Immediately after a loved one passes, much of what we need to do is clear to us — arrange a memorial service, publish an obituary, write a eulogy, and so on. We may have a few questions, but overall, we’re familiar with the basic steps. This isn’t necessarily the case on a death anniversary. There are many ways to honor a deceased loved one, and it can be difficult to choose how to do so.
The question of how to mark a death anniversary is deeply personal. It’s a time to reflect on your loved one and what they meant to you. Ultimately, your remembrance must be something that speaks to your heart and their memory. Below we’ve listed a few ways to pay tribute on a death anniversary.
9 ways to honor a deceased loved one
1. Take the day off
Your loved one’s death anniversary is likely going to be a tough day emotionally, and it’s important to give yourself the space to grieve. No matter what you do on this day — or even if you don’t do anything at all — be kind to yourself. Take the day off. Allow yourself to feel the full range of emotions that the day brings forward without having to think about anything else.
2. Create a memorial space in your home
Informal memorial spaces are a special way to honor a deceased loved one because they can be created however you’d like. You might light a candle at home as you quietly remember them. You might create a shrine or a place that honors them with candles, flowers, photos, and their possessions. You can also create a memorial wall in your home with framed photos or make a scrapbook. All of these memorial spaces give you a place to go when you want to remember your loved one.
3. Write in a journal
Writing down your thoughts and emotions is an important part of the grieving process, and can continue to play a role on the death anniversary as well. Use your journal to record some of your favorite stories or quotes from your loved one. Write them a letter or a poem, or just write down your memories of them. Each year, you can revisit these writings and make new ones, creating an annual ritual that can be both healing and cathartic.
4. Create art
You don’t need to be an artist to create art in your loved one’s memory. Remembering a loved one on the day they died is about the emotion and poignancy of the moment — and that’s the true meaning of art, as well. Paint a picture or create a collage. Take photographs of things that remind you of them. Write a haiku or a song. Sculpt something out of clay. Choose an art form that speaks to you, and your loved one will speak to you through it.
5. Listen to music
Music is one of the most simple, yet powerful ways to mark a death anniversary. It can take us back in time, making us feel emotions as if they were happening all over again. What were the song that made your loved one jump up and dance? What was their favorite musical genre? Create a playlist and listen to their favorite songs while you journal, look at photographs, or get together with friends and family.
6. Sponsor a place
Planting a tree is one of the most meaningful ways to honor a deceased loved one and becomes even more special when you do so on their death anniversary. You can also sponsor a park bench, inscribe a brick or stone at one of their favorite places, or decorate and maintain a public space in their honor. These are all beautiful ways to keep their memory alive.
7. Give to charity
Did your loved one have a particular cause that was close to their heart? Make an annual donation in their name on their death anniversary. You can even organize and hold your own fundraising event, like a golf tournament, or create an annual drive collecting items to donate, like a food drive or supplies for animal shelters. Giving back to the community continues your loved one’s tradition of generosity.
8. Hold a remembrance ceremony
Honor your loved one with a remembrance ceremony with all of their favorite people in attendance. This could be a celebration of life where guests can share memories and perform readings. Or you can invite friends and family members over for a potluck dinner of your loved one’s favorite foods while sharing stories and looking at photographs together. Your event can be as formal or informal as you’d like, so personalize it to be something your loved one would want.
9. Visit a place they loved
Visiting your loved one’s burial place is a common way to pay tribute on a death anniversary. You can leave them a personal note, flowers, or photographs, or just sit and reflect. You might also choose to visit a place they loved or where you made special memories together.
There is truly no right or wrong way to honor a deceased loved one. It’s a personal decision that should be based on your own feelings and the memories you made together. Combine any of the ideas above or simply sit quietly and think of them and their impact on your life for a moment.