As years go by
During the year after a loved one has died, there will be 12 months of anniversaries to face – that person’s birthday, the first Christmas, perhaps a wedding anniversary? While there is every chance that your friends and family may remember that special person’s birthday and send a message or a card, it is likely that, 12 months down the road, they might not recall the exact day your loved one passed away. You, of course, will have it etched on your mind…
So, what to do on that anniversary? You might decide to have a meal with your immediate family, perhaps you’ll light a candle, raise a glass or visit their grave or a favourite place – or maybe you’ll look at it as ‘another day’, put your head down and try to get through it…
We spoke to one of our families recently and although it’s only a few months since her father passed away, she has already made plans to go out for the day with her immediate family on the anniversary. They’ve booked tickets and it’s in their diaries – and knowing these arrangements are in place has given them all some comfort.
Somebody else we spoke to recently told us that she’d been really worried about facing the 10-year anniversary of the death of her daughter.
“It was a date which seemed to be looming up on me and, in the end, my partner suggested that we visit the Royal Marsden in Sutton where she died,” she says. “When we walked in, the nurse who was on duty that day ten years ago was there. My daughter had died on a significant date – so the nurse knew exactly what we were doing there and said her first thought that morning had been my daughter. So, it felt right that we were there.”
For some of our families, it’s the day when they decide to scatter a loved one’s ashes or they visit their grave to leave some flowers.
In our culture, there isn’t really a set procedure for this day. In the Jewish community though, it is a day which is marked. The death anniversary of a loved one is marked with the practise of ‘Yahrzeit’. During Yahrzeit, families will light a candle known as a Yahrzeit or ‘yizkor’ candle, which is designed to burn for 24 hours.
In other parts of the world, there are rituals to celebrate death anniversaries. In Japan, these days are called either ‘meinichi’, ‘kijitsu’ or ‘kishin’. On that day, ceremonies usually involve visiting the grave of a loved one, praying and making offerings at altars or leaving items near the grave.
While there’s no set format to mark an anniversary of a loved one’s death – it can be a chance to talk about that person, which can help with the grieving process.
These days, support can also come via social media… while we might not feel up to phoning people or telling our colleagues at work that we’re feeling sad because it’s an anniversary, some people find that posting something on social media can be helpful.
“I had some lovely comments and memories about Mum when I posted on Facebook that it was the anniversary of the day she passed away,” somebody told us. “The things people said were so nice and, in some ways, I think people were more honest on there and felt more able to say what they felt than if they’d bumped into me on the High Street that day.”
Here at Tester & Jones we’ve found that our Bereavement Support Group is wonderful at looking after members who are struggling with an anniversary.
As member, Brenda, said: “People are such a tremendous support to each other and it’s lovely to chat. Sometimes people are down but we’re there for each other.”
If you’re about to face an anniversary, we hope that it’s a chance to think about special memories. However, if you’re struggling, do feel that you can get in touch with us for some advice or where to go for some help.