So, the anniversary of your loved one’s death is fast approaching. If you’re feeling a little raw, like it just happened, that’s totally normal. Even if your loved one’s death occurred years ago, little reminders of them can easily cut as deep as the most blatant ones — like their birthday and the day of their passing. But, there’s a way to instead focus on the love and joy that this person brought to your life.
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Celebrating a death anniversary, or, in other words, an angelversary, can help you honor your loved one in an impactful way. You can easily shift the narrative of the day from being one of sadness and negativity to one of positivity.
Whether you already believe that your loved one is an angel watching over you, perhaps it may help you better process their absence by doing so. You may not traditionally believe in angels, and maybe it’ll feel a little odd at first. But don’t worry, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know.
What’s an Angelversary?
We briefly dived into the topic of angelversaries above. But what exactly are they? What are angels, even? Well, your exact definition may differ. And, maybe your belief system doesn’t necessarily suggest that angels are real.
To celebrate an angelversary or death anniversary, you don’t even need to fully believe in angels. But, let’s say you want to try to.
What’s an angel?
The definition of an angel, like anything we believe in without truly seeing, is subjective. It can be special to each and every person, and you may feel as though you have different types of angels watching over you.
You may feel some angels are more generalized, and you may learn about them in church or from your friends and family members. But, to give a more specific explanation, an angel is often a loved one who has passed away that you now believe watches over you, sends little blessings, shows up in funny ways, creates coincidences, and generally helps keep you safe.
So, why call it an angelversary?
Calling it angelversary, versus any other term, is a way to indicate the day commemorates when your loved one “became” an angel. It’s simply a way to frame a difficult, scary, weird thing as something that can be beautiful and empowering. The thought that you have someone watching over you — let alone more than one person — is something not to take for granted.
If you’re hoping to celebrate an upcoming angelversary, here are some ideas — both simpler and more grand — to honor your loved one and to help you better connect with him or her. Ideas include those that make sense for parents, a sibling, a spouse or partner, or a child.
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Ideas for your parents
If you’re celebrating the angelversary of a parent, there’s likely some sort of tradition that you shared together that you can observe in a modified way.
1. Cook one of their favorite meals
Perhaps you loved sharing the kitchen with your mom or dad. Or, perhaps, your biggest responsibility was stirring the sauce or setting the table.
Regardless, putting in the time or effort to recreate one of your family’s favorite dishes can be a huge learning experience or help you feel nostalgic. Even if it’s a disaster — which it won’t be, because you tried — it’ll still be fun to reminisce and involve other friends and family members in either the prep or the cooking.
2. Take a trip to one of their favorite destinations
Did your parents have a favorite vacation spot? Fishing hole? National park? The possibilities are endless. If you can only make it to your parent’s favorite restaurant, this can still be a special event, nonetheless.
As long as you’re spending the time to think about him or her intentionally, you’ll be doing a great job of honoring them. If he or she also had a bucket list that they didn’t get to complete, this is also a good source of potential ideas you can do in their honor.
3. Partake in a favorite pastime
If your mom loved jogging at sunset, or your dad loved attending hockey games, consider doing one of these activities in their honor.
There’s likely something from your childhood that the two of you, or you and your entire family, enjoyed together. It can be a large, involved event, or it can be something simple, like going for a drive around the neighborhood listening to one of their favorite artists.
4. Volunteer for a cause meaningful to them
At some point during your mom or dad’s life, if even at the end, they probably had some sort of passion project.
If nothing else, perhaps they always took the time to pick up litter in the park or on the beach. It’s likely that there’s some sort of philanthropic cause you can attach to either of them. Volunteering in their honor would be a unique and impactful way to spend their angelversary.
Ideas for a sibling
If you’re celebrating the angelversary of a sibling, it may be more or less difficult than that of a parent. It’s likely that your relationship with your sibling was different than your relationship with your parents. Additionally, here are some other ways to remember just about any family member.
5. Take a risk
Taking a risk, or doing something otherwise out of your comfort zone, can be a great way to honor the spirit of your sibling.
This is especially true if he or she was an adventurous spirit or encouraged you to “live a little more.” Dye or cut your hair, get a tattoo, book a trip — just pick something and go for it. If you’re interested, here are some other ideas for different resolutions, such as birthday resolutions.
6. Revisit some childhood activities
If you and your sibling loved making pillow forts and having movie marathons, for example, this is a great way to rekindle some good memories with the rest of your family.
