Journaling through Grief, Part 8 – Anniversaries and Other Annual Reminders 2

“The bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” ― Anne Lamott


This is Part 8 of the Journaling Through Grief Series.

WHEN YOU HAVE lost someone, whether through death or divorce or estrangement, certain days on the calendar take on an entirely new meaning. Holidays like Christmas and Valentine’s Day, or anniversaries and birthdays may intensify or trigger powerful feelings of grief. And days you once associated with joy and shared experiences, may now bring dread instead of anticipation. 

That person who was once in your life is now missing from these celebrations. And you may feel a tendency or desire to withdraw, hide, bury the pain as deep as you can until the day is done and you can resume your normal life again.

How else can you make your grief bearable?

It’s important to acknowledge that holidays and anniversaries will be different and that they can also be difficult.

It may seem nonintuitive, but one of the proven ways to manage your grief and honor your lost loved one is to focus on the good memories.

When you focus on the good times and the love you shared, it doesn’t take the pain away, but can shift the intensity of your emotions. You may find yourself laughing over a memory of something funny they did or said. You may find yourself reliving a sweet moment you had together. Or you may find yourself crying. And that’s okay. There are no rules to grief. It’s messy, and you need to do what nurtures you.


Here are a few writing prompts that can help:

  • Write a letter or card to your loved one in which you tell them how you feel about them.
  • Write the story of a particular date or holiday that you had together and that stands out in your memory.
  • Complete the following prompts –
    • If ______ were here right now, we would…
    • If ______ could talk to me right now, she/he/they would say…
    • The thing I remember most about _______ on this day is the way she/he/they would…
  • Write a response to the following quote by John Green: “We all want to do something to mitigate the pain of loss or to turn grief into something positive, to find a silver lining in the clouds. But I believe there is real value in just standing there, being still, being sad.”


In addition to writing, here are some actions you can take to help navigate the day:

  • Create a ritual of remembrance. This could include lighting a candle and placing it on small altar with their picture and maybe a few of their favorite items.
  • Create a new tradition in memory of your loved one.
  • Make a donation in their name to a charity of your choice, appropriate to the holiday.
  • Plant a tree as a memorial.
  • Go to a place you used to like to go to together and spend time with your memories.
  • If you’re the social type, gather together some friends that knew your loved one and talk about your fond and funny memories of them.
  • Put out a special container where you and others can write down and store memories you have all treasured.  Pick a time to read them together.

If your loss is recent, and none of the above speaks to you, you may want to attend a grief group or counseling session. Or, it can also help to surround yourself with people you love and who will give you space to simply be with the emotions you’re experiencing.

Finally, remember that it’s okay to be laugh and be happy when it happens. Feeling happy doesn’t diminish how much you love and miss the person who is no longer present on important holidays or anniversaries. Laughter is an integral part of both grieving and healing, so welcome it when it comes. And know that the person you’re missing would be laughing with you.

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.” ― Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts On Common Things



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2 thoughts on “Journaling through Grief, Part 8 – Anniversaries and Other Annual Reminders

  • Sara Etgen-Baker

    How timely, Amber. Today marks the 17-year anniversary of my mother’s passing. Today I wrote a letter to her telling her how much I missed her and commending her for being the quintessential mother and friend that she was to me. Doing so helped me at a soul level as I deal with her absence from my life.

    • Amber Lea Starfire Post author

      Thank you for sharing your experience with us, Sara. And you’ve also provided a wonderful example of both how our loss remains with us and how to manage these often painful anniversaries. May you continue to be comforted.