A death anniversary is the anniversary of someone’s death and when that someone was a prominent figure in your life, it can come with a barrage of emotions. Many people mistakenly regard grief as a one dimensional emotion. Normal grief is far from one dimensional. It is a powerful and multifaceted reaction. Reactions can include emotional, physical, mental and even spiritual responses and commonly persist, regardless of how many years ago the death occurred. However, instead of trying to avoid or deny the grief and mourning associated with a death anniversary, it should be accepted and embraced as a normal, natural and healthy response - no matter how long ago the death occurred.
Unfortunately, grief is full of painful milestones. The first wedding anniversary or birthday after your loved one dies. The first Christmas, Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. All these occasions remind us of what we’ve lost and more often than not, generate acute feelings of pain and sadness. So, it’s really no surprise that many of us approach a death anniversary with both fear and trepidation.
So what measures can you take to survive the day? As we all deal with grief differently, what works for one person might not translate to another. That being said, we’ve collated a range of ideas to help you prepare and get through a death anniversary. In time, some of these suggestions may help you turn what was once an exclusively negative event into one that also encompasses hope, joy and love. The suggestions below have been grouped into activities that can be performed alone and those that can be performed with family and friends. Some look to celebrate and honour the deceased, whilst others offer distraction from the
Ways to mark a death anniversary alone:
- Mentally prepare for a death anniversary and allow yourself to experience the full gamut of emotions that go hand in hand with the milestone.
- If you feel you cope best occupying your mind with other things, plan a distraction.
- Visit your loved one’s grave or the location where you scattered their ashes. If possible, you can plant something or take flowers.
- Light a candle for them.
- Write them a letter or a poem.
- Visit a place that was special to the two of you.
- Distract yourself by going to the cinema or live theatre.
- Take out photos of the person you’ve lost, watch home videos, or perhaps retrieve old letters or emails.
- Create a scrapbook with all the photos and mementos you have of them or perhaps make a box of keepsakes.
- Try to relax by treating yourself to a massage or facial.
- Encourage inner peace via meditation, yoga or tai chi.
- Feel uplifted by engaging in physical exercise, the endorphins produced will help lift your spirits.
- Do something you liked to do together – bring a friend if you need support.
- Create something artistic to celebrate the life of your loved one. Ideas include painting, sculpting, drawing or even sculpting.
- Divert your attention by spring cleaning the whole house from top to bottom.
- Go for a long walk. You can walk alone and have some quiet time to think or take a friend or two and talk out your feelings.
Activities you can do with family and friends:
- Start a new family tradition to celebrate the life of your loved one.
- Reach out and connect with family and friends to share stories and memories made with your loved one.
- Scatter some of their ashes somewhere meaningful.
- Get away from the house for a couple of days and take that trip you’ve been meaning to take. Perhaps there was a place your loved one always wanted to go to but never had the chance.
- Organise a family gathering. Ask everyone to bring a plate and enjoy a feast in honour of the deceased.
- Release balloons, butterflies, or birds at a memorial gathering.
- Help your kids make cards or creative projects in memory of your loved one.
- Spend the day helping others, you could volunteer with a charity, or perhaps organise a fundraiser for a cause that mattered to the person you’ve lost.
At the end of the day, there’s no right or wrong way to deal with a death anniversary. It’s important you feel comfortable and confident to select the best means for you to survive the day. Do whatever feels right for you. Whether that’s spending the day at home alone, embracing the support of family and friends or even going out and about as usual. For more help with grief and bereavement contact your local GP, counsellor or Lifeline.