Anniversary Grief: How to Handle Tough Anniversaries


The past couple of weeks, I have felt “off” without much reason. I could not put my finger on it until I realized that the people around me were a little “off” too. Then I realized what was happening: anniversary grief. 

What is Anniversary Grief? 

Anniversaries are usually a good thing. They are a time to celebrate another year of something wonderful. But, anniversaries can also be tough. They can be reminders of days we wish we did not have to remember. My mom sent me the picture below and said, “You looked so unhappy.” The truth is, I was. Three weeks before this picture was taken, my husband texted me that he wanted a divorce. Two weeks before this picture was taken my grandfather was taken to the hospital with Covid and no one was allowed to see him. This day was the last day my grandpa was able to call us. Two years ago, around this exact time, life just didn’t seem fair. 

mom with kids

On April 21st, it is the anniversary of my Papa’s passing and April 25th would have been his birthday. As we come up on the 2nd year without him, we are all in a funk. We wish he was here for Easter brunch, and for a yummy birthday cake. But he isn’t and that is hard to swallow. 

How to Handle Tough Anniversaries

One thing I know is that the feelings are going to come whether you want to acknowledge them or not. The best way past them is through them. Whether you are remembering the day someone past, a birthday they did not make it to, a due date that never came, or any other day on the calendar, remember, this too shall pass.

1. Try to start new traditions.

These dates will always be hard. Surround yourself with family and the people you love. I remember last year, on the anniversary of my grandpas passing, we all went out to dinner! My grandma, mom, sister, aunts, kids… everyone. It is exactly what he would have wanted.

2. Talk about it.

It may feel uncomfortable to talk about an unhappy moment but I have found that talking about the hard part leads to remembering some of the best memories. My grandpa was in the hospital for 3 weeks without anyone able to visit. We were constantly calling nurses and checking records online. It was probably the toughest 3 weeks we have gone through as a family. When we talk about these moments, we also talk about the fact that we all showed up for each other. We talk about the amazing things the nurses would tell us about him. There is always light, even in the dark.

Image: A granddaughter with her grandfather

If you find you are in a hard season, remember it is just that… a season, and all seasons pass. Sending love to all of you reading this. 

Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in the hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.

–Jaime Anderson