There are no strict rules about grief, and not everyone experiences an overwhelming amount of sadness on the anniversary of a loved one’s death. Feelings of sadness may come back around the anniversary of the loved one’s death, or other special days, throughout the year. Even after the fact that it is been a year, or even a few years, the feelings of sadness might increase during the anniversary of your loved one’s death, as well as on the days surrounding that date. You might find that scheduling time on the day to reflect, reminisce, read, journal, exercise, or de-stress is helpful; do what feels right for you.
Another nice idea is to take your loved one’s death anniversary and do something that your deceased spouse loved, as a way of being in touch. People can choose to spend a death anniversary doing things that their loved one loved, or sharing memories with others who knew the person who died. Some may have very specific ideas on how the deceased person should be honored and how many years of anniversary to honor.
It may be hard to express your feelings in words, so reading the comforting words others have written about anniversaries can help. Honoring those milestones, offering words of comfort on the death anniversary, or providing messages of remembrance on a death anniversary, are easy ways to provide support for loved ones. Commemorating this day by holding a memorial service can provide great comfort.
Really, it is up to you to decide how to recognize the day. Reactions on an anniversary also bring back powerful memories about the feelings and events surrounding your loved one’s passing. Anniversary reactions may persist for days or – more extreme cases – for a long time. Feelings of sadness are not necessarily setbacks in the grief process.
While it is fairly common to experience a reaction to an anniversary the first year of the death, it is possible that many years down the road, you may have a reaction to the anniversary – well past coping with the sadness that you felt immediately following losing a loved one, and after you have felt things get back to normal. A death anniversary, a memorial day, or a memorial day — an anniversary on which your loved one has passed away — can trigger a range of emotions, from sadness and anxiety to powerlessness and fear. There is no set deadline, and the intensity and length of the sadness (and how difficult or easy it may or may not be to cope with on anniversary days) truly depends on a number of other factors — such as how the person died, and how you were in your relationship before he died.
Whether or not you take any of the suggestions above, maybe the single most important thing you can do to help yourself deal with the anniversary of your loved one’s death is to tell yourself that it is OK to feel what you are feeling, regardless of how many years it is been since the death occurred. Certain reminders of your loved one may be unavoidable, like visiting your loved one’s gravesite, marking the death anniversary, holidays, birthdays, or new events that you know they would enjoy.