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When Your Grief Anniversary Comes Around

Updated: Apr 28, 2021

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the passing of my mom. Ooof. Sometimes that is still hard to say. As I've written in a previous post, the loss was unbelievably difficult and came as a shock. In preparation for what I knew would be an emotional time, I've been doing a lot more journaling and reflecting on the past year. As much as I'd like to skip over April altogether (especially THIS April as we're locked down in response to COVID-19) I can't take the easy way out. Like so many of life's challenges, the only way OUT is THROUGH.

At the end of this article, I share a list of ideas for commemorating the anniversary of a loved one's death, but I'd really like to know how others have done it. The way I commemorate my dad is different from how I'm choosing to remember my mom. Since this is only my first year without her I'd love for readers to leave their suggestions for the subsequent years.

How to handle anniversaries and special occasions

As the anniversary of a loved one's death approaches you may find that your grief has returned with surprising strength. Specifically, you may be revisiting your loved one's final days of life. This is a natural reaction and certainly happened to me. What I can appreciate now is that it allowed me to understand that my first wave of grief was about loss, but the second was about trauma-- the trauma that came from watching my mother slip away so fast. Not every experience is the same, but many will begin to relive the final days, as I did, at the one year mark.

Grief can be very intense on and around anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions. Recognize that you are facing unwelcome milestones that mark the reality of your loss. Many grieving people experience a growing feeling of dread as special days approach, wishing there was a way to fast-forward through them. The best we can do is find a way to ease the pain and make the occasion more meaningful.

Planning can help reduce anxiety and dread. The anniversary is a reminder of what is lost but it can also be an occasion to affirm and to celebrate what endures. Finding special ways to remember your loved one and symbolically include him or her can help you to experience that lasting presence, or to build upon treasured memories.

Ways to remember your loved one

Visit a place that makes you feel close to your loved one.

Light a candle of remembrance.

Plant a tree or special flower in his or her memory.

Do a good deed that reminds you of your loved one.

Make a donation to a cause in his or her name.

Do something that your loved one used to enjoy.

Offer a moment of silence, a prayer, a poem, or toast.

Create a display of photos and cherished possessions.

Write a note to your loved one or make a journal entry dedicated to your feelings.

Invite memories to be shared, perhaps in a virtual scrapbook.

In what ways have you commemorated the passing of your loved ones?

Remember that individual or group therapy sessions are always a good option if the loss you've experienced becomes overwhelming. Search for 'bereavement counselor" or "grief therapy near me" or

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