Every year, the approaching anniversary that marks the loss of our loved one almost always elicits emotional turbulence in grieving widows and widowers.
Some of us might be overwhelmed by a sense of emptiness, despair, and deep sadness, if this marks the first year of your loved one’s physical death. Others may have already walked through the most painful period, but are still tending to the old wound. Regardless of which stage of bereavement you are currently in, this is undoubtedly an emotionally distressing day for most of us.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
While pain is inevitable, there are certainly practical ways we can learn to channel that pain into thoughtful actions that expresses our continual love for them, and to honor their eternal Spirit on this marked day.
Below are some meaningful and creative ways to honor, remember, and celebrate their life:
1. CARRY A STEM OF FLOWER THROUGH THE DAY
Flowers have been used in ceremonies since the tribal days of human history due to the vast array of symbolism they carry. While roses are typically used to express various forms of love – i.e. crimson roses for mourning, white roses for sympathy, you are free to choose which ever type of flower resonates with you.
Did you have a specific type of flower that held special meaning to the both of you? Or did your deceased loved one have a favorite kind of flower?
I recommend purchasing a stem of artificial flower from your local craft store so you wouldn’t have to worry about keeping it fresh throughout the day. But the aroma of a fresh cut flower would help to boost your mood. So, with a plethora of options available, feel free to choose one that you are most comfortable with.
On the first anniversary of my fiancé’s passing, I carried around a crafted stem of cream-colored tulip in my handbag for its meaning of deep and eternal love.
2. FINISH SOMETHING ON THEIR BUCKET LIST
Whether it’s floating through the sunset skies in a hot air balloon, sky-diving, learning to play the guitar, or wanting to bake the perfect cheesecake, this is the chance for you to learn something new and to check off an item on your loved one’s bucket list.
3. CREATE A PIECE OF ART
Art therapy works.
Paint, doodle, draw, photograph, craft something by hand, or design a print on Photoshop. First, set the required supplies out in front of you. Then allow yourself to sit for a moment, soaking in any emotions or memories that may come up.
Once you feel the arising of this energy, then start picking up that paintbrush or chalk, or whatever medium you chose, and let the emotions guide you. Let it flow through you and onto the blank canvas effortlessly.
Carry no expectations of how the final product will turn out. The process itself is already a dedicated and meaningful honoring of your loved one.
4. WRITE THEM A POEM
Famous American poets like Ernest Hemmingway, Emily Dickinson, Virginia Woolf, Dylan Thomas, Edgar Allan Poe, Sylvia Plath, have effectively channeled their pain into reflective and sublime pieces of poetry.
Some of the most classical and profound poets have suffered from some form of mental illness, such as bipolar and clinical depression, and other painful life afflictions.
It’s almost like their work was birthed by their suffering – without the pain, they most likely would not have been able to create such touching poems.
Now, it’s important to note: I am not at all suggesting that you must suffer some sort of mental illness to create epic poetry. Or that you must become a famous poet even. I am merely suggesting we learn to become comfortable with experiencing the pain brought on by losing a loved one. To not suppress any of the “negative” emotions that accompanies grief. To allow it to become a healthy expression of our love for our deceased spouse.
Writing a poem is simply a creative and meaningful way to express your love (and your grief) for them.
5. BUILD AN ALTAR
You might have already done this, but if not, this may be a great way to dedicate a space in your physical space for them.
My fiancé’s family and I built a bookshelf in the living room as his altar for his love of books. We have framed photos of him, an artificial bouquet of soft-pink roses, some of his favorite belongings, and to stabilize the tall bookshelf, we placed his books on the bottom shelf.
Yours definitely does not have to be this elaborate. It can be a small table space, or a simple shelf available at any home improvement store. Feel free to use crystals, or fresh or dried flowers, or however you’d like to decorate it as long as it’s done from your heart.
6. BURN A CANDLE
You may choose a pillar candle, or a soy candle made with essential oils, or any color of candle to your liking. Don’t stress over the outward appearance of the candle, it doesn’t matter. The spirit of the lighting of this candle is to remember our loved one.
I chose a white-colored, soy candle with essential oils for its natural therapeutic properties.
The color white symbolizes peace, purity, and healing.
7. DONATE TO AN ORGANIZATION IN THEIR NAME
Donate to a cause they believed in. You will benefit the greater community through your generosity. I chose to make a difference in my fiancé’s name with Neverthirst, a non-profit that builds wells to provide cleaner water for villagers in underdeveloped countries.
8. START A MESSAGE-IN-A-BOTTLE
Use any empty beer or wine bottle as storage for your messages for him or her. Feel free to write them a message on the anniversary each year. Then let the love-filled notes accumulate in the corked bottle until you have reached a sense of closure.
When the time comes, you can then choose to either bury that bottle in your yard. Or find a spot for it along with the rest of your valuables, as a signal to yourself of moving forward. It’s important to remember that this isn’t a symbol of forgetting your deceased spouse, or your love for them. This only signifies an end to the mourning process, and the budding of your new life.
9. ESCAPE ON A SHORT TRIP
Hit the road and head to their favorite spot a few hours outside of town. Or visit the destination that both of you have planned on visiting but never had the chance to. I promise he or she will be right there with you (in Spirit), enjoying every minute of the drive. Your loved one may try to send you signs of their presence, all you have to do is keep an open-mind and be on the look out.
It could be a State Park, the East coast of the Oregon beach, or the nearest pick-your-own Lavender farm, depending on where you live. Have fun with it, celebrate their life!
10. VISIT THEIR GRAVE
Bring some fresh flowers, or a new bouquet of dried, or artificial flowers on your visit. Dust their grave and keep it fresh and clean. Even if their spirit doesn’t live in the grave, they would appreciate the gesture, and meet you there during your visit.
Be on the lookout for signs they might send you to make you aware of their presence.
11. REMEMBERING WHAT THEY STOOD FOR
My fiancé stood for and taught me lessons of love, compassion, kindness, courage, determination, perseverance, and much, much more.
The life of your loved one might have stoked fires of gratitude, mental strength, peace in the midst of chaos, or a sense of adventure in you.
We all stand for something. We all have core values. We have all come to this planet to learn lessons, whether we realize it or not – that is our essence.
Irrespective of the disintegration of their physical form, their essence – the message their life represented, infects and carries on in each person they came in contact with.
What we can do to honor them is to foster those seeds they planted in us. Let those kernels blossom in full. Let their essence radiate from your heart space – carry on their torch.
There are many more ways to honor and remember your deceased loved one on the anniversary of their death. Some of us may prefer to reference this day as a day of celebration of their life. To celebrate the ideologies they lived. To celebrate their essence (Spirit), which carries on after “death.” The above listed methods helped me effectively channel my grief into creative and practical outlets.
But you may have other ideas on how to spend this significant day.
Have you enlisted another meaningful way to honor the anniversary of your deceased love one that I failed to mention? If so, let us know in the comment section below!