How To Acknowledge Their “Death-versary”

Many people refer to the date of their loved one’s death as an anniversary.  I can’t bring myself to do it.  It actually makes me cringe every time I try to say it or explain what October 9th means to me.  The word “anniversary” has an intended association with joy, celebration, and happiness, so why would I want to acknowledge the loss of my beloved Zach with this word?

None of us ever imagined having to say good-bye so soon, so suddenly, so tragically to the ones we love, which leads me to believe that none of us are feeling particularly celebratory as the date draws near.  We all have that one day.  A day filled with dread and loaded with dismal realizations; our own person D-Day.  No, I can’t bring myself to call it an anniversary so “death-versary” it is.  Sounds a bit morbid, I know.  But how else can I honestly begin to approach this day?

October 9, 2012 marks the one year death-versary of my fiancé, Zach.  It is unimaginable that he has been gone that long.  I have alternated so many times over the last year between feeling like he was just here a minute ago and feeling like he has already been gone for four lifetimes that I think I have given myself whiplash.  Life has continued to go on while I feel frozen in place.  Days have come and gone, and yet I feel like nothing has changed.  Over the last year my friends have gotten married, had babies, gotten new jobs, found new boyfriends, and bought houses.  My crowning accomplishment is that I woke up every day and went to work or school.  I got out of bed.  Seriously? That is my accomplishment?  That is all I have achieved?  Is that really all I am capable of doing now, without Zach?  I guess I should see it as surviving, but I have a sneaking suspicion that my aspirations should be higher than just getting by.

Whether I like it or not, the first year has passed.  One whole year without the person who gave my life meaning and filled my heart with unimaginable amount of love.  So how am I supposed to acknowledge this day?  How are any of us, the unwilling members of “Club Grief,” supposed to recognize this day for what it stands for?  For most of us this day signifies one of the absolute worst days of our entire lives,  filled with loss and devastation, questions that can never truly be answered.  So how should this day be spent? I wish I had the answer, any answer, but I think every single one of us must slowly live our way into our own answers.

I truly believe that even among those grieving the loss of the same person, there will be differing opinions about how to approach this day.  Some members of the family may want to do something to commemorate the day while others adamantly refuse.  Throughout grief we are forced to constantly make decisions like: what to do with their belongings, how to celebrate the holidays, what traditions to continue on with.  These difficult decisions are ones that family and friends may agree with or firmly disagree with.  The death-versary is just another one of those decisions and one I am currently faced with.

As October 9th has slowly crept closer I have been questioning what his family and I should do.  My initial plan was to organize a fundraising event in his memory and donate the money to the school Zach had been working at.  He had recently switched from teaching to being the Parent/Teacher Liaison, a Social Worker of sorts, for a county with tremendous struggles and needs.  The resource center he created during his time there was renamed the “Zach Zone” after we lost him.  The teachers have continued his work and tried to fill the gaping void he left behind, but there are still many community needs such as food, clothing, and school supplies.  I thought organizing an event for this would be the perfect way to honor his memory, his life, and his work while giving something to the community he did so much for.

But as this day got closer and closer, my plan started to lose its appeal.  I didn’t think I had it in me to coordinate an event like this and his parents agreed it’s just too soon.  It’s something we would like to do in the future, but for right now it’s simply too daunting of a task.  Our grief is too fresh and too painful to take on something like that right now.  So now what?  I am back to the original question of how to acknowledge this day.

Should I ignore the day and just go to work and school like normal and hope it will be distracting?  Should I take the day off and spend it hiding under the covers?  Should I go spend the day with family and rely on each other for support?  Should I visit his grave?  Should we have some kind of organized service?  Should our family go visit the family of his best friend, who was killed in the same car accident?  Should this day be no different than any other day?

I think it comes down to this; whatever ends up being the final decision it will never be enough or give me any sense of comfort.  He is still gone and the excruciating pain will still be there.

So how will you acknowledge your loved ones death-versary?  How will you honor their memory?  Have found yourself ignoring the day in the past but feel ready to honor their life now?  The answer to the question of how to acknowledge this dreaded day only lies within each and every one of us, and it is my hope that we will all one day manage to feel some semblance of peace.

Krista Brenner is a Canadian girl who met an American boy in Costa Rica and fell in love. When that boy, Zach, died in a car accident, Krista began to write about her life and her loss. You can read more of her work on her blog.


