Remembering a Loved One on the Anniversary of their Death

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Some cultures afford very special status to death anniversaries, offering a chance to celebrate the life and memory of a loved one lost as well as to renew our appreciation for those who remain.

Anniversaries are always meaningful. But anniversaries of the deaths of loved ones have an extraordinary capacity to impact us psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually.

My mother died a little over a year ago, just days before Christmas. She had been in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease for quite some time, but her remarkable physical stamina kept her alive years beyond the average. Because she was really “lost” to us as a person who could recognize and communicate with us, my siblings and I were actually able to do much of our grieving long before she finally passed. Still, when the anniversary of her death occurred, the sense of loss returned.

My darling wife’s mother past away a year ago today (as of this writing), only two months after my own mom died. I never thought of her as a mother-in-law but as a second mom. You might say I simply adopted her. I called her “mom,” also. That’s because, besides my own mom and my dear wife, she was the most gentle, kind, and nurturing soul I have ever met.

Death anniversaries can be really hard sometimes. You can find yourself longing for something you can no longer have — to hear your loved one’s laugh one more time, or to see your favorite expression on their face. But perhaps the most blessed capacity of the human mind is its ability to hold in memory those people, places, things, and events that mean the most to us.

Some cultures afford very special status to death anniversaries. Some Asian cultures even treat it as Western cultures treat a birthday, full of meaningful ritual and celebration among family and friends. This seems to me a wonderful idea, a chance to celebrate the life and memory of a loved one lost as well as to renew our appreciation for those who remain.

Celebrating life as well as celebrating those in our lives who helped give it meaning seems to be a most necessary human enterprise. As hard as it is sometimes to deal with a loss, it’s comforting to know that one’s life is eternally richer because someone now departed was once in it.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by on and was last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

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