10 Things to Do for a Friend on a Death Anniversary
Death anniversaries are HARD, especially the first one.
But if you’re friends with someone who suffered a loss that hit them really hard, there’s also something easy about a death anniversary. It's easy to remember. It’s as simple as making a calendar reminder that repeats once every 365 days.
Once that day arrives, here are 10 meaningful ways to show up:
- Handwrite a memory. There’s a Laurie Anderson lyric that sums this up so perfectly: “When my father died it was like an entirely library burned down.” Some stories and details are lost with the person who died. That’s why it's such a gift to give a grieving friend a story you have. Handwrite it. A moment you shared with the person who died. A moment that reflects their character. A moment where they expressed their love for their partner or child. It's like finding a book that somehow escaped the flames.
- Give them a Rainy Day Box. Year two isn’t easier than year one. It can actually be worse. Making it through the first death anniversary means they’ve made it through their first year. They have so many years to go. A Rainy Day Box is a gift that acknowledges it’s still hard.
- Ask them. You don’t have to magically know the perfect thing to do. It’s OK to ask—if they want company, if there’s anything you can bring them, if there’s anything they’re dreading that you can help them manage. Suggest ideas. An afternoon walk, bringing them morning coffee, sitting with them and reading so they have company. Make sure to convey that “no” is a perfectly acceptable answer.
- Give them the gift of time. If they have kids and you have time, offer to watch the kids for a couple hours so they can take a walk or a yoga class or a nap.
- Send a text. It feels good to know other people remember. It can be simple. “I know today is extra hard. Sending you a big hug.” Or “remembering INSERT NAME today and thinking about you.”
- Donate to a cause or scholarship. Especially if something was set up in their name.
- Help your friend do something they did together. My husband was a fantastic cook and we loved dressing up and going out to dinner. My parents offered, in a very gentle way, to pay for me and my girls to go out to a fancy restaurant. I thought about whether I wanted to do something that normally seems celebratory on such a horrible day. But I realized it would be a special way to celebrate him and his continued presence in our lives.
- Book them a massage. When you lose your spouse or partner, you lose all those everyday touches too, and suddenly you find yourself crying at the salon because someone is washing your hair and MAN IT'S BEEN SO LONG SINCE SOMEONE TOUCHED YOUR HEAD. So with the giant caveat that you should ask if your friend would be comfortable with a massage before booking them one, this can be a thoughtful way to go.
- Send flowers. The day feels harsh and cruel. Flowers make everything better.
- Mail a letter in advance. And mark it “open on MONTH/DATE OF DEATH ANNIVERSARY.” That way your friend has something waiting for them when they need it, whether it’s right when they wake up, as a mid-day pick-me-up, or before bed.