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

by Practical Guidance17 comments

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 John’s 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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Karen Mulder

Karen Mulder

Karen Mulder is the founder of the Wisdom of the Wounded ministry. She lives in Holland, Michigan with her husband Larry.


  1. Ann C

    I lost my sister and brother 14 months apart. We were Ike the 3 Musketeers. We planned a fun activity at least once per week. We came from a large family. 9 siblings. Since my brother’s death last October, I am alone. I spent most of my 73 years taking care of my parents, husband, 3 children , 9 grandchildren and my 2 great grandchildren. I’m no longer wanted or needed. Grief has accumulated and is overwhelming. None of my children or grandchildren even attended the funerals. It’s all overwhelming. I am always front and center in everyone’s need, so this is so painful.

  2. Charlotte Hribar

    We are currently engaging in a bereavement support ministry and value your thoughts.

  3. Brenda Pogue

    In 6 years, I lost 16 people in my family, starting w/my son & only child at age 33, his ex-wife, 2 aunts, my mother, my husband, and cousins. As a results, I have tried to reach out to other grieving persons, especially prior to the holidays. I am a retired MSW social worker and reaching out to other grieving persons has become a personal mission for me. I welcome any information that I can use to help other grieving persons.

  4. Pat

    Write down all of your thoughts and feelings. Read them out loud or write to a particular list loved one. Tell them everything going through your heart and mind. Again. Read it out loud to the person. Then or while doing this cry or whatever you are feeling.

  5. Billie Tinnin

    My husband of 34 years 8 months and 20 days went to be with the Lord December 2020. On our 30th wedding anniversary l didn’t even realize what day it was although I wrote some checks and put the date on them and put them in my check register. I didn’t remember until my daughter came home and asked me how my day. Just like God knew that I didn’t need to be by myself when my husband went to be with the Lord, God knew l didn’t need to remember it was our wedding anniversary until l wasn’t by myself.

  6. CindyHampshire

    My daughter was everything killed by a drunk driver. 11 months earlier I lost my sister. She was my daughter. I have no family left. It hurts every day

  7. Peggy Furey

    I identify with everyone on this feed, having lost my only child Kevin in 1987.

  8. Janet moody

    Lost my son and my mom 6 months apart…..no one even called! I know that people don’t want to hear you sad…….

  9. Sarah

    I recently lost my sister to Covid. The pain is mostly regrets. I should have gone to see her when she asked, but, I thought we had more time. I take solice in knowing she love me and I her. While the body is gone, the love remains.

  10. anne cauthen

    i lost my husband 9 years ago … its hard at the holidays , with out him i miss him so much , love him.

  11. Carolyn Canny

    I think this is a valuable tool to heal & also to support one aother

  12. Arvella Dupre

    I lost my husband of 56 1/2 years 4 1/2 years ago. Although we had both lost our parents in their later years we had each other to comfort us. Losing my husband left me feeling so lost in spite of still being close to my daughter and her family.
    By the Grace of God I became involved in a program called GriefShare. It is an international, non denomination, faith based program. It was my salvation in helping me to get through the most difficult time in my life and is still helping me. I am now a facilitator in our local program.
    Losing a loved one is not a grief one can do alone. This program will connect you with others who are walking the same journey.
    To find out more about it and where there is a group in your vicinity go to GriefShare.org. Help is there!!!

  13. Nancy Hromek

    The first anniversary of my husband’s death is in 3 days. He died without warning, in my arms. We were married almost 60 years. The emptiness is immeasurable. I miss him every minute of every hour of every day.

  14. Nanette Eastland

    My son committed suicide on February 1st, 2022. He was 27. I now believe he was on the down-side of a manic depressive episode, but I had no idea at the time. It has rocked this family’s world. This is my first encounter with this beast called grief, …a deep pain that doesn’t go away, and I think I would be afraid if it did. I read a social media post from a friend of mine who lost her daughter and it was about other people being afraid to speak about your deceased loved one or even say their name because they are afraid it would be too upsetting for you. JUST THE OPPOSITE IS TRUE…. Please say their name! Please talk about my son, he did exist, and still does in my heart! It’s more comforting to me to hear someone speak of him, recall a memory they have if they knew him, or if they didn’t know him, to just ask me anything about him. I LOVED HIM SO MUCH!!
    Through this all, I am grateful to know Jesus Christ as my Savior. I can’t think of anything that comforts me more than Jesus being the best friend I could ever have, especially through this. And I know my son is with him, and I will see him again when it’s my time to go.

  15. Judy Connor

    I have found help being involved in my women’s Bible study and my church. I also unexpectedly loss my husband about ten years ago. I miss him but I have learned I am going to be ok. The first year I was a robot and walking in a fog. I was directed toward a grief ministry called GriefShare. It’s a 13 week Christ centered ministry. I now have facilitated this ministry for 6 years. It helped me heal plus we help others on their grief journeys. You never stop grieving because you loved that person. You learn to move forward with your life but it takes time. Turning to the Lord to help you I found to be an answer.

  16. Kathie

    The Seventh-Day Adventist Church offers a grief recovery program given by Pastor Mike Tucker. He was supporting persons who lost loved ones and then lost his wife to cancer. It is a very good video and discussion program. It is very helpful to those who are looking for help after their loss. We lost our son when he was 16 and then I lost my husband and sister. Loss is never easy and we never forget them.

  17. Patty

    I lost my husband the love of my life November 15 2022 . The day before our 14th anniversary. Unfortunately I’m not close to his daughter s at all . He son lives in the same town as I do. They have been wonderful to. It doesn’t seem that they think if they talk about my amazing husband that it would upset me . I want to talk about him and learn more about him. We got married in our 50’s . There is so much more I would love to know about him being a Dad.I’m very close to his parents and I thank God for them everyday.

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