After losing a loved one, grief becomes a battle that you wage often, especially around the anniversary of your loss. In psychology, we call this the “anniversary effect.” The anniversary effect is when disturbing events and the feelings, thoughts, or memories surrounding them impact your mental health. This leads to feelings of deep sadness, irritability, anxiety, emotional shutdown, or difficulty sleeping.

All of this directly relates to a calendar event like a birthday, the date of a miscarriage, or the anniversary of an assault or accident. This also occurs on the anniversary of the death of a loved one. It’s a signal that you’ve yet to resolve the trauma or are still processing your grief.

Sad guy sitting outside

How to cope with the anniversary of a loss

The first step to dealing with any grief is acknowledging that you still need to process and work through it. Many people feel as though once you’ve gone through all five stages of grief, the process is over, but that’s not the case. Grief can come up again days, months, and of course, years, after the loss of a loved one. Let’s talk about some ways to cope with the anniversary effect.

Commemorate your loved one

Although it might be tempting to push the grief aside and focus on something else entirely, it’s important for your mental health for you to honor the memory of your loved one. There are traditional methods of honoring the dead, like visiting the cemetery to deliver flowers. Here are some other ways you can honor their memory:

Sign up for a charity event associated with how your loved one (i.e. St. Joseph Children’s Hospital or Crossroads Hospice Charitable Foundation)
Donate to a non-profit that you’re loved one supported or one that supports others like them
Make their favorite meal and share it with friends
Throw them a celebration of life with your loved ones
The key to these coping mechanisms is creating a social or community impact through your grief. Channeling your sadness into a positive impact can help you feel empowered and liberated.

Self-care is essential

It sounds like a tired bit of advice, but it’s absolutely essential to take care of yourself during times of grief. Eating healthy foods and drinking plenty of water primes your brain and body to cope with the emotional turbulence of your loss. Daily movement, even gentle movement like yoga or a walk outside, helps you stay grounded in the present and avoid ruminating on the past. It’s equally important to spend time outdoors and get fresh air for the same reasons.

Breathing exercises and meditation are extremely useful tools for dealing with the stress of grief. It may also be helpful to play music or do something you’re good at to boost your spirits. If you feel inspired to create a piece of artwork, like a memory box or collage, do it! This helps your mind process the grief in a positive way.

Accept the help you need

It’s easy to get caught up in trying to process the loss on your own. Your family and loved ones, especially those who might also be grieving the same person, are there for you. This support and community are a key part of recovery and processing loss. Talk with them about how you’re feeling, share fond memories of your past with the person you’re grieving, and take comfort in the presence of another person.

The help of a professional therapist is another great way to help you process your grief. Trained professionals can help you discover which coping mechanisms work best for you. They may also be the listening ear or shoulder to cry on you feel you need. Reach out soon, and let’s talk about how to help you forge a path forward through your grief.