If you have recently been bereaved you’re not alone. Many other people have recently lost a close family member or friend. There are nearly 3 million deaths a year in the United States.

Letting go of the memory of a loved one is difficult. You may want to keep their memory alive with these death anniversary ideas.


If you’ve experienced the bereavement of a close friend or family member you may have found yourself very busy at the time of your loved one’s death. Perhaps you had to find a funeral home, handle their estate, or dispose of their belongings. These things may have been distractions that postponed your grieving.

As the first and subsequent anniversaries of a loved one’s death come around, they can bring back memories. Marking the day is one way some people can come to terms with the loss.

Pay a Visit

Visiting the final resting place of a loved one is a common annual ritual for many bereaved people. It’s a chance to have some quiet time to contemplate and focus on their memory.

For some people, this may involve a visit to a graveside. If the deceased person had their ashes scattered in a special place, take the opportunity to visit the place. All the better if it’s a beautiful place with positive associations that will ease the pain of loss.

Eat and Drink

A special dinner can be a great way of celebrating the life of a person. Sharing food and drink with family and friends can bring people together to remember and strengthen the bonds between them too.

If the deceased had a favorite restaurant, have dinner there. If they had a taste for Italian or Chinese food make that part of the ritual.

Start the dinner with a few words of remembrance and a toast. Explain that this is a celebration of their life and that food and drink are life-affirming aspects of all our lives. A sad memory can then be turned into a positive, even enjoyable, celebration.

Words to Remember

Write down your feelings. If you keep a journal, take some time to write down your thoughts about the deceased person. Committing your feelings to paper may be therapeutic.

Writing a poem in their honor is a way of documenting the constants and changes we have with departed friends and family. These feelings can be complicated. Taking time to commit them to paper helps process them.

Write a letter to a mutual friend. Mark the occasion with some recollections about times you shared together.

Make Music

Music is a very powerful aid to memory. Play some music you shared or that they loved.

Music is often just wallpaper, playing on the radio or in the background while you do something else. On this occasion, really listen to the music and feel it resonate.

Remembrance Ritual

Having a regular ritual when you remember a lost, loved one can be helpful. A ritual can be complex as in a religious ceremony or very simple.

A religious, remembrance service can consist of religious devotions, prayers, and hymns and be very meaningful for some people. For others, the ritual of opening a bottle of wine, pouring a glass and making a toast is full of meaning too.


Mindfulness meditation is practiced by many people to help to maintain their physical and emotional wellbeing. It may also be a helpful way of dealing with bereavement and loss.

Visiting a meditation retreat, doing yoga or simply doing some quiet relaxation exercises can be part of your annual act of remembrance. The quietening of your mind helps handle grief and achieve some peace.

Plant a Tree

When someone dies it’s natural to think about the circle of life. Life and death are all around us in nature and in the seasons. Planting a tree can be a positive, life-affirming statement about life.

Planting a tree is also good for the planet. Trees process carbon dioxide as part of photosynthesis and release oxygen into the atmosphere. They capture carbon and so help reduce global warming making life better for all living things including for all of us.

Buy a Seat

If your loved one appreciated the theatre or sports perhaps buying or sponsoring a seat is a fitting remembrance. Many theatres and sports stadia offer this facility.

Take an annual trip to watch a baseball game or see a music concert. Visit the sponsored seat and enjoy the experience as they would have.

Share the View

Another kind of seat you can use to remember someone is a bench in a treasured place. An inscribed nameplate on a bench means you can share the view or provide rest for weary legs in honor of a loved one. Visit the bench for a few moments of quiet contemplation.

Family Album

Family photos can be poignant. They can also be fun too. Get the photo album out or make a photo album from old photographs.

Invite family and friends to browse the album’s pages and recall shared times. The photos can prompt memories and stories.

Lighten up

Lighting a candle is a ritual that can take place in a religious context or a non-religious one. It is traditional to remember someone by lighting a candle but there are other ways of using light as a memorial.

Setting off fireworks might be more appropriate if the loved one you miss was an exciting extrovert person. It can be a dramatic centerpiece to a family party or barbeque.

Special Places

If you have a memory of a special place you visited with your loved one, pay a visit to this place in remembrance of them. It might be somewhere you walked together, where you first met, or a well-loved view.

Be Kind

The loss of a loved one can make you think about the losses and troubles other people have to endure. An act of charity in the name of your loved one may bring some comfort.

Make a charitable donation. Perform an act of random kindness. Continue some good work they felt was important in their lifetime.

In Memory of a Loved One

Your grief is intensely personal. You may wish to have an annual act of remembrance. One of these death anniversary ideas might be helpful for you.

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