5 Ideas for Celebrating Life on Grief Anniversaries

planting seeds death anniversary


Grief journalling. Planting their favourite flowers. Watching their favourite movies. Some ways to channel grief and affirm love for someone you’ve lost.

Grief anniversaries are hard on me every year. My body feels the time coming before my brain does, and I begin to feel the weight of bereavement all over again. Each year I try to do something with those feelings, instead of letting them sit inside of me. For a while, the thing I did was just to allow myself to feel as sad as I was. As the years went on, I started to feel like I needed something more positive on those days that felt so raw — something that felt like celebrating the departed instead of grieving them.

Each person is different, but for those searching for a way to commemorate a loved one on the hard days, there are ways to celebrate life on those difficult anniversaries. It won’t make the pain of losing someone go away, but it might help you to use the pain, channel it into action and put something positive in the world on a day where you can celebrate everything that person meant to you.

Plant Something

death anniversary ideas planting

Plants are a great source of life and renewal. When you plant something, the feeling is so positive and calming, and you can use this feeling as a way to celebrate the life of a loved one who’s passed.

You can plant a tree and watch it grow for years. It can become a place of comfort for you for all future anniversaries and introspective times.

death anniversary ideas plant pot

You can plant their favourite flower in a pot and keep it at home as a way to remember them.

If you don’t know their favourite, you can research which type of plant reminds you of them.

You can buy wildflower seeds and go somewhere to release them and let them grow on their own, perhaps as a form of celebrational guerrilla gardening.

death anniversary ideas planting flowers

By planting something, you can turn that loss and sadness into something positive for your surroundings and, in a small way, the world as a whole.

Send Something to the Sky

planting seed death anniversary

One of the very first activities I did to celebrate life on the grief anniversaries that affected me was to write on balloons and release them into the sky. It felt like my messages were actually getting somewhere. No matter what your religious preferences, releasing something into the sky holds the feeling of release and connection with those you’ve lost. The things you release don’t have to be balloons with notes; you can send a number of things.

To feel this positive release while remaining environmentally conscious about what you release into the sky, consider releasing:

  • Bubbles
  • Dried flowers into the wind or a stream
  • Flying wish paper
  • Blowing the seeds from dead dandelions into the sky

Send with those things a thought, memory, or wish for those you’ve lost as if they’d reach them. It left me feeling at peace knowing I’d released those thoughts into the universe in hopes that they’d reach them somehow.

Grief Journalling

How you feel on the anniversary of the death of a loved one might depend on which stage of grief you’re in. There’s really no set time or way in which to grieve, so however you’re feeling is acceptable as long as you know the difference between healthy and unhealthy grieving.

Grief journalling can take on whatever aspect of bereavement you’re experiencing, but a helpful prompt might be useful to journal in a positive way.

Some thoughts on what you could put in your grief journal:

  • Write about what today might be like if they were still here.
  • Write about the positive impacts they made while they were alive and after their loss.
  • Write about your favourite memory with them.

Some of these exercises may be harder for some than others, but journaling can be a helpful outlet for the thoughts you’re already having.

You can take a look at Red’s tips on starting a journal. Her guidelines are general, rather than grief-related, but may help to provide inspiration on making your journal feel like a tribute and celebration that is meaningful to you.

If you have problems with writer’s block, you can look into some grief journals you can purchase with built-in prompts. Many of them are written by people who have experienced grief themselves.

Donate or Volunteer

This year, I made the decision to do something actionable and helpful in the name of those I’ve lost near this time of year. I adopted animals at my local zoo in the names of those I’ve lost and designed plaques that the zoo will hang near each animal’s enclosure.

Many local and national causes offer rememberance services so that people who have lost someone can donate in their name.

If your loved one had a passion for wild animals, you can adopt an animal with the World Wildlife Fund. If they loved dogs, you can volunteer walking dogs at your local shelter on that day.

Your town may offer something like a brick in a community park you can purchase and customize for them.

Not only will your gift commemorate them, the money can go to a good cause. Something like this is a great way to celebrate them and feel like you’re putting some positivity back into the world in their name.

A Day With Their Favourites

grief anniversary ideas

The feeling of longing is really prevalent in those who have lost someone close to them. You long for their presence, their personality, their mannerisms. One way to feel close to them and celebrate those things you love is to spend the hard anniversaries doing something they loved.

Stay home and watch their favourite movies all day; go to their favourite restaurant and order their favourite item; or go read a book or write at their favourite coffee place.

In my experience, those sights, smells, and familiarities make me feel close to them again.

Be aware that it might be triggering for some people, especially if you struggle with PTSD related to your grief. However, others may feel a sense of closeness with to them and the things that made them happy. Even just making a recipe of theirs for dinner can be a way to celebrate them on hard days.

There are so many ways to spend grief anniversaries. You can allow yourself to spend those days in a way that brings you comfort. That might mean staying home and coping, or that might mean getting out and volunteering for a cause they were passionate about.

Celebration and mourning can sometimes overlap, but don’t feel like you have to spend this day doing something if you’re not ready yet. Handling loss is a difficult process that looks different for everyone, and struggling with it doesn’t make you weak.

If you’re ready to spend this day celebrating them, there are a number of ways to do that, whether that means planting something for them, journaling about them, or doing something that isn’t on this list at all. If you’re not ready for that, that’s OK.

Just remember, they would be happy with whatever you do that brings you comfort.