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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How important is remembering anniversaries, and establishing rituals if someone has passed away?

  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 1


    The Compassionate Friends is a peer support organisation offering friendship and understanding to bereaved parents and siblings following the death of a son or daughter, … View Profile

    We have discovered, as many others have, that especially acknowledging birthdays, anniversaries and other special days related to a loss, is an important part of learning to move on and handle our loss.

    Some researchers suggest that using rituals to hold us against a terrible loss is a more manageable (protective) alternative to facing the sheer ‘existential’ fear that is associated with traumatic losses such as the death of a loved one. The rituals (activities) established on these special days become a concrete focus for the loss, rather than direct contact with the mind-freezing deep-seated terror of the loss.

    Rituals help us make our grief concrete. They give us an uncomplicated focus for the day. They give the days purpose. They take our loved one’s memory out of our private thoughts and into the public arena, and make it easier to talk about him/her. They make us pause, even stop and reflect about our loved one and our ongoing life without him/her. We put life on hold for a time.

    We all have our own rituals. Some are planned (such as buying him or her a present each Christmas). Some are a natural occurrence that is just there from the beginning (such as visiting the grave). Some just grow (such as meeting his or her friends for a celebration).

    Build them. Treasure them. They are important, ongoing links to a loved one.

    The range of rituals are infinite, and they can be very simple. Here are some we have found useful:

    • Funerals
    • Wakes / memorial dinners/ services
    • A special place for burial or ashes
    • Visiting these places on special occasions, and sharing memories
    • Lighting candles
    • Photo walls or albums
    • Continuing to buy birthday/Christmas presents for a loved one. Eg plants, etc. Or giving these presents to a hospital, charity, … Setting a place at the table for the dead loved one on special occasions. Planting memorial plants that flower on or near special days (We planted a mollis azalea that bloomed on the anniversary of our son’s death).
    • Putting special messages in the papers each year.

  • Sheree Holland


    AFFIRMATIVE PSYCHOLOGY -MIAMI, GOLD COAST, BULK BILLING* (conditions apply). Affirmative Psychology - is a "niche" private psychology practice established by Sheree Principal/Psychologist/Principal so that the … View Profile

    Remembering anniversaries and establishing rituals is a very personal and individual thing. Once again different cultures, beliefs and practices may engage in certain rituals. For some people it is a way to give comfort, meaning and to celebrate the life and contribution of their loved one. Do what matters to you, and put in place some nurturing activities for yourself around this time as well. Seek professional Psychological assistance/therapy if your grief/loss is unresolved.

  • I am a psychologist in private practice.I also lecture and supervise psychologists/psychology students at University.I work with clients who suffer from depression and anxiety. I … View Profile

    People handle their grief differently. Some people feel comforted by rituals. Some of us set a place for our departed loved ones at Christmas. My general rule of thumb is that families and individuals choose ways of remembering their loved ones, that work for them. Don't be conderned about what others tell you that you should think, feel or do. Do what works for you. I hope this helps.

  • 1


    I have a speciality in grief and trauma, illness and disability. I have training in psychological debriefing after trauma and in supporting parents and carers. View Profile

    The answers given have all been sound.

    I will take a different angle and that is from the perspective of friends and supporters. Remembering anniversaries can be a very important way for people who are bereaved knowing that others are walking with them over the journey of recovery. Grief is a lonely journey. Bereaved people often find that there is a huge amount of support in the early days after the bereavement and then nothing. Secondary losses are also common as people try and build a new way of life. Most people do recover from loss but loss can leave a scar forever as the loved person is carried within another's heart. Actions of support and kindness are often deeply appreciated.

    Dr Annie Cantwell-Bartl
    Kensington Victoria

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