How to Write a First Death Anniversary Invitation or Letter

Updated

Whether you’re looking to acknowledge the death anniversary of a close loved one or a distant relative, it can be hard to know what to say on a death anniversary. One method of honoring a person’s memory is by writing a death anniversary letter.

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Death anniversary letters can be privately or openly written to the deceased and provide a therapeutic way to honor their life, uphold their memory, and keep their legacy alive.

How to Write a Private Letter to a Deceased Loved One on Their Death Anniversary

After the loss of a loved one, it can be difficult adjusting to the lack of their presence, the inability to talk together, and the desire to share the ins and outs of life. One way to continue the flow of communication is by writing them letters.

While you may choose to do this on a regular basis, many people like to write to their loved ones on significant days such as their wedding anniversary, birthday, special holidays, or the anniversary of their death. If you write consistently, you may even want to pull out old letters you’ve written and read them over again on major milestones like a 10-year death anniversary.

Think of private letters to your loved one as a journal or diary entry. You’re sharing your thoughts, emotions, and news about life that you’d only want to tell them. No one else will read it, and you’re writing directly to your loved one. After you finish writing it, you might decide to keep it in a box of keepsakes, put it in a bottle in the ocean, or even burn it.

What you do with the private letters you write is entirely up to you, and there’s no right or wrong way to go about it.

Example private letters

If you’ve never written a private letter to someone, you may be wondering how to get started. Here are a couple of example letters to provide you with some inspiration.

Example 1

Dear Roy, 

I can’t believe it’s already been a year since we said our final “I love you”s, gave each other a last kiss, and held hands for the last time. The days since you’ve been gone have been achingly slow, yet somehow it feels as if I’ve only blinked, and already a year has passed. I miss you more than I can say, and sometimes missing you comes with a pain and ache I never knew existed.

I know they say it gets easier with time, but it doesn’t seem to for me. I’m just reminded with every milestone that you’re no longer here. Every baseball game for Jessie, every dance recital for Paul, and every major milestone in our lives brings both joy and sadness. I still find myself listening for your voice, reaching to feel you next to me when I sleep at night, and waiting for you to join me for morning coffee.

I don’t quite know how I’ve gotten through this last year without you, and I don’t know how I’ll get through the years ahead. But one thing I know. You’d want me to keep going. You’d want me to take care of myself and be present for our kids. So don’t worry, I will. I will hang in there. I will keep going on for you.

Example 2

Jess,

Happy one year in heaven, baby. Oh, how I miss your laughter, the sound of your voice, the way you hum when you’re happy. I miss your presence, the feeling of joy and hope that you gave me every time you walked into the room. I miss the way you always asked how I was doing after a long day then waited, truly waited, for the answer.

So, how am I doing? I’m hanging in there. Though you probably know that. I like to think you’re watching from up there in heaven. The days are still pretty clouded over with grief. I’m trying to find joy in little things again. I’m going fishing next month with Jered and taking on a bit more responsibility for the company again. 

I guess by all standards, I’m getting back to a normal life. But nothing really feels normal knowing I’ll return to an empty house at the end of each day. I miss your light, your life, and the joy you infused into our happy home. 

You’ve been gone too long, my love. I miss you.

How to Write an Open Letter to a Deceased Loved One on Their Death Anniversary

An open letter to a deceased loved one is a bit different from a private letter because you’re expecting other people to read it. You might choose to publish an open letter on your favorite social media platform, on a memorial website, share it with family members and friends, or even place it on a personal blog. You could also decide to write an open letter and include it with a death anniversary gift you plan to give to a loved one or friend.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that information in an open letter should be appropriate for anyone to read. Never include information that is too personal, things that might damage the memory or reputation of the deceased, or items that other people have no business knowing.

Example open letters

If you plan on writing a letter that you can share on social media, share with a loved one, post on a memorial site, or include in a sympathy gift, then plan on writing an “open” letter. 

Example 1

Dear Grandpa Jack,

It’s been one year since you’ve been gone, and I can still hear your words of wisdom whenever I have a problem I can’t solve. Should I choose this job or that? How do I handle a dispute with coworkers? At every turn, your wisdom still provides me insight and guidance. 

I’ve learned more from you than from just about anyone else when it comes to living at peace with those around me, successfully navigating life, and learning how to live confidently yet humbly. Your legacy continues, and I know I’ll be teaching my children the same things you taught me. 

I hope you’re smiling down on us here, Grandpa Jack, because I sure smile whenever I think of you up there. I bet you’re even teaching St. Peter a thing or two while he stands at the pearly gates.

Here’s to you, Grandpa Jack, and living well with the wisdom you gave us all.

Example 2

To my dear sister, on the anniversary of her death,

It’s been one year since you, my best friend and sister, left us, and I still have a hard time accepting that you’re gone. Nothing is quite the same without you, yet we all carry on your memory and keep your legacy alive. 

We’ve kept your volunteer group at the animal shelter going, and it’s even grown by 10 new regular attendees. I know you’d be proud of that. A special fund is even named after you in honor of all the work you’ve done with rescues. 

Though we all carry on, we miss you every day. You are thought of, loved, and remembered. 

Until we meet again.

How to Write an Invitation to a Celebration of a Loved One’s Death Anniversary

If you plan on holding a celebration of life service to mark the death anniversary of a loved one, you’ll need invitations to invite family members and friends. Not only is a celebration of life service an excellent way to acknowledge a death anniversary, but it’s a perfect way to gather and celebrate the life of someone you loved.

Death anniversary celebrations are slightly different than regular celebration-of-life services since the person has already been gone for a year or more. Here are a few example invitations to help you get the wording right, so people understand what kind of event you’re holding.

Example invitations

The best invitations are clear about the time, location, and reason for gathering. They should also include any requests you’d like to communicate.

Example 1

Family and friends,

You are warmly invited to a celebration-of-life service in remembrance of Paul Abernathy on the fifth anniversary of his death. There will be a time of sharing, a luncheon, and special musical contributions from the community choir he used to lead.

Paul’s celebration-of-life service will occur at Blacklake Country Club in Peoria, Illinois, on February 4, 2022, at 2 pm.

If you would like to share a memory or have a story to submit, please email all contributions to email@youremail.com or call 123-456-7891. 

Example 2

To all who knew Papa George,

The Blackman family will be holding a celebration-of-life service on the tenth anniversary of his death and warmly invite all who knew our beloved Papa George to attend. We will be celebrating his legacy with a special emphasis on his marriage to Mama Janey. This year would have marked their golden anniversary, and a special tribute will be paid to the bond they shared.

Papa George’s celebration-of-life service will be held at Harrison Community Center in Harrison, Florida, starting at 3 pm on the 9th of December, 2021. Appetizers and Mama Janey’s famous apple pie will be served along with coffee and tea.

If you would like to contribute photos to our slideshow, please send them to email@youremail.com. 

Acknowledging a Loved One’s Death Anniversary

Writing a letter, journal, or diary entry to a loved one is a wonderful way to acknowledge their death anniversary. This activity also keeps their memory and spirit alive, whether you decide to keep the letter private or write an open letter to be read during a celebration-of-life service.

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