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Remembering Loved Ones on Special Days

After losing a loved one, special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas can be especially difficult. Each of us is unique, dealing with grief in our own way. By choosing how to remember your loved one on special occasions, they can continue to be part of your life.  

Some dates are personal, such as your anniversary with your loved one or their birthday. Others are public ‘events’ such as Christmas when the pressure to celebrate and spend time with family seems to be everywhere.

These specific times can often be a time of greater emotion and grief as well as reflection and dilemma … such as: “Should I be celebrating Christmas?” or “How do I mark my loved one’s birthday?”

Candle to remember a loved one

Here are some ideas for remembering a loved one on special occasions:

  1. Reflection – lighting a candle, treasuring memories (with others or on your own) or arranging a religious service can provide an opportunity to quietly remember your loved one.
  2. Celebrate! As hard as it can be, some people find it helpful to turn a potentially sad occasion into a happy one. This especially helps if your loved one loved life and enjoyed a celebration.
  3. Plants – some people buy a plant on each anniversary … one that reminds them of their loved one. It stays with them at home and reminds them of the person who’s died. Others like to plant a tree to commemorate a loved one’s birthday.
  4. Take on a challenge! Some people enjoy walking, others like to volunteer … doing something different and outside your home can help you cope with special occasions.
  5. Do something your loved one enjoyed, such as eating their favourite food, visiting their favourite places, or watching a film or play they enjoyed.
  6. Cards to remember – some people gain comfort from keeping the last birthday or Christmas card they received from their loved one and displaying it each year, keeping them a part of the day.
  7. Create a keepsake – making something like a quilt or teddy bear from your loved one’s favourite clothes can be a comfort all year and particularly on special occasions.


Everyone is different and it’s important to acknowledge how you feel. Some people like the comfort of keeping their traditions on special occasions, such as Christmas. Others prefer to create new ways of celebrating. Some people don’t observe the first Christmas without their loved one. There is no right or wrong choice.

Lastly, remember that it’s ok to treat the day as any other if that’s what feels right to you. The important aspect is to take care of yourself and to share your plans and feelings with those closest to you.