What should you say on the anniversary date of a loved one’s death?

by Practical Guidance, Wisdom, Wisdom Podcasts6 comments

A reader wrote, “What should you say on the anniversary of a loved one’s death? I’m not sure if I should mention the anniversary or not.” The fact that you are asking this question is wonderful and shows thoughtfulness.  The people who are grieving will be so pleased and touched in their hearts that someone else remembers their ongoing grief and the one who has died.

Why It Is Important to Honor the Deceased

The book, Helping a Neighbor in Crisis gives us this very helpful perspective about whether or not to say anything as the anniversary of a loved one’s death approaches:

“When there is a death, mark on next year’s calendar the date so you can remember the family in a special way.  Very few people remember the anniversary date of a death.  For those dearest to the deceased, however, that date is indelibly imprinted on their minds and in their hearts.  They will dread it.  Many experience a resurgence of sadness and depression, not only on the death anniversary date but for weeks preceding it.  To be remembered on these dates with a note, flowers, or other appropriate gift lets them know they are not alone in remembering.” 

Tips for What to Say or Do on the Anniversary Date of a Loved One’s Death

So, do reach out. Here are some suggestions for what to say or do.

Start a note or a conversation by expressing your sadness: “This must be a very difficult time for you as you remember the death of your dear son, Phillip. I am so sorry about your on-going sorrow,” or “Thinking of you this week.  Remembering.  We love you.”

Send a photo. If you have some pictures of the deceased, you could send some pictures with a note saying something like: “Remembering. . .  Thinking of you.” 

Send a note and share a memory. “Our families certainly have had a lot of fun together.  Sending hugs your way.  Remember when Joe caught this fish and thought he had caught the biggest fish ever?”

Thank you, dear reader for being sensitive to your friend’s grief. 

For more information on this topic, visit our Caring for the Grieving resources page.



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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. Joyce

    Karen, I loved this blog…it was interesting that when I looked at it, the date circled on the calendar was the 17th of the month…that was the day that my dad passed away – May 17th.

    Just this week, I got an e-mail from someone that I had never met that knew my dad. He told me what a blessing and godly example my dad had been to him. That was such a blessing.

    Yes, you are right, we do want to hear the good stories about our loved ones. It makes them feel closer, even for a minute. Thanks for sharing!

  2. guin

    What advice would you give on how to help a former caregiver who’s homecare choices made on behalf of loved one ended tragically? Deep grief, says faith shattered and as time passes seems what once believed is being dismantled bit-by-bit. Anniversaries of death are very painful for them. Just came across your site today. Bless you for the work you do to help heal broken and shattered hearts. Thank you

  3. Issy

    In a few days, it will be my grandmothers birthday. A year ago my grandfather (her husband) died on her birthday. His last words were “Happy Borthday Charlie” and then he laid down for a nap and never woke up. It’s going to be a sad, terrible day for her and I have no idea what to say to her…

  4. Michelle Alberti

    I’m in the need of a little bit of help I don’t know what to say to a friend who has lost his girlfriend the one year anniversary is coming up and I’m clueless as to what to say to him I’m not sure if I have the right to maybe it might hit a spot and it might offend him we have gotten really close in just four months I don’t know what to say? Please help ?

  5. Sue

    Every year on the anniversary of my husband’s death, I post a picture of him and write something on Facebook. It is usually what I am thinking about at that particular time. I have trouble with what to write because I am remarried but I don’t want it to take away from my current marriage. Any suggestions?

  6. Lorina Duro

    i am supposed to give a message at my friends son one year death our tradition we unvail his head stone he was a believer but got in an argument with his girlfriend, and end up, taking fentanyl, and passed away

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