Whether it’s the first or the twentieth, the anniversary of a loved one’s death can bring up a lot. Not only do you have to manage your own emotions, but you’ll likely hear from friends and family who want to check-in and process with you. So, what exactly should you do on a death anniversary?
The good news is this: there’s no right or wrong way to honor a loved one’s passing. Do what feels right for you and try to avoid expectations that don’t seem to fit. Want to make it a happy day? Great! Want to stay in bed and be sad? That’s okay, too! Since it can be difficult to know what to do with yourself on this emotionally complex day, we put together a few ways to think about what might feel right for you.
Even if you aren’t planning on doing anything for a loved one’s death anniversary (which is totally okay), it can still be a good idea to be intentional about remembering the date. Doing this can help us gain insight into why we might feel a little “off” on a certain day, or keep us from forgetting the date and being upset about it later on. If you do want to plan something special, doing so in advance will likely be easier for you than planning on the actual anniversary. So, even though it can be a hard day to think about, try not to avoid making plans to make it as easy on yourself as possible.
Experience a day of “favorites”
Did your loved one have a favorite musician, or food, or store? Try to spend the day soaking in all of their favorite things. While it may bring sadness to have some of these experiences without them, it may also bring up some happy memories that you haven’t thought about in a while and make you feel a little closer to them.
Visit their resting place
For many, being in the physical location where their loved one was laid to rest makes them feel the closest to them. If that’s the case for you, it may be helpful to do this on their death anniversary. Consider bringing flowers, eating their favorite food, or drinking their special coffee order while you’re there. Decide for yourself if it feels best to go alone or to invite others to come with you.
Recall memories with others
If you are in touch with friends or family of your loved one, this could be a good time to share memories together. This may be done through individual calls, a group chat, or even a gathering honoring your loved one. Talking about special memories and even hearing new ones that you’ve never known can be a special treat.
Write a letter
Even though your loved one is no longer physically here, you can still write them a letter to help mark the day. Maybe there are some things you had wanted to say, or maybe you want to tell them about what’s happening in your life now. Whatever it is, taking the time to write a letter can be a meaningful way to process emotions and feel connected to a lost loved one during a death anniversary.
Remember, as much as this day is about honoring your loved one, it’s also about how to take care of yourself. Try not to judge how you spend the day and do what feels right for you.
This article is not intended to assist those currently experiencing a serious mental health crisis. Please dial 911, visit your nearest emergency room, or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for more assistance.