What to do on the first anniversary of a loved one’s death?

The year after a loved one’s death is a year of firsts – firsts that you never wanted to have. The first birthday without them, the first wedding anniversary, the first Christmas, first events that you would usually take them with as a plus one, and more. When that year is done, we also have the first anniversary of their passing. Do you commemorate it? Do you organise something with family and friends? Do you just let the day pass without even thinking about it? These decisions are all up to you.

You might feel like you want to remember this day and have a special event or moment, be it by yourself or with special people. You might want to use the day to remember how far you have come or to share fond memories and celebrate your loved one’s life because even though they are gone, the impact they had will remain with you forever. If you don’t know what to do one year “after,” we have some ideas that you can use and personalise.


Mementoes are any items that remind you of your loved one. It is often a photo, an item of clothing you have kept, a song that they always listened to, etc.

In the past year, you may have found it too difficult to look at the photos or hear the song because it makes you too sad. On this day, take a moment to feel those emotions again. Maybe you can go through the photos with a smile on your face as you remember the moments in which they were taken or maybe you can cherish the song that they loved so much.

You could decide to declutter your phone by organising the photos you have, removing some of them and leaving just the ones that mean the most to you. You could make a memory album for yourself and share it with the friends and family members of the one that passed.

If your local radio station has a certain program during the week where you can request songs for a special occasion, you could commemorate the day by doing just that in honour of your loved one.

Revisit a special place

Places have memories attached to them. Maybe you often went to a specific spot on the beach together. Maybe you had a favourite restaurant you enjoyed frequenting. Maybe there is a monument or park that was special to you both.

On this day, you could revisit those places with your loved one in mind. As you spend time there, actively remember your moments together at that place. You might shed a tear but remembering them is a healing exercise and a release of emotion also helps you deal with the grief you feel.

If your loved one has been buried, their ashes placed in a columbarium, or scattered somewhere meaningful to them, you could decide to spend a bit of time there to reminisce.

Have a celebration

If you don’t want to spend the day alone, it could be a great idea to organise a party in honour of the departed. Invite people that were actively involved in the departed’s life, his/her close friends and family, for a braai or an afternoon get together. Let them know what the occasion is and that you would like to share memories and try to let go of some of the grief that some of you might still be living with. Incorporate the mementoes you have like the photos and music.

Marking the anniversary of a loved one’s death does not mean that you are still living in the past and incapable of letting them go. After a year, you might still be going through aspects of the grieving process yourself and finally coming to terms with what it really means to live in a world where they are not present. Marking the day can help you cope with your grief and if you decide to share the day with others, it could help them too.