Remembering the Death Date
When we hear the term “anniversary” we typically think about the remembrance of a wedding or possibly the annual remembrance of an accomplishment. Unfortunately, for loved ones who are still living, after the death of a loved one, it may also signify the day your loved one left his/her body and returned to the spirit world.
We celebrate wedding anniversaries and other “accomplishment” anniversaries. But what do we do on the anniversary of the day our loved one died?
Memories Evoke Emotions
The anniversary of an elderly loved one’s death may evoke sweet memories of your time together. However, the anniversary of a fatal accident, a tragic death, or a health-related death of someone who wasn’t elderly, can be bittersweet at best, and for some can be a reopening of a wound that you thought had been healed.
Sweet Death Anniversaries
I don’t remember the year my maternal grandmother died without doing some math to figure it out. But ask me what DAY she died, and I can recite the month and day without thinking. For me, for the rest of my corporeal life (my life with a body), her death and my birthday will be tied together in my mind. Not in a bad way, but rather as a mnemonic device to remember the day she died. Because she lived a full and complete life, I can focus on my memories of how she lived. Sure. Sometimes I’m still sad after all these years that I can’t pick up the phone and talk with her, but my life is rich with all the wonderful memories of our time together.
Difficult Death Anniversaries
On the other hand, it’s harder to add another year to the tally of how many anniversaries there have been since friends and family died, who weren’t elderly when they passed. My perspective is that the first anniversary is the worst, but I think each year has its own challenges.
Our Loved Ones Love Us
In readings with your loved ones, I’ve received the message over and over that your loved ones (and my loved ones) care about us. They want us to be happy. They want us to move beyond the gut-wrenching aspect of grief to the nostalgic aspect of grief to the feelings of gratitude for our time together.
Grief is a Solitary Journey
How we approach death anniversaries—like every aspect of grief—is individualistic. For me, each death anniversary is different.
For some of my dead loved ones, I don’t even remember that another year has passed on the specific day that my loved one died. For other loved ones, I find myself thinking about him/her A LOT in the days and sometimes weeks or months leading up to the anniversary of the day that he/she died.
For some people, creating a permanent memorial such as planting a tree in honor of the loved one, buying a piece of jewelry to remember the loved one, or doing something special to keep the loved one’s memory alive is a coping mechanism that can be very effective.
For other people, reconnecting with the loved one around the death anniversary can be very cathartic—either by communicating with their loved one directly or by communicating through a medium.
Close the Casket, Don’t Look Back
For some people, closing the casket and moving forward is the best way to deal with the death of a loved one.
Write in a Journal
For me, for those times that I find it too painful or uncomfortable to communicate with the deceased, I find it useful to write about the anniversary. Especially for a sudden or an unexpected death, I think it is helpful to write about my feelings. Sometimes that means railing against the deceased for poor choices. Sometimes it means acknowledging feelings of guilt.
Avoid Surprise Death Anniversaries
How you choose to remember or forget a death anniversary is entirely up to you.
Don’t let someone else make this decision for you.
However, the one suggestion I will make is: Plan for it. Don’t let a death anniversary of someone significant to you catch you by surprise. Even if you’re not a planner in your day-to-day life, give some thought to how you want to approach a death anniversary—especially someone who was very important to you when he/she had a body. You may want to choose not to acknowledge the day, or you may choose to take the day off to be alone, or you may choose to gather with a group of his/her loved ones to remember the deceased, or you may choose to do or not do something that is the most comforting to YOU.
Whatever you choose to do or not do, be kind to yourself.
Think about what is best for YOU. Not what is best for your dead loved one, not what your well-meaning friends think you should do, not what others who are/were impacted by this death think should be done.
Choose what is best for YOU.