CaringBridge Staff | 08.18.21
The emotions tied with losing a loved one can be indefinitely tied to the anniversary of their death, making that day a difficult one to cope with. If you have lost a loved one, know that it’s common to feel stress about an anniversary even years after someone passes. Remember that grief takes its time to heal, and checking in with yourself on a death anniversary is often the most important first step.
While there is no right or wrong way to remember a loved one, we have some tips that may help make the day less difficult.
1. Celebrate Life
Sometimes the best way to honor the anniversary of death is to celebrate a person’s life. Instead of celebrating a loved one on their death anniversary, you can choose to celebrate them on their birthday. This could be going to their favorite restaurant, or simply writing down some of your favorite stories about them.
“The best advice I ever got from a grief counselor after my mom passed away was to celebrate them on their birthdays. Every year I go to a restaurant that me and my mom would go to once a week together. I make the day a celebration of her life. As a matter of fact my husband’s family started doing the same on his grandma’s birthday.”
2. Take Time Off
If the death anniversary of a loved one comes on a workday, consider taking some time off for yourself to allow time for grieving while remembering their life. Whether it’s taking a half-day or a week off, do whatever feels right to you.
“We go on a week’s vacation. My brother, Pat, worked to go fishing, hunting and travel. Before he passed away from cancer he told me to stop taking four day weekends. “You and your girls won’t remember a long weekend. Take an entire week off to enjoy the outdoors.” This year was his tenth anniversary of his death. We’ve been going to a beautiful resort in Ottertail County Minnesota every July. We are always so appreciative of his advice. We take a moment on the first day we are there to thank him. On our last day there are tears of sadness that we have to go home but so grateful for his advice.”
3. Tell Stories
Stories are magical ways to share someone’s history and to pass down all of the good memories and lessons that come with it. Consider celebrating a loved one’s life by telling their stories. By keeping their name alive in conversation, a piece of them will always be with you.
“Just about every year on his birthday and his angelversary, we and his friends tell funny David stories to remember and celebrate his life. He had such a funny sense of humor. It’s mostly centered on Facebook but I talk about him with anyone I get the chance to. It’s just another way to keep his memory alive. He was 24 when he died and has been gone 19 years. One day the custom will die but it’s still a comfort.”
4. Spend Time With Loved Ones
Consider surrounding yourself with people that make you feel happy and supported on the anniversary of a death. It can be difficult to ignore the anniversary of a loved one’s passing, but being with the right people can sometimes make it easier. You may also choose to spend time with yourself and quietly honor a person’s life.
Know that there is no pressure to plan a “perfect day” for an anniversary of death. Continue checking in with yourself. If you don’t feel the need to be with people, that’s perfectly okay.
“Went fishing on a warm sunny day by myself on the anniversary my mother passed from brain cancer. Then I visited with my two year old granddaughter.”
5. Visit Their Grave
You may visit a loved one’s grave on their death anniversary to honor their passing. You can choose to bring flowers or other meaningful tokens to leave at the grave, or simply visit to pay your respects. Visiting a grave is not limited to a death anniversary. If it brings you peace, you can visit their grave at any time to remember their life.
“We went to the cemetery on the first anniversary of my dad’s passing and put out new flower arrangements. Then we had some of his favorite foods for supper.”
6. Honor Traditions
Consider honoring a loved one’s life by celebrating their favorite traditions. Whether it be playing their favorite board games with family, eating at their favorite restaurant, or walking through a park they always visited, honoring tradition can come in many forms. Whatever you choose to do, holding on to a loved one’s tradition can make it feel like you still have a part of them with you.
7. Hold a Memorial Service, Big or Small
Memorial services are common ways to honor a person’s life on an anniversary of death. Remember that a memorial service doesn’t have to be large to honor a person’s life. In fact, you can hold a solo service to remember someone you love.
Light candles and tell stories of their past, or invite friends and family over for a special meal. Whether it’s something big or small, choose to do something that brings you peace.
“I try to set a balloon with her name on it, I surely cry and remember. The biggest thing is the anticipation of the day. I am anxious about it ahead of time. It will be 4 years in May for my daughter. I still have jabs but I have laughs of memories as well”
8. Listen to Yourself
Most importantly, listen to yourself and trust your instincts. There is no one right way to mark an anniversary of this magnitude. Take care of yourself and put your emotions and feelings first on this day.
How Do You Remember Your Loved One on This Day?
We want to hear from you. In what ways do you choose to love and honor a loved one’s life? Feel free to share your stories in the comments below.
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