All articles

Share it

Ways to Cope With a Death Anniversary

It doesn’t matter how many years pass after the death of a loved one, the date on which they died is almost always going to remain significant in your heart and mind. Grief is full of painful milestones. 

It might be the anniversary of their death, the first birthday after your loved one has passed, Father's or Mother’s Day, or the first Christmas. Another emotional occasion is a death anniversary.   

What is a death anniversary?

A death anniversary is the anniversary of someone’s death. It’s also referred to as a sadiversary or an angelversary. 

A death anniversary can evoke powerful memories and feelings which are distinctly personal. For some people, a death anniversary can evoke happy and fond memories, while for others, it can bring feelings of grief, regret, sadness, anger, or fear. 

Another familiar feeling is guilt at what has been said or done, what was left unsaid, and even guilt at not thinking about them for some time.

You can experience such feelings during the period leading up to, on, or even after the date on which a loved one died. 

It can be quite common on the first anniversary. Still, it can also be experienced many years later and long after coping with the immediate grief that is felt straight after losing a loved one.   

Why is the anniversary of a death so hard?

We will all be affected by death and dying at some point. It’s a natural part of life, as is grief. However, society expects you to attend the funeral or memorial service and then get back to life as if nothing has happened. 

Such an expectation makes it difficult to know how to cope with death experiences. We seem to feel a need to process the loss and get back to normal as soon as possible. 

Just when you feel back on an even keel, the anniversary of a loved one’s death approaches, and certain emotions can be experienced all over again. It may feel like an eternal circle, but there are ways to cope and manage the feelings that emerge as a death anniversary approaches. 

Coping with grief after the death of a loved one

It helps to acknowledge that when dealing with grief, there will be some occasions that are more difficult than others. Accepting this will happen means you’re better able to work out how best to manage them.

Grief is not a single emotion. It is a powerful, multifaceted response that can affect you not just emotionally but mentally, physically, and spiritually too.

Rather than denying or avoiding your grief, it’s important to think of mourning as a normal and perfectly natural reaction, regardless of how long ago it happened.

It is becoming increasingly common for people to make ceremonies surrounding a death to be more of a celebration rather than mourning. An event such as a celebration of life can have a positive impact on the grieving process.

Talking about death and mortality

Processing grief can be challenging, but it’s important to remember it’s not something you have to go through on your own. Death and mortality are not easy subjects to raise, although the younger you are, it seems the easier it becomes. Generation Z, for example, is much more open to talking about death and funeral wishes.

Talking to others is especially important in the early years. Grief emotions are often complex, and having an understanding family member or friend can help you create a safe place where you can experience your loss.

Facing the first death anniversary

During the first twelve months after the loss of a loved one, you will have experienced many of those “awful firsts.” The first Valentine’s Day, wedding anniversary, first birthday without your loved one being present, and the first Christmas, for example. 

Unfortunately, grief doesn’t turn itself off automatically after one year. With the first anniversary of your loved one’s death on the horizon, it may help to keep in mind that your grief may return with intensity.

There are no hard and fast rules, and not everyone will experience intense grief on the anniversary of the death of a loved one.

It will, however, help if you’re prepared for your anniversary grief. It can be a powerful reminder of your loss as well as a reminder of all those special days you spent together. It might also bring up memories of conflicts or unresolved issues. 

Before, during, and after the one year death anniversary, you may experience a reawakening of the sadness, emptiness, and pain experienced when your loved one died.

Behavioural changes are also not unusual for people to experience, for several weeks before and after the anniversary. 

Should you celebrate a death anniversary?

On the anniversary of a loved one’s death, it is good to acknowledge your loss. Your grief will change over time, but there will always be an empty place. The person who dies was real, they lived, and they deserve to be remembered, honoured, and cherished. 

They may also have had their faults, but their life impacted many people in many ways. It’s healthy to acknowledge this. 

However you do it, and whatever you choose to do, from a full-on party to a quiet time of contemplation, you should celebrate a death anniversary. 

Ideas to mark a death anniversary

There are many ways you can commemorate such an occasion. Here are some death anniversary ideas.

  • Start a new tradition or continue an old one
  • Look at old photos and home videos
  • Turn digital photos into an online photo album
  • Volunteer with a charity or cause that was close to your loved one’s heart
  • Plan a memorial service or candlelight vigil
  • Host a dinner party and invite those who knew your loved one best
  • Take the trip you had been planning or dreaming about
  • Watch your loved one’s favourite movie
  • Make a mix CD of music that reminds you of your loved one
  • Do something your loved one would have enjoyed
  • Plant a tree in your loved one’s name
  • Make a keepsake box of things that remind you of your loved one
  • Finish a project your loved one was working on
  • Personalised memorial jewellery
  • Read one-year death anniversary poems
  • Visit their final resting place and leave some flowers
  • If you’re an artist, honour your loved one’s memory through art
  • Meditate, do yoga or try tai chi to relax
  • Have a big gathering and set off some fireworks in their memory
  • Do something completely different for the day

In loving memory quotes for a death anniversary

You might also find comfort in reading poems or meaningful quotes or sending sympathy messages to relatives and friends.

In loving memory quotes provide the perfect words to remember a loved one long after they’ve passed.

Memorial ideas to acknowledge the anniversary of a death 

A year anniversary of a death is a special day for recognising your loss. Not only have you lost your loved one’s presence, but also their laughter, love, shared past, and qualities you treasured. 

You can celebrate the life of a loved one by holding a memorial celebration. Other memorial ideas include:

  • Creating a lasting or online memorial
  • Planning a special memorial service
  • Having a memorial bench made
  • Creating a memorial garden