On the anniversary of traumatic events, people often find that they experience an increase in distressing memories of the event. When you have lost a child or a sibling these memories may be triggered by reminders you are aware of, but they may also seem to come from out of the blue. This “anniversary reaction” is a normal and often expected part of the bereavement process. It can range from feeling mildly upset for a day or two to a more extreme reaction in which you might experiences significant symptoms. Here are five things you can do to help you prepare as the date approaches.

  1. Take the day off—you may take off from work or from your regular routine. Give yourself permission to make the day different.
  2. Plan a ritual to acknowledge your lost loved one—light candles, plant flowers, release balloons, eat their favorite meal or anything that helps you focus on the important part they play in your life.
  3. Put a few trusted people on call—You know who your go-to people are. Warn them that you may need a little more TLC on this day.
  4. Write a letter to you lost loved one—Some people write a letter every year and it is a part of their ongoing rituals. Some people write once, and appreciate the catharsis. Find what works for you.
  5. Let the rituals evolve—give yourself permission to repeat those things that work and try new ones as you proceed through your grief journey. The date may be the same each year but you are always changing and your needs and rituals may change, too.