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12 ideas to mark the death anniversary of someone you loved

A montage of images illustrating death anniversary ideas which are described in this blog

The anniversary of a death can be a time for quiet and simple contemplation, or for family gatherings, fellowship and remembrance.

Whether you feel it’s significant to mark your loved one’s life on the anniversary of their death, or an occasion such as their birthday, the way you choose to acknowledge the death of a loved one can change with every passing year.

Sometimes also known by people who’ve been bereaved as a ‘sadiversary’ or 'angelversary', there are many things to do in memory of someone who has died. Here's how to acknowledge the anniversary of a death.

1. Visit their final resting place

A weeping tree in the centre of a cemetery!

Taking time to remember at your loved one’s grave may be something that you've been doing since their one year death anniversary.

If you scattered their ashes in a place that was special to them, a trip there could be part of a day spent with other people who loved them and include a picnic with their favourite food and drink.

2. Release butterflies

A butterfly sipping nectar from a bottlebrush “The butterfly counts not months, but moments – and has time enough,” wrote the poet Rabindranath Tagore.

For many people, butterflies are a beautiful symbol of hope and renewal.

On someone’s death anniversary, a butterfly release can be a wonderful tribute. You can buy native butterflies bred specially for release on occasions such as a memorial, birthday or angelversary from a number of specialists via mail order.

3. Write a letter, poem or blog

Children writing a letter!

Although our love is constant, our thoughts, feelings, regrets and memories can change as every death anniversary passes. Writing can be a therapeutic way of processing complicated thoughts and feelings, as well as expressing heartfelt sentiments.

‘Post’ your letter or poem in a hidden outdoors spot, or online on a grief blog, or community forum. Or keep it somewhere safe and make a personal ritual of writing and re-reading letters and poems every angelversary.

4. Play their favourite song

A vintage record player and discs!

Music is incredibly evocative and certain tunes can make us catch our breath or transport our memories back to special moments in time.

Listen to their song on the day you mark their death anniversary; over a glass of wine while you write, by special request on a radio show, or as part of a playlist in a get together with friends – and maybe even sing along.

5. Hold a special remembrance ceremony

A woman in a large striped hat listening to a service!

If faith was an important part of your loved one’s life and brings comfort, your cleric or celebrant may be happy to arrange for a ceremony to mark their death anniversary, or to include prayers for them in the week’s service.

Formal secular occasions to mark the anniversary of their death could include a prize-giving, a celebration of life sevice with words and readings or even a tree-planting ceremony.

6. Take time out

A man sitting by the beach and loking out to sea!

A death anniversary can be a time to get away from it all. Some people choose to commemorate loved one’s life on another significant day and prefer to have time away away from places that hold memories on a death anniversary.

For others, a place where special moments were spent with their loved one is a poignant way of keeping them close.

7. Express loving sentiments with flowers

A bouquet of flowers and blue gum leaves in the fork of an old tree!

Be inspired by the language of flowers to make a beautiful bouquet to lay by your loved one’s resting place, or to send to a hospice in their memory on the anniversary of their death.

The Victorians created an entire lexicography to express sentimental thoughts through popular garden flowers, while ‘The Spirit of the Woods’ devised the Australian language of flowers in 1867. As well as being the floral emblem of New South Wales, the beautiful Waratah means ‘remembrance in absence.’

8. Take a seat

A man sitting quietly alone in a theatre auditorium!

Some people dedicate inscribed benches in favourite beauty spots, while arts venues also offer schemes where you can sponsor a seat in their auditoria in memory of someone.

If the person you’re remembering loved drama, dance, music or comedy, a theatre seat with their name on it could be just the ticket. Taking in a ballet or opera could also be a beautiful way to mark your loved one’s life, around the anniversary of their death.

9. Look through old photos

A box of old family photos Dig out the family albums and look through them, while you play their favourite music.

If you feel like company, you could cook a favourite meal on the anniversary of your loved one’s death and invite family members around to share. While everyone’s around the table, invite them to take turns dipping into a shoebox of old snaps and listen to the memories they bring back.

10. Memorial jewellery

A glass pendant ornamented with gold wire!

There’s been a real renaissance in the idea of memorial jewellery. In the 19th century, mourning jewellery included jet pendants, lockets and even trinkets made of human hair.

Today, you’ll find craftspeople and designers able to create sparkling glass beads and even diamonds from a loved one’s ashes, while an engraved silver locket containing a photo is a beautiful way to hold someone close to your heart. A charm bracelet could be a way to mark the years that go by on the anniversary of someone’s death, with each new charm reflecting a special memory.

11. Shine a light

A hand holding a sparkler

It’s traditional to light a candle in memory of someone, whether in a place of worship, or at home as you quietly contemplate.

On the anniversary of someone’s death, you could create their name or initials in tealights on the family dinner table, or choose a scented candle with a fragrance that brings memories back. If it’s an occasion for celebrating their memory as well as reflecting on their loss, you could even light up the night sky with fireworks and spell out their name in stars.

12. Create an online memorial

A woman types on a computer while sitting cross-legged on  bed!

Memories can grow more precious as the years go by and they are also a wonderful legacy to hand down to children and grandchildren.

A memorial app is a great way to keep memories alive and revisit when you are thinking about someone you love on their death anniversary. You can keep it private, or invite friends and family members to share photos, memories and loving sentiments.