Or, perhaps, you’d like to take a trek to one of your favorite ballparks, ice cream shops, or something of the like. If you’re living somewhere entirely new, doing a similar activity can easily work, too. He or she will understand.
7. Go to a concert (or have one at home)
If you connected with your brother or sister about music, going to a concert in their honor is a great way to create more positive memories.
If nothing else, you can host a private concert of throwback playlists you liked to listen to together from the comfort of home.
8. Plant a tree or plant in their honor
If your sibling loved nature or the outdoors, planting a tree or other plant in their honor is a great way to grow something beautiful over time. Consider consulting a specialist in your area to ensure that you pick the right plant for your space, climate, and care schedule.
Ideas for a spouse or partner
No death is any easier or harder than any other. However, it’s understandable if it stings a bit more when someone you chose among all others to stay by your side forever just isn’t there anymore. Here are a few ideas for how to honor a spouse or partner’s angelversary.
9. Send off lanterns in their honor
Sending off paper lanterns can be celebratory, romantic, beautiful, and sad all at the same. It’s arguably the perfect way to honor someone you loved most. Consider writing messages, inside jokes, or phrases and attach them to the lanterns.
10. Write him or her a letter or poem
For some people, writing out one’s feelings is the easiest way to process emotions and move past them.
On the other hand, it’s not always about moving through emotions so much as it about letting yourself experience the love, joy, and heartache you felt while your loved one was still here. Write it to them as if they are, and then “give” it to them or read it to them aloud.
For example, you can visit a site significant to your relationship, or of course, where they’re buried or where they were scattered. Here are more tips on how to write general “thinking of you” messages that can give you a starting point.
11. Go on a road trip
A solo road trip may sound like a bleak affair, or it may excite you. While you’re more than welcome to bring a loved one or two along for the ride, there’s a ton of peace in solitude.
You’re freer to run through all of your emotions, especially if you craft a good playlist or two. You can also use the time to talk to your loved one or angel uninterrupted and with limited distractions.
12. Play a prank on your parents
Playing a prank on your parents, perhaps like the old times, may be a sensitive activity. However, you know your family. Often, laughter is what heals most wounds anyway. Try to strike a good balance between being funny while keeping it lighthearted, however.
Ideas for a child, son, or daughter
At any stage in life, it’s important to cling to the experiences and activities that make us feel most alive. Surely you may remember the “carefree” times of your childhood, even if they were few and far between.
To remember your own son or daughter, no matter how old he or she was, it may feel good to say, “screw acting my age,” and do something that he or she would love to see you doing, or love to be doing with you.
13. Go to a theme park
Theme parks can be draining places, but they can also be one of the best environments to connect with your inner child. You’re likely the best gauge of how crowded a particular park will be on your child’s angelversary, as well as if this is something you’d still enjoy. And, if it’s been a while, why not go for it?
14. Become a mentor or coach
It may be impossible to sync the timing of your child’s angelversary with a mentoring or coaching opportunity. But, you can certainly try. You also know yourself and your healing process best. It’s understandable if you’re not ready to jump into a space with children, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about this.
15. Adopt a pet
Adopting a pet may sound like an odd suggestion, as if it’s some sort of replacement. However, the fact is, there are plenty of animals (and, in all honesty, other children) who are not getting the love and attention they deserve. Doing your part to give one a home can change both of your lives for the better.
16. Release balloons
Like sending off lanterns, sending off balloons can be incredibly touching too. You can also personalize this experience by drawing characters or other designs on plain balloons. You may also choose to write messages and wishes to your child.
17. Go to the zoo
Even if your child wasn’t young when he or she passed away, the zoo is somewhere that people of all ages can find joy.
It’s a common activity — as either a field trip or just as a family outing — to expose your child to the wonders of wildlife. Try to walk around as if it’s your first time seeing these animals.
18. Make them a piece of art
It’s likely that some of your most prized possessions are drawings or art projects from your children. Return the favor and make him or her something.
It doesn’t have to be complicated or involved, but you’re then able to display it proudly and reflect on it for each angelversary thereafter, or even add to it as a work in progress.
They’re Your Angel, Celebrate Your Way
Though we may have provided plenty of ideas for inspiration, at the end, you’re celebrating your angel and their angelversary. You can take this as lightly, literally, or as legitly as you’d like. For more ideas on tough topics, such as how to send condolences, check out the rest of Cake.