There is no right way to acknowledge an angelversary or other special occasion, only your way
“Is there a right way to acknowledge the anniversary of my loved one’s death/birthday or other special occasion like Mother’s Day/Father’s Day?” was a recent question I was asked. My response as a death doula was “No, there is no right or wrong way to acknowledge such an event, there is only your unique way.” They then responded that they would like some suggestions to celebrate this “sadiversary/angelversary either alone or with their closest loved ones.
I suggested that if they wished to leave the house, perhaps visit the final resting place of their loved one (burial site or for others it might be where ashes were scattered). Many people like to bring flowers (if permitted) and have a conversation at the gravesite, updating the deceased on events that have happened since the passing. As a cashier, I’ve had many customers, just prior to Mother’s Day especially, purchasing beautiful bouquets of flowers to lay on graves.
Another suggestion would be to visit a place that was meaningful to both of them- a favourite restaurant, a park, a movie theatre, a museum, a dog park, a mall, a stroll on the beach, etc.
If they preferred to stay at home, I suggested that they perhaps start the day by lighting a memorial candle (there are some nice long-burning ones available). Set a place for their deceased loved one at the table (perhaps with a framed picture of them on the chair/table) for each meal, and as they ate, to hold a conversation as if they loved one was still present. Cook the loved one’s favourite meals throughout the day. If they felt like company, include other members of the family. Play or listen to their loved one’s favourite music throughout the day, or during these mealtimes. Perhaps after dinner, watch the loved one’s favourite movie, or play board games or cards or other favourite shared activities.
Another suggestion I gave was to spend some time looking through old photograph albums and cherishing the good memories. Share and listen to memories from others as you feel is appropriate. Journaling or recording these memories can be therapeutic.
I also reminded them that what they did to celebrate one year, did not have to be the same ritual the following year if they wish to choose differently.
For each of my immediate family members who have died, I tend to honor them similarly. For my dad’s death anniversary and birth anniversary and Father’s Day I tend to look at a photo of both of us taken when I was a baby and say a prayer. For my grandmother’s birth and death anniversary and Mother’s Day I tend to sit in her rocking chair (that is now in my house), drink a cup of her favourite coffee, eat some Chicken Bones candy (her favourite) and say a prayer. For my grandfather, at Father’s Day I tend to say a prayer and recall some memories.
In conclusion, however you choose to spend these angelversary days will help you along your grief journey.