  1. Sarah Richardson said on March 21, 2014 at 4:27 pm ... #

    In 8 days I will be celebrating the first birthday of my only son, Nicholas. Thank God for him, but why is it that all I really want is for my brother Nickolas to be there to celebrate? It has been 5 years since I lost my only brother, best friend, and hero. There is not a day that goes by where he doesn’t pop in my mind at some point in the day. I cannot, at times, even breathe, still crying for my big bubba. I will never understand why he had to go so soon, all I know is that a part of me died right there with him on that hospital bed. I have learned to keep living. None of that crap people say like, “Time heals all wounds”, or “Just keep your head up.” is true. I simply learned how to keep living and am still doing the very best I can. There are times I still reach for the phone to try and call him when I’m down about something. I hate that he is not here. I hate that I have to watch my grandpa and mom both go eventually without him by my side to help me through it. I am a teacher, so my students keep me grounded, along with my almost one year old son of course. But sometimes I cannot help but to just sit and cry. Cry about the good times and bawl about when he started getting sick. I relive it even though I try so hard to block that part out. I’m reaching out for kind words, similar experiences, and people who just try to sympathize. I miss you Nickolas and I hope God lets you fly down for Baby Nick’s birthday party in 8 days. Please beg him because Lord knows I have been. Nothing else to say except I love and miss you with every ounce of my being.

  2. Jessica said on April 8, 2014 at 11:33 am ... #

    22 december 2013 the worst this is the official worst day of my life! I lost my boyfriend the guy that meant the world to me the guy I wanted to spend the rest of my life with! The guy I wanted a future with ! he was just 17 years old and commited suicide the questions that go through my head are why why why? Why did he leave me here why ddnt he tell me he needed me badly n that he couldn’t handle things any longer I ask of ways like why ddnt I go to him the saterday when he wanted to see me mayb he wanted to tell me 🙁 or why ddnt I send him a msge sunday morning to ask how his doing but no nothing! And there sunday morning 22 dec 2013 my bf hangd himself words cannot describe this pain and heartache I’m feeling thnkn of that day makes me sick to my stomach the day of his funeral I felt like dying right there! Sometimes I feel like commitng suicide too but then God is always there to pick me right back up thru Gods strenghth I am still here 2day n I thank God for each and everyday I’ve made thru without him I wouldn’t have been here 2day all I can do is give thanks to God n thank him that he gave me a chance to meet such an amazing guy although it was only for a short while but I’m very greatfull and I know my boyfriend is with me wherever I go I feel his presence sometimes n know that he is near.. I will ever stop loving him he will always own my heart! I just can’t wait for the day that I get too meet my baby again R.I.P Lando 🙂

  3. Anonymous said on May 4, 2014 at 10:54 pm ... #

    would like 2 know what 2 say when we lay our mom next 2 her husband at the his grave site.

  4. Anne said on May 6, 2014 at 3:48 pm ... #

    Tell a story about your mom. Use your fondest memories. x

  5. Deanne said on May 9, 2014 at 7:06 pm ... #

    Today is the 4th death versary of my fiancee Mike. He committed suicide on Mothers Day…May 9, 2010. The journey through grief has been unbearable at times. God bless the survivors, on their journey through the immense grief suicide leaves behind.

  6. Erica said on July 3, 2014 at 5:26 pm ... #

    I have lost a loved one[my mom] too and today is my moms “death-versary”.I was only in elementry school. It was the worst time i have so much i would like to ask her and tell her.It is only the first time i have ever had something like this happen.she died july 3 2013 over an overdose! I am now living with my aunt :[ then i did somethings that i am not proud of and she got tierd or trying and caring for me and put me in a childrens home and i am doing way better here and i have atampted to work out the problems between us but she and i are not going to try any more! my family is done but i have a new one and they have this thing called love , forgiveness,care,and they try to get to know me.

  7. Rachel said on September 1, 2014 at 3:55 pm ... #

    My sons “angel-versary” is next week. I wanted to find a way to help our family thru the date so I did a search and ended up on ur site. I have two other adult children and my sons wife and two sons to think about. I want it to be a day they remember in the most positive way we can. I love the idea of the helium balloons with each persons message to our beloved. He was always a jokester and I know he wants us to remember him with happy thoughts. My prayers are with everyone who has responded. We all are aching so bad. Things can be normal one day and crazy sad the next. Thank you Krista for bringing us all together to share our stories. Hugs to you.

  8. leebodding said on September 7, 2014 at 9:37 pm ... #

    I lost my mom just this passed april she died of liver, bone and lung cancer

  9. britnee gareau said on September 9, 2014 at 12:21 am ... #

    My best friend past away September 18th of last year. She got hit by a speeding motorcycle and I’m becoming more and more heart broken as the day draws more near. I don’t know what to do!

