Coping with a Loved One’s Death Anniversary: 30 Ideas
By Eleanor Haley
My mother’s death anniversary was this past week, October 23rd to be exact. As soon as the fall weather hit, I could feel it approaching. I will forever associate the colorful leaves, cool breeze, and crisp air of Autumn with the helplessness I felt seven years ago knowing my mother could slip from life at any moment.
This year, as with past years, I spent time thinking about how I would cope with the day, I even started a blog post about it. But then guess what happened. The day came and went, and I completely forgot about it.
On the morning of October 24th, I stepped out of my house, and as soon as the smell of fall hit me, I thought, holy crap, is it the day? When I looked at the date and realized it was actually the day after, I was shocked. How did this happen???
Yep…again. I did the same thing last year. So, apparently, this is how I dysfunctionally deal with my mom’s deathiversary (is deathiversary a word?). Boo…I don’t like it. For me, forgetting feels a lot worse than remembering the pain; which is why I’m writing this post today – to implore you to not be like me.
We obviously advocate for finding constructive ways to acknowledge and cope with tough days; although I will totally support you in ignoring them if you so choose. But we highly recommend on days like the death anniversary that you find at least small ways to honor and remember your loved one.
You (and others close to the loss) can decide how. There is no right or wrong way. Some will want to fully feel the sadness and emotion of the day (what I like to call ‘wallowing with a purpose’), some will want to stay positive, some will want to do a quick and casual acknowledgment, and some will want to spend the entire day focused on the deceased. Whatever you do, we recommend you think ahead, anticipate the hard parts, and make a plan.
30 ways to honor and remember your loved one on their death anniversary:
1. Take flowers to the gravesite, a memorial site, or another place where you go to remember your loved one.
2. Look at old photos and home videos. Do this alone and have a good cry or reminisce over photo albums with family and friends.
3. Turn digital photos into a photo album on Shutterfly or Snapfish.
4. Donate a few of your loved one’s old belongings to a shelter or other charity. If you don’t want to give away any of their things, just make a charitable donation in their name.
5. Volunteer with a charity or cause close to your loved one’s heart.
6. Plan a memorial service or candlelight vigil.
7. Reach out to someone else grieving the loss via letter, card, phone call, or e-mail.
8. Host a dinner party and invite those who knew your loved ones best.
9. Cook your loved ones favorite dish, use one of their recipes to prepare a meal, or host a pot-luck and ask people to bring a dish your loved one liked.
10. Light a candle in honor of your loved one.
11. Visit or spend time in a place where you feel close to your loved one.
12. Take the trip you had been planning or dreaming about.
13. Read old notes, letters, or e-mails from your loved one.
14. Treat yourself to a massage.
15. Distract yourself by getting together with friends, going to the movies, or taking a short trip.
16. Watch your loved one’s favorite movie.
17. Make a mix CD of music that reminds you of your loved one.
18. Create a new ritual to celebrate the life of your loved one. Choose a ritual that can be repeated in the years to come.
19. Do something your loved one would have enjoyed.
20. Build a memorial with portraits, personal items, and objects that remind you of your loved one.
21. Spend time journaling about your loved one.
22. Make a toast or say a prayer or blessing in their honor.
23. Plant a tree in your loved one’s name.
24. Establish a scholarship in their name.
25. Celebrate the strengths you have developed as a result of your loved one’s death.
26. Search for joy and feel gratitude.
27. Make a keepsake box of things that remind you of your loved one.
28. Finish a project your loved one was working on.
29. Continue to work towards a cause your loved one was involved with.
30. Tell a story about your loved one to a stranger.
By Eleanor Haley, M.S. Eleanor is a Program Director and Co-Founder of What's Your Grief? WYG provides general educational information from mental health professionals. Eleanor lives in Maryland and received her Masters in Counseling Psychology from Loyola College in Maryland.
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