Grief Support on Anniversaries, Birthdays and Special Occasions

Hands with a wreath of leaves symbolizing Grief Support on Anniversaries, Birthdays and Special Occasions

When you’re supporting a friend through their grief, look to the calendar for cues about when they might need extra care. Holidays, special occasions and certain anniversaries can be particularly painful—and not just in the first year.

Acknowledging those days with a call, message or card is a thoughtful way to check in and offer comfort. If you’re close friends or want to extend some extra support, here are some ideas.

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Anniversary of diagnosis or death  

The days and weeks leading up to the one-year mark are filled with memories. Check in to see how your friend is feeling: They might welcome a chance to get together, talk about their feelings or share stories. You might also:

  • Get together—online or in-person—to toast their loved one.
  • Personalize a gift with the deceased’s favorite song lyrics or quote or frame a picture of a happy time together.
  • Create a tribute with music, pictures and quotes and send them the link.
  • Mail a note to your friend and tell them you’re thinking of them and hoping they feel extra loved and cared for today.

Birthdays  

A card is always appropriate and gives your friend a tangible reminder of your care. Here are a few ideas for what to say:

  • “Remembering your sweet mom today. I’ll always miss her.”
  • “Your sister always threw the best parties. Raising a glass to her today.”
  • “Today’s a special day because we’re remembering a really special person. Thinking of you and having a slice of chocolate cake in Bill’s honor.”
  • “Just wanted to let you know I’m sending a little more love your way today. If you’re up for it, I’d like to take you out for Libby’s favorite dinner.”
  • “Happy Birthday to your precious little one. His bright smile is forever in our hearts.”

If you know they’d prefer time alone or with their immediate family, you might offer to make a meal or have one delivered. (Here are some suggestions for comforting meals.) Or send their loved one’s favorite dessert or an indulgent, comforting treat.

You might also offer to take them to a familiar favorite restaurant, hangout spot or activity. Make it your treat, follow their lead and be present with them.

Valentine’s Day  

What your friend might need on Valentine’s Day depends on who they’ve lost: It might just be a day to remind them they’re loved, or they might be missing their romantic rituals or family celebrations. Some ideas to consider:

  • Text your friend to tell them how loved they are.
  • Have heart-shaped cookies or a bouquet of flowers delivered.
  • Escape Valentine’s coupledom and go somewhere peaceful together. Maybe it’s a park where you can share a few memories while enjoying nature or a movie where you can escape reality for a couple of hours.
  • Get a sample of their loved one’s handwriting and order a custom piece of jewelry or embroider it onto a handkerchief.

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day  

Loss of a parent can make these annual celebrations bittersweet. Here are a few ways to support your friend in their grief:

  • Put a photo in a pretty locket or frame (hint: social media is filled with great photo finds) and give it to your friend over brunch.
  • Have their mom’s favorite flowers, dad’s favorite plant or a favorite meal or dessert delivered.
  • Send a card or letter recounting a fond memory or favorite story. Remind them of the qualities their mother or father passed along to them.

 

Here are more suggestions for supporting a friend who has lost a mother, baby or child on Mother’s Day and ways people remember their own parents on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

Winter holidays  

November and December are full of family traditions and can be especially difficult for those in mourning. Here are ideas for offering comfort and support during the holidays.

Since you know your friend best, we know you’ll find a loving and meaningful way to show them you care. Most of all, think about their needs and what they may be feeling, then let that guide your heart. Your support will help carry them through…more than you’ll ever imagine.