • Cry as much as you need to.
  • Cook one of their favourite dishes.
  • Take a class to learn to do something your loved one enjoyed, or something you’ve been meaning to learn.
  • Help your children make cards for them.
  • Go somewhere that was special to the two of you. Leave them flowers there.
  • Distract yourself by going to the cinema or seeing a play.
  • Volunteer with a charity or organise a fundraiser for a cause that mattered to the person you’ve lost.
  • If you are religious, go to a service, spend the day with your community or take part in a memorial ritual.
  • Treat yourself to a massage or a spa day.
  • Do something completely different for the day – try to go for a swim, go paddle boarding, go to the races, attend a lecture.
  • Meditate, do yoga or try tai chi to relax.
  • Go for a run or spend time in the gym. Get those endorphins going to lift your spirits.
  • Make something artistic to celebrate the life of your loved one. You could paint, draw, sculpt or sew.
  • Read your loved one’s favourite book.
  • Spring clean the whole house from top to bottom.
  • Call up or visit someone who knew your loved one well and have a long chat. They may also be struggling.

It is up to you how you acknowledge the anniversary of the death of someone you love. Do whatever feels right for you.