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Copying with Death Anniversary

How To Cope With A Death Anniversary

Grief is full of painful milestones. The first birthday after your person dies. The first Christmas. Father’s Day. All these occasions remind us of what we’ve lost. So, it’s no wonder that many of us dread a death anniversary. How do you get through the day?

What is a death anniversary?

A death anniversary (or ‘angelversary’, or ‘sadiversary’) is the anniversary of someone’s death. For some people, the day is the same as any other. You might even find you forget the anniversary completely. But many find it a struggle: a day when it’s impossible to escape the fact of your loss. The first death anniversary can be particularly hard. So, what do you do on the anniversary of a death? We all deal with grief differently. What works for one person might not translate to another. But we’ve put together a list of ideas to help you find something that works for you.

How to acknowledge the anniversary of a death

Whether you like to keep busy (and distracted) or prefer remembering a loved one on the anniversary of their death, there’s no right or wrong here. There’s something for everyone in our list of 35 death anniversary ideas.

What to do on a death anniversary:

  • Visit their grave or the place you scattered their ashes. Take flowers or plant something there, if you can.
  • Scatter some of their ashes somewhere meaningful. On a favourite walk, for example.
  • Light a candle for them.
  • Write them a letter or a poem. ‘Post’ it by putting it on a fire, burying it, or sending it out on the river, or a lake, or the sea.
  • Do something you liked to do together – bring a friend if you need support.
  • Get away from the house for a day or two. Take a trip you’ve been meaning to take.
  • Plant something (a tree, a rose bush, anything) in their memory.
  • Throw a dinner party with other people who knew your loved one well. Share stories.
  • Have a family gathering. Make it a potluck, with everyone bringing their favourite foods.
  • Raise a glass in their honour with friends or family. Give a toast.
  • Go for a long walk. Take a friend or two and talk out your feelings, or walk alone and have some quiet time to think.
  • Look at photos of the person you’ve lost, watch videos, or read their letters, emails and texts. Cry as much as you need to.
  • Cook all of their favourite foods and drink their favourite drink.
  • Have a duvet day and watch their favourite films or TV shows.
  • Take a class to learn to do something your loved one enjoyed, or something you’ve been meaning to learn.
  • Go to work, and ask your manager to give you lots of busy work. Go out for drinks with friends from the office in the evening.
  • Release balloons, butterflies, or birds at a memorial gathering.
  • Help your kids make cards for them.
  • Go somewhere that was special to the two of you. Leave them flowers there.
  • Distract yourself by going to the cinema or seeing a play.
  • Spend the day helping others: volunteer with a charity, or organise a fundraiser for a cause that mattered to the person you’ve lost.
  • If you are religious, go to a service, spend the day with your community or take part in a memorial ritual.
  • Have a big gathering and set off some fireworks in their memory. Stay safe and buy your fireworks from a licensed shop or registered seller.
  • Play their favourite music or go see one of their favourite bands.
  •  Do a charity run to raise money for a cause.
  •  Collect all the photos and mementos you have of them and add them to an album or scrapbook. Make a box of keepsakes.
  •  Treat yourself to a massage or a spa day.
  • Make a mix CD of tracks that express how you feel about the person you’ve lost.
  •  Do something completely different for the day – try wild swimming, go paddleboarding, explore geo-caching, go to the races, attend a lecture.
  • Meditate, do yoga or try tai chi to relax.
  • Go for a run or spend time in the gym. Get those endorphins going to lift your spirits.
  •  Make something artistic to celebrate the life of your loved one. You could paint, draw, sculpt, sew or write a song or a poem.
  • Read your loved one’s favourite book.
  • Spring clean the whole house from top to bottom.
  • Call up or visit someone who knew your loved one well and have a long chat. They may also be struggling.

One year death anniversary ideas

Commemorating the one year anniversary of a loved one’s death with a memorial service can be very comforting. You can invite just close family, or open it up to friends – or invite simply everyone who knew the person who has died. If you’d like it to be a quiet, reflective occasion you could hold a candlelight vigil. Many families visit the grave or scattering site to take it in turns to talk to the person who has died, then head back for a family meal. Others prefer to celebrate the life of their loved one, and make the memorial service more of a party. You could play your loved one’s favourite music, cook all their favourite foods, do a toast of their favourite drink, and tell each other happy and funny stories. But really, it’s up to you how you acknowledge the anniversary of the death of someone you love. Do whatever feels right. Whether that’s sleeping in all day or going out and about as usual.

For more help with grief and bereavement…

If you’re struggling with feelings of grief, you might find our other bereavement guides helpful. Discover answers to questions like how to cope with loss and how long grief lasts here, and for ongoing support.


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