9 Things to Do on a Friend’s Death Anniversary

Updated

Friendships are unique relationships providing companionship and camaraderie with added doses of love, support, and understanding when things get rough. When a friend dies, the accompanying feelings can be profoundly painful. Their death can feel like a part of you died along with them and may cause you to struggle with coping with such a significant loss. The grieving process may take months or years to resolve as you look for ways to move forward in life. 

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When the anniversary of a friend’s death is approaching, it’s normal to feel saddened by the reminders that they’re no longer with you. Death anniversaries are a day to grieve and come together with friends and family to honor the deceased and talk about how their death has impacted your lives. Although life will never be the same without your friend, it can go on in meaningful ways for you and others left behind. 

How Might You Feel on a Friend’s Death Anniversary?

Developing and maintaining friendships gets more complicated as we get older. As a result, we tend to cherish our friends and the interpersonal bonds formed throughout the years. Close friends offer intimacy and support in ways that family members might not be able to give. A friend's death anniversary reminds us of everything lost and may bring up complex grief-related feelings and emotions that you previously struggled to process. 

Much like any other significant loss, you can expect the feelings you experienced when your friend died to resurface. Death anniversaries, especially the first one, often trigger these feelings of profound loss. Reverting to the first few stages of grief when everything seemed confusing and unbelievable isn't uncommon. Symptoms such as those found below are typical around the time death anniversaries approach:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Inability to sleep
  • Irritability
  • Profound pain and sorrow
  • Confusion
» MORE: Need help with funeral costs? Create a free online memorial to gather donations.

How Can You Cope With Your Feelings on a Friend’s Death Anniversary?

Many people don’t know what to say on a death anniversary, and they may not acknowledge your grief-related feelings and emotions, leaving you alone to deal with your suffering. Those who’ve experienced a friend’s death know this type of setback can considerably impact the survivor’s mental health and happiness. A friend’s death can lead to complications in the survivor’s relationships with others.

One of the first steps to helping you cope with your feelings as your friend’s death anniversary approaches is acknowledging your loss and the relationship shifts that have taken place. Recognizing these changes enables you to reconnect with your friends and loved ones more positively and meaningfully. 

Another way to help you cope with reminders of your loss is to prepare yourself for the death anniversary as the date approaches. By eliminating the element of surprise, you gain better control over your feelings and emotions so that you’re not caught off guard on that day.

Begin by planning how you’ll spend that day well in advance. Make the necessary arrangements to take time off work, find temporary childcare or pet sitting, and clear your calendar to focus on your grief and sadness without outside influences and interruptions.  

How Can You Celebrate or Remember a Friend on the Anniversary of Their Death?

Whenever a close friend dies, they leave a void behind that makes it difficult to find closure. Remembering a friend on their death anniversary helps you honor your friendship and the legacy they left behind while helping you heal from your heartbreak and sorrow. 

Re-experiencing grief around the anniversary date of their death is a normal part of the grieving process. The anniversary date, planned memorial services, and even catching up with the deceased’s family can all resurface the pain of your loss. Below are some ways to acknowledge a death anniversary in ways that will help you find meaning and purpose while lessening adverse anniversary reactions.  

1. Organize a celebration of their life

Memorial services provide an occasion for friends and family of the deceased to come together to share their grief experiences and make new connections while honoring their friend's life. For people having a challenging time accepting the death, these organized remembrance celebrations allow the opportunity to say goodbye and make peace with the loss. They also bring bereaved people together who share in the same loss so that they can lend each other comfort and support. 

2.  Revisit your favorite places

Close friends share many memorable times celebrating life’s milestones or major transitions. They also support one another through the most challenging times. Friendships that have survived many ups and downs develop their rhythms as the years pass. Food, fun, and laughter help celebrate the good times while shared intimate moments underline the bad.

When looking for ways to honor your friend as their death anniversary draws near, consider scheduling yourself some time to revisit the places that hold special meaning to you both. When reminiscing about your shared life, it’s essential to include the ups and downs so that the experience feels more authentic to what you once had. 

» MORE: Honor a loved one with an online memorial. Create one for free with Cake.

3. Set up a memorial table

When looking for ways to add meaning to your friend’s death anniversary date, you can start a new yearly tradition of setting up a memorial table at a specially designated spot within your home or another place you hold dear.

Memorial tables serve many purposes. One is to provide you with a physical location where you can go to offer death anniversary prayers, and another is to have a physical reminder of your friend. These tables often resemble mini-shrines in honor of the deceased. They might hold a photograph of happier times, small items once belonging to your friend, and white candles symbolizing hope and faith. 

4. Donate in their name

At significant milestones, such as your friend's 10-year death anniversary, it's appropriate to make impactful contributions to charities that align with your friend's causes when they were alive. Consider making a financial contribution or pledging your time to further the charities' causes in their name. Some ideas of which charities to choose when none are apparent are those that:

  • Support medical research
  • Provide food and shelter to the homeless
  • Impact the lives of veterans
  • Give back directly to their community

5. Carry on their tradition

A memorable and meaningful way to honor your friend’s memory is to pick up where they left off on a tradition they were known for. Perhaps your friend was tailgating royalty and always knew how to plan the best parking lot barbeques. Or, maybe they always drove the neighborhood kids to soccer practice during the week.

These traditions suffer when the person who plans, organizes, and executes them dies, leaving a void that may be difficult to fill. Why not volunteer for a few weeks or months to take your friend’s place until they can find someone to take over? You’ll feel good about helping others while strengthening the bond with your friend after death. 

6. Plant a memorial garden

Memorial gardens are a mainstay in helping bereaved individuals cope with their grief. When your close friend dies, you can expect to be at a loss for some time afterward. You’ll likely need a few months to a couple of years to get through the most challenging times of your grief as you process your friend’s death and learn to live without them.

On their death anniversary, consider planting a memorial garden to help ease your sorrow in more ways than one. Some people who suffer this type of loss benefit from working with their hands to help them process their grief, while others find more joy in having a place to go and sit with their thoughts as they think about and honor their friend.  

7. Visit with their family 

Honoring your friend’s memory on their death anniversary includes remembering the family they left behind. Not all close friendships lead to close bonds with extended families. You can use the anniversary date to reach out to the deceased’s family to offer them words of support and encouragement, whether you were close with them or hardly knew them.

Connecting with your friend’s loved ones will help you find closure and new meaning in your sorrow while allowing them to ask you the details of their loved one’s personality, likes, and hobbies outside of their role within the family. 

8. Post an online tribute

Online tributes on social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, are all modern ways of honoring the death of friends and loved ones. Consider setting up a dedicated memorial page for others to visit and leave their comments behind. These tributes stay up online until you decide to delete them. Consider making it a yearly tradition for friends and family to gather virtually to catch up and check in in honor of the deceased. 

9. Visit their graveside

Depending on your grieving style and beliefs, a visit to your friend’s last resting place may give you the comfort you seek from your grief. Not everyone is comfortable going to a cemetery to pay their respects, and if you’re not, that’s perfectly normal.

You can find other ways of connecting to your deceased friend that doesn’t include setting foot in a graveyard, such as those listed above. You can take a long walk out in nature to think about your friend or visit the place where they spread their ashes. 

Surviving Grief at Death Anniversaries

Death anniversaries provide yet another marker on the calendar of significant dates to remember each year. Although not always pleasant to celebrate these milestones, each year promises to ease the pain and suffering caused by your friend’s death. You’ll learn to adjust to the emotional ebbs and flows linked to this day in time.

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