Remembering Loved Ones on Holidays, Anniversaries and Special Days

Special days play a role in keeping alive the memories of loved ones who have died, but they can also be bittersweet experiences for if you are still in mourning.

A woman looks out a window at the rain

Anniversaries, holidays and birthdays have the power to trigger memories of good times past. They remind survivors, sometimes painfully, that your loved one isn’t here this year.

But special days can also provide opportunities to remember the good times that were once shared with loved ones. They give you a chance to think about, talk about or take actions that honor someone who continues to be special and important. They create occasions to invite others to join your process of remembering.

There’s no one “right way” to honor a holiday, anniversary or special day. Each person, each memory is special. Consider your options and choose the activities that are most meaningful to you and to the memories you want to honor on behalf of your loved one.

Start By Asking Questions:

  • What outcomes would I like? What do I hope to experience or express?
  • What memories or values of my loved one will I honor? What sentiments will I express?
  • Will I do this privately? Tell others later? Invite others to an event?
  • Will this be a standalone event or part of another event? Where? When?
  • Will be planned or spontaneous? Will it involve informal sharing, reading, symbolic action or something else?
  • Will it result in something tangible, such as the dedication or a memorial, a donation, a fund or community service in honor of a loved one?

Consider A Range of Ideas...and Choose Personally:

  • Light a memorial candle at the table or for several hours on a special day.
  • Plan a remembering celebration with family or friends. Exchange stories about your loved one. Serve his or her favorite foods. Share a toast.
  • Duplicate and frame favorite photo(s) of your loved one for family gifts.
  • Make a list of all the ways your loved one enriched your life and continues to influence you.
  • Visit favorite places and savor the memories you and your loved one share.
  • Do something your loved one enjoyed: Attend a play, concert, theme park or baseball game.
  • Plant a tree, dedicate a memorial brick or a park bench in your loved one’s name.
  • Create something: a quilt or teddy bear from your loved one’s favorite clothes.
  • Plant a garden or set up a bird feeder in your loved one’s favorite place.
  • Arrange for remembrance of your loved one at a Mass or other religious service.
  • Donate flowers/plants to your church, synagogue or place of worship in honor of your loved one.
  • Donate objects or materials to be used in worship or education in your loved one’s name.
  • Set up a memorial scholarship or fund in honor of your loved one.
  • Make a donation to your loved one’s favorite charity.
  • Volunteer your time to a person in need or to an organization in honor of your loved one.
  • Visit/bring flowers to the cemetery.

Choose what feels right to mark a special birthday, anniversary or holiday in honor of your loved one. Even though that person is no longer here, remember that he or she continues to make a difference in your life.

Find out if hospice care could help your loved one.


Join our email list for webinars, Hospice care news & more.