How to Handle a Loved One’s Death Anniversary

When it comes to the anniversary of a loved one’s death, most people don’t know what to expect.  Should they do something special in commemoration? Maybe visit the final resting place? Or would it be easier to power through the day as usual in case painful feelings resurface? At St. Pierre Family Funeral & Cremation Services, we often hear these questions from the families we serve in Indianapolis, Greenwood, and Pendleton.

Death anniversaries are powerful whether we consciously remember them or not. If it’s been a decade since you lost your loved one, the day might come and go without you noticing. If it’s the 1-year anniversary of the death, it will likely be fresh on your mind. Either way, many people say that the days and weeks before the death anniversary are difficult in and of themselves, as they feel tired, groggy, easily aggravated, or out of sorts. While the anniversary could be all-consuming for some, others may be caught off guard when a family member or a close friend reminds them that the anniversary is near.

If you can relate, it’s OK to be shocked that you overlooked such a critical date. If the one-year anniversary is approaching, these feelings might be new or different. Here are a few things to remember.

The first years are often the hardest

Because we don’t know what to expect or how we’ll feel, the first years after their passing may feel uncomfortable and overwhelming. We think we’ll feel a certain way but end up feeling the opposite when the day comes. Allow these feelings in and try not to have any expectations in place. If these expectations aren’t met, you might feel unnecessarily guilty.

Time heals, but there is no timeline for grief

Again, creating expectations for when the grieving will be “done” only sets you up for feelings of guilt later on. No two people grieve the same, and this is so critical to keep in mind as you start your own grief journey. This doesn’t mean no one else understands what you’re feeling; it’s simply that they’re grieving in the ways they know how.

You can absolutely choose to ignore death anniversaries if you prefer. But we recommend finding even the smallest ways to honor your loved one on the anniversary of their death. What’s great about this is that how you commemorate them is up to you. There is no right or wrong way. We hear from families who want to embrace their feelings of sadness and despair in full, while others plan a full day of activities their loved one used to enjoy. Whatever you choose, try to plan and anticipate the hard moments in advance to make overcoming them easier.

As your loved one’s death anniversary approaches, keep in mind that events in the past continue to have a vast impact on our lives – even if we do not think so. Our brains store an infinite number of memories and information, and even if we feel we’ve moved on from a death or feel we’ve grieved sufficiently, it’s likely to react to these memories.

Remember that the care team at St. Pierre is always here to support and walk alongside you as you grieve. Feel free to explore our grief resources, and don’t hesitate to reach out should you need us. No one should walk their grief journey alone, and we are honored to assist you during life’s most difficult moments.