Birthdays and Death Anniversaries can be difficult to endure while grieving. Doing something special on those days can help in many ways. For me, the days leading to a milestone day are actually more anxiety and depression filled than the actual day itself. I find that planning something special helps distract me and alleviate some of the emotions during that time. Here are some ideas, both large and small scale, that might help you on those difficult days.
Plan a fundraiser
Fundraisers are a wonderful way to share your loved one's memory. You can do something online with programs like GoFundMe, directly on Facebook, or you can host your own fundraising event. The 10 Steps to a Successful Fundraising Event is a great place to start planning your event. Some ideas for donating your proceeds include charity organizations, scholarship funds, or even a local non-profit. A few of my favorite charities include St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, my local Ronald McDonald House, and The Wounded Warrior Project because a greater amount of my donation goes to the actual charity and not administrative costs. It is super important to research how your donation will be used! You could also start your own 501c3 Non-Profit and continue to donate to causes in your loved one’s name.
Light a Candle or Have a Candle Lighting Ceremony
Lighting a candle can be a comforting ritual to honor your loved one. Many organizations organize candlelight ceremonies for events and holidays, such as the Worldwide Candle Lighting with Compassionate Friends or the Wave of Light in October for pregnancy and infant loss. The act of lighting a candle encourages you to focus on your loved one and the memories you have of them. For me, having a candle lit is like a beacon to Liam, bringing his spirit to me and comforting me with his presence. You can read about how LJG Candles are perfect for your candle lighting ceremony here. You can also create your own personal candle at my website, completely customized for you with a token or charm inside the candle to have as a keepsake after the candle is gone.
Have a Memorial Release
Memorial releases are a wonderful way to celebrate your loved one. Not only do you release a “gift” to your loved one, but you also release some of the pain of their loss. Check out my post 5 Release Ideas for your Memorial Ceremony or Celebration of Life for some of my favorite ideas, including my favorite paper boat release. This is a great way to include other family members and friends who want to remember your loved one with you. Though it may not coincide with your loved one’s birthday or angelversary, you should definitely check out the Shinnyo Lantern Floating Hawai`i. Each year on Memorial Day, thousands of lanterns are released at Ala Moana Beach with messages to lost loved ones. My parents happened to be in Hawaii the year after Liam died and came across this ceremony completely coincidentally. They released lanterns for Liam and my Nana who passed just a couple months after Liam. The best part about this ceremony is that even if you can’t make it there, you can submit your message online and one of their volunteers will include it in the lanterns! They have a live broadcast so you can see the lanterns released. It is absolutely magical, even online. They also retrieve as many lanterns as possible to reuse in later years to help the environment.
Plant a Memorial Tree or Garden
I love this idea because you are adding new life to the world. What better way to honor your loss than to create life? Seeds of Life is a great website to find trees you can plant yourself, The Trees Remember plants memorial trees in National Forests, or you can check out your local park district. Our park district offers several tree varieties that are planted with a memorial plaque at the base of the tree. You can also create your own memorial garden in your yard as a place to sit and reflect on your loved one. My Pinterest Board, The Space Between Us, has some awesome memorial garden ideas. This is also a great way to display any of those memorial garden stones you received from friends and family members.
Random Acts of Kindness
Many of the loss parents I’ve met have some amazing RAK movements. Here are some great act of kindness ideas. One idea I really like is creating a hashtag on Instagram for others to share how they are doing acts of kindness in your loved one’s honor. This can be just on their birthday or angel day, or all year long! On Liam’s first birthday in heaven we went to Build-A-Bear and made a special bear in his honor. It was a great way to include our oldest son who was only three at the time. When we paid, we asked the cashier to add a gift card to our order, and then use that gift card to pay for a bear for another little boy who came in that day. I’ve seen people pay for birthday cakes at bakeries, which I think I would love to do too! You could also volunteer your time at a soup kitchen, nursing home, or anywhere you think your help would make a difference.
Do Something That Reminds You of Them
My husband and I are Italian, and nothing is more comforting to us than the smell of garlic and onions in our home. We make homemade pasta sauce on Liam’s Birthday and Angel Day every year. We then gift the sauce to our friends and family who remember Liam with us. They love Liam’s sauce! Some friends go out to eat at their loved one’s favorite restaurant and pay for another person’s meal. Other’s visit their resting place to decorate and remember. The important part is to remember them with a happy heart.