3 Ways to Care for a Friend on the Anniversary of Their Loved One’s Death


Although many anniversaries are happy, some are steeped in sadness. If someone you know will soon experience the anniversary of a loved one’s death, please don’t stay silent; they need to hear that you care. Here are three ideas to help the grieving remember their loved one.                             

Remind them their loved one was “legendary.” 

Even though my mother died nearly two decades ago, when I read blogger John Pavlovitz’s post, Death of a Household Name, I cried anew. My tears flowed as my soul said, “Yes. I too had a mother who was a superstar in my story. I miss her and want the world to know how great she was.”   

John Pavlovitz writes, “…I want you to know that someone understands that you too have famous people who you’ve lost; legendary, monumental, household names whose passing changed your personal history irrevocably. For you their death has been more earth-shattering and path-altering than any celebrated singer or politician or humanitarian or athlete. They were the peerless superstars of your story and I know how hard it is to be without them, how much it hurts to grieve them, how much you wish the world knew of their greatness and goodness…”

If you knew the deceased well, you could send a note to their loved one, telling them of a fond memory that shows they were indeed “legendary” to you. Here are my favorite tips for writing notes. Or perhaps you could text or email a link of Johns blog post to your friend and write, “I thought of [name of deceased] when I read this.”

Envelop your friend with comfort.

One very tangible way to comfort your friend is to give them an item that “covers them” with loving thoughts. Buy a blanket, the coziest throw you can find and write a note that says something like, “Praying that you will feel the love and comfort of God and friends surrounding you.”
If you’re handy, you could also knit your friend a prayer shawl. When my husband Larry had back surgery, our church sent Larry a prayer shawl along with a note from the knitter with the prayer that she said each time she worked on Larry’s shawl. That was many years ago and this beautiful gift is still used and brings comfort.

Janet Bristow, co-founder of Shawl Ministry writes that, “Prayer shawls wrap, enfold, comfort, cover, give solace, mother, hug, shelter and beautify.”  I am not an experienced knitter, but using these simple directions I was able to knit a Prayer Shawl for a granddaughter who was in the Peace Corp.  When I sent her the gift, I included a small notebook with the thoughts and prayers I used when knitting her shawl. 

Acknowledge their grief.

Acknowledge that your friend may still feel grief, even years after their loved one’s death. Perhaps they will enjoy the book Tear Soup:  A Recipe for Healing After Loss, by Pat Schwiebert & Chuck DeKlyen. This book is unique in that it looks like a beautifully illustrated children’s book, but it is for adults and children. It also describes many of the thoughts and emotions which a person experiences when they are grieving the death of a loved one. You may wish to include a note, such as, “Just wanted you to know that I am remembering you and your pain and praying for you during this difficult time of the year.” 

Encouraging words.  A blanket.  A book.  May these three suggestions be helpful to you as you reach out and care for someone on the anniversary of their loved one’s death. 

For more ideas of how to care for someone on the anniversary of their loved-one’s death, see: 

What Should You Say on the Anniversary Date of a Loved One’s Death
Share a Memory on the Anniversary Date of a Loved One’s Death
Invite Conversation on the Anniversary Date of a Loved One’s Death
Light a Yahrzeit Candle on the Anniversary of a Loved One’s Death

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