The anniversary of a loved one’s death doesn't have to be a day of only sadness.
Despite the pain the anniversary of a death holds, it’s also an opportunity to think about the fond and funny moments they brought to your life and thank them for the good times.
There is no single way to mark an anniversary. We’ve put together 10 ways to honour a loved one on the anniversary of their death, to help you find the option that feels right to you.
1. Revisit a special place
When you commemorate the death anniversary of your loved one, take a moment to remember in a place that’s special.
This could be anywhere that had special significance for them and will also allow you an opportunity to create some new memories too!
Think about past holidays, times you had “firsts” or shared exciting news. If you don’t want to share the day with others, this is the perfect way to reconnect quietly with your memories.
2. Plan a “Day of Memories” with family and friends
It can be difficult to grapple with the loss of a loved one. However, anniversaries provide an opportunity to reflect on happy memories and to celebrate the life of the person who is no longer with us.
Rather than dwell on our grief, we can use this day to focus on the good times we shared. We can look through old photos, tell stories about our loved one, and share fond memories with family and friends.
In this way, we can keep our loved one's memory alive while also honouring their life.
Summer is a great time for this. There's something about a warm summer evening that just cries out for a party. Maybe it's the long hours of daylight that make us feel like we have all the time in the world, or maybe it's the memories of endless summer days from our childhood.
Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time to get together with friends and family and celebrate life.
3. Eat, drink and be merry
Why not get together with friends and family to celebrate their life?
Especially on the anniversary of their death. You could have certain special food involved in honour of them.
Enjoy choosing what dish would be most fitting? Mixing drinks while sharing stories about how much we've all grown since then can also feel very nice too and help bring closure!
4. Death anniversary memorial service
If you would rather arrange a more formal, private memorial service for your loved one’s anniversary. It could be an intimate memorial with immediate family, or a larger gathering of all the friends and family who were important in your loved one’s life.
This is an ideal time to place your loved one’s memorial urn somewhere prominent, so they are the centre of the groups thoughts and wishes.
Arlington Memorial Gardens had a great campaign about “grandpa coming out of the closet”!
5. Plant a memorial tree
The memorial tree is a time-honoured tradition of planting a living memorial to honour the life of a loved one. Trees are lasting symbols of growth, life, and love, making them the perfect tribute to commemorate a life well-lived.
Plus, what better way to honour someone who was passionate about the environment than by planting a tree in their memory?
There are many ways to plant a memorial tree, but the most important thing is to choose a species that is native to your area. This will help ensure that the tree thrives in its new home and can be enjoyed by generations to come.
Once you have selected your tree, be sure to plant it in a location that receives plenty of sunlight and has well-drained soil. With a little care and attention, your memorial tree will serve as a beautiful reminder of your loved one for years to come.
You might also scatter some ashes at the base if you have kept them in a cremation urn or keepsake urn for ashes.
6. Create a photo memory book
A loved one’s death anniversary is a significant day. It can be difficult to know how to mark the occasion, but one simple and easy way is to create a photo memory book.
This can be used to reminisce on future anniversaries. This can be a special project for the whole family to work on together.
You can ask family and friends for their favourite photos of the deceased, and also include any tickets or other memorabilia that you have.
This will create a unique and personal tribute to your loved one that can be looked back on for years to come.
7. Move the day
Rather than remembering your loved one on the anniversary of their death, why not make their birthday the focus instead?
This can remind you of many joyful, happy occasions and perhaps prompt a smile, rather than a tear.
You could even have their preferred cake – no reason to stop that yummy tradition.
8. Support a charity
In today's world, it's easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life and forget about the things that are truly important.
One way to remind yourself of what's truly important is to commemorate the anniversary of a loved one who was involved in a not-for-profit organisation or received support from a charity.
This is a great way to honour their memory and contribute to a cause that was important to them.
There are many ways to do this, such as making a financial contribution to the organisation or volunteering your time.
If they served in the armed forces, it’s a great opportunity to support a veteran’s charity.
Whatever you do, it's sure to be appreciated by those who benefit from the organisation's work.
9. Use Social Media
In recent years, social media has become an increasingly popular way to commemorate the anniversary of a loved one's death.
A Facebook tribute post is a simple way to honour a deceased loved one and encourage friends and family to share their photos, memories, and messages of support and condolences.
While some may view this modern practice as impersonal or superficial, it can actually be quite meaningful and therapeutic for those who participate.
In a world where death is often seen as taboo, these online tribute posts can provide a much-needed space for grief and remembrance.
For many, they offer a chance to reflect on happy memories and celebrate the life of a beloved person. In short, social media tribute posts may not be traditional, but they can be significant, nonetheless.
10. Wear your memories every day!
Many people have special items, given to them by their loved ones to mark precious milestones.
Often, these are kept in drawers and never seen, considered too precious for every day. Why not start wearing them, especially on their anniversary?
And if people comment, it can be an opportunity to share a little about how it came to be in your life.
Another option is memorial cremation jewellery.
These specially designed items can hold a small amount of your loved one’s ashes, so that all who loved them can have a physical tie to their memory.
Gifting memorial jewellery to close family on your loved one’s anniversary would also be a memorable and unique way of celebrating their life.
You can find lots of options online on sites offering cremation jewellery. If your loved one wasn’t cremated, this jewellery could contain small keepsakes, such as a piece of fabric or a lock of hair.
If you are still experiencing strong feelings of loss and grief, the anniversary may prompt more sadness.
Erika Krull provides some great information on grief to understand your emotions better and perhaps, find ways to move forward.