Grief Rituals
Grief and Anniversaries

Developing your own grief rituals to commemorate the life of your loved one is an important way to help work through your grief. Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries are especially difficult when in grief. For me the yearly anniversary of my husband’s death has been especially difficult. Often I don’t think about the coming anniversary—until I find myself getting extra grumpy and irritable.

Grief Rituals

On the first year after John died, I planned a memorial event for our family and a few friends. We gathered at the graveside. I read a poem and we went around the circle talking about how the year of grief had been for us. It was simple, yet I think most of us found it helpful.

On the first year after her husband’s death one of my friends took three helium balloons up to a lookout point on a hill. One balloon represented herself, one for her husband, and one for their marriage. She spent some quiet time talking to her husband and reflecting on her year grieving his loss. When she was ready she let go of the balloons representing her husband and their marriage. She took her balloon home with her.

Some people plant memorial trees or special commemorative gardens with a memorial marker to remember their loved one. I have one friend who eats steak every year on her deceased father’s birthday because he loved to eat steak. Although the years have long passed, it is her way of honoring the love she had for him and the importance of his place in her life.

Sometimes a special object will symbolize your journey for you. John was carrying a stone in his pocket when he died. I had the stone for a long time. Then one day I found a little angel sculpture that held a stone. I bought it and put John’s stone it in. I put it on a shelf. Now that I am some years passed the intense part of my grief, I let the sculpture symbolize that my grief is divinely held. It will always be a part of my story, but I don’t have to carry the weight of it anymore.

I also have several pieces of memorial jewelry that I wear in honor of John. One ring I had engraved with a phrase that gave me hope for days I needed extra encouragement.

These types of individual grief rituals are an important way we honor our journey and our loved ones. When you feel yourself being depressed over an anniversary, pay attention to your emotions. Let yourself recognize that your soul might be telling you something you need to pay attention to.

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