If you’ve lost a loved one, you probably know that some days are harder than others. Grief can surge on holidays, birthdays, and other special days. The anniversary of a loved one’s death, also called their deathiversary, can be an especially strong grief trigger.
While some people want to treat their loved one’s deathiversary as just another day, it can be a difficult day to ignore – especially the first year after the death. If you’re struggling with an upcoming deathiversary, here are a few things you can do to care for yourself and honor your loved one’s memory.
1. Take the day off
For some people, working or going to school on the anniversary of a loved one’s death can help distract them and provide a sense of normalcy for the day. But don’t be afraid to take the day off from work or school if you need to! Giving yourself space to grieve without the pressure of acting normal can make your day a little easier.
2. Visit their resting place
Visiting a loved one’s resting place, whether their body or ashes were buried in a cemetery, placed in a niche, or scattered, can help you honor your loved one and allow you to speak to them. If someone else has your loved one’s urn and you can’t visit them, you could instead visit a place that was special to you and your loved one. By visiting a meaningful place, you’ll set aside a specific time to grieve and remember the positive impact your loved one had.
3. Plan a memorial gathering with friends and family
On hard days, having friends and family around can be helpful. You can all support each other while sharing memories of your loved one. A memorial gathering doesn’t have to be big, either. You could all meet up at a restaurant or spend time together at someone’s house. Just be aware that some people may not want to think about the day or may prefer to be alone, and that’s okay.
4. Participate in a ritual
Rituals aren’t outdated traditions; they are healing experiences that keep us grounded, encourage us, and unite us. On the anniversary of your loved one’s death, you can participate in a traditional ritual, like lighting a candle, attending a remembrance service, or visiting their grave. But you could also establish your own ritual, like planting a tree, reading old letters, emails, or texts, or participating in an activity they loved. Rituals like these can help you heal and fill the day with good memories of your loved one.
5. Reflect and remember
While your loved one is no longer with you physically, they still live on in your memory. Reminiscing about your loved one and remembering the positive impact they had on your life can be a great way to honor their memory. You could do this by looking at old photo albums or scrapbooks, sharing stories with friends and family, or just reflecting on your favorite memories with them.
6. Write a letter to them
Why write a letter to someone who won’t read it? Writing things down can help us clear our minds and process our emotions in a different way than speaking or typing. You can put anything in a letter to your loved one. Write all the things left unsaid, tell them how you’re feeling, or even write down funny things that have happened to you recently. After you’ve finished your letter, you could put it aside to read in the future or leave it at your loved one’s resting place.
7. Donate or volunteer in their name
Did your loved one have a cause they believed in? Consider donating or volunteering in their name with that cause! Even a small donation or an hour or two of volunteering can have an impact. Not only will you be honoring your loved one’s memory, but you’ll also be sharing their passion with others and doing good in the process.
8. Enjoy their favorite things
Another way to honor your loved one’s memory is by enjoying what they loved. You could wear their favorite color, cook their favorite meal, or watch their favorite movie or TV show. You could participate in a hobby they enjoyed, like painting or playing golf. When you incorporate your loved one’s favorite things into your day, you’ll be surrounding yourself with positive memories of them.
9. Take care of yourself
The most important thing to do on a special day or deathiversary is to take care of yourself! Your mental health is important, and self-care can help you get through a difficult day. Go for a walk and listen to your favorite songs. Meet up with friends for coffee or lunch. Do something creative, like painting a picture. Take a trip to the spa. Don’t be afraid to do something that brings you joy and helps boost your mental health.
No matter what you do on your loved one’s deathiversary, remember that grief is normal and natural. You may not want to do anything on the day, and that’s okay. As you move along your grief journey, you may do something different on your loved one’s deathiversary from year to year, and that’s okay, too. Do what you feel comfortable with and focus on grieving at your own pace.