How do you cope on the anniversary of your loved one’s death?

We are all so different, aren’t we? We have different likes and dislikes, different personalities, different life stories, and the circumstances of our bereavement are all different too. As someone wisely said,

Your grief is as unique as your fingerprint

Some people try to ignore the dates on the calendar that are such painful reminders of what went before whereas others focus and pay attention to them. For some people – if not most – the days or weeks leading up to the anniversary of their loved one’s death can be harder to manage than the day itself. There can be an anxious sense of anticipation.

Many will find themselves reliving, moment by moment, the events that led up to that moment. If your loved one died suddenly, then many innocuous moments in the days or hours before their death take on more significance. The last call. The last conversation. The last hug.

If your loved one’s death was anticipated, your thoughts might be on the last days and how they suffered, or the treatment they were given.

The day

There is lots of advice on various bereavement support websites (including this one) on how to cope with the anniversary. At a recent retreat of people who have been bereaved more than one year, I asked, “How do you get through these days?” Here are some of the responses:

  • I visit or walk around an outside attraction
  • I plan ahead to avoid falling into overwhelming feelings
  • I try to have company
  • I try to do something nice
  • I buy flowers, have a special meal, visit the grave.
  • I have a special meal.
  • I fill my home with flowers.
  • I plan the day. Sometimes I have time alone but I also spend time with others
  • I plan a long walk
  • I am kind to myself
  • I try to do what I want to do, not what I feel I ‘ought’ to do.
  • I lay flowers
  • I light candles
  • I distract myself with paddleboarding
  • I plan in advance
  • I keep busy
  • I ask for a mass to be said in church
  • I find that every day is an anniversary, not just the ‘calendar’ date

That’s what this group of people do. What about you? Do you plan ahead? Do you stay busy? Do you prefer to be in company or would you rather be alone?

Your answers to this will perhaps change as the years pass.

There is no wrong or right way to grieve. Finding what best helps you through the darkest moments of your grief is part of the journey of living with loss.


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