  10. Betty said on September 10, 2014 at 12:56 pm ... #

    I lost my husband on 9/11/2013 to melanoma within 10 days of diagnosis, so yes his passing is one year ago tomorrow. Ironically he was an airplane buff. On the roller coaster ride of lets do this and lets do that…a very close friend insisted on coming to spend the day with me so I was not alone. That was the eye opener I needed… NO, tomorrow must be as normal and routine as possible. I wish not to dwell on his absence but remember and be grateful for what we shared. It is what he would want me to do. The children and grandchildren would like to lite lanterns and that’s OK but I…will simply place one white rose on his grave.

  11. Karen said on September 18, 2014 at 1:14 am ... #

    Aggh, such a horrible way for all of us to be feeling, I lost my 22 yr old son on September 21, 2013…also lost his sister September 21, 1989 when she was born prematurely with several abnormalities. I am a strong woman and have had many difficult times in my 46 years, I have always maintained that the only thing that would break me is is something happened to my kids. I also have a 15yr old daughter which I cherish and acknowledge that she is now the reason that I try to keep it together…at least in her eyes. Well, now I have had to face the fact that my son, my friend, my confident and greatest support has been taken from me. I function, but only for the sake of others really. Especially for my daughter. I’m so broken but acknowledge that this is not what my amazing son would want for me. He was so full of life and had his own adversities to get through but always maintained a positive attitude and never complained. With the loss of his sister I strangely never had that feeling of great loss…not as I do with my son. Almost 23 years with him beside me through thick and thin have left me so numb inside. Others don’t see what I feel as i am now a master at the facade. I smile and am not seeking sympathy I think I try to make others feel comfortable once they are aware of my loss. I really don’t know how I’m suppose to be now, how I’m suppose to somehow form some sort of normalcy when nothing is normal. Again i am great at the facade. Sept 21st is approaching….I’ve purchased 22 butterflies to be released in the a.m. of the 20th….one for every year of his life that I’ve been blessed with. In the evening I have invited his friends to my house to celebrate his life and memory. We will release chinese lanterns for him at midnight. I don’t believe I have mourned or grieved or have come to terms yet with my loss but hope I can soon. Really not sure if its possible……I am forever changed.

  12. Olga said on September 19, 2014 at 1:45 am ... #

    Hi Krista,
    I also lost my fiancé almost a year ago in a very traumatic way. He committed suicide and as he was doing that, I was on the other side of our bedroom door trying to break in to stop him. I but I wasn’t strong enough to do so. Everything happened so quick. Their is not a day that goes by without that night playing all over again. On November 24th it will be a yr of his passing. Like you said I feel live I’ve accomplished nothing but to get out of bed and manage to have a smile on my face for our soon to be 2yr old daughter. His mother is planning on hosting a dinner with family and friends for that day also having a service. While I would much rather skip the day if possible sleep through it,

  13. michele said on October 28, 2014 at 4:36 pm ... #

    So sorry for everyones loss. nov 8th will be one year ago when i lost my ivy. she was 54 years old and had lung cancer that went to the brain. i still get very sad when i think of her . we were togeather 26 years. lots of memories i have to hold close to my heart. i am going to try to be strong on that day , but just not sure what to do!

  14. Val said on October 29, 2014 at 9:12 pm ... #

    Coming across your story was incredible. 1 year ago this Sunday nov. 2nd I lost my grandmother to cancer. I have been dreading the day for what seems like months. I’m filled with so many varying emotions that I can’t even articulate. Reading your story touched me. Gives me a glimmer of hope that my family and I will survive this heart wrenching day. We are going to spend the day as a family doing the things our nana loved the most.

  15. Hayley said on October 31, 2014 at 4:30 pm ... #

    Today’s been one year since my friend died. I made a painting for his family in honor of him but I don’t know what else to do. It really really sucks. He was only 18.

  16. Sandy said on January 12, 2015 at 9:56 am ... #

    I’ve heard some people refer to ‘that day’ as “Angel Day”. I like that better.

  17. Shae said on January 12, 2015 at 10:28 am ... #

    The 7th Angel-versary of my husbands death was last month.
    I can only state that it has gotten a little easier every year…but is still a dread date! That first year I releases balloons at his grave…filled with helium..tiny love notes…tied to each string…sent off to Heaven…years since I have purchased red roses (29…for the number of years he have me…and white ones to number the years gone by…since cancer stole his life)…I take a bottle of crown royal…unseal it…take a sip…pour some at the head of his grave…mix a drink in his favorite high ball glass…and leave it on his monument…
    It’s ok to spin your wheels in neutral..that first year…or several…no one can grieve for you…tell you how…or how long!
    Best advice…be kind to yourself…
    One day life will bloom again..the sun will come back…you will always love and miss him…but you can look backward with love and grace..and move forward with your own journey…;)

  18. Elaine said on February 16, 2015 at 1:24 am ... #

    The fact that I found this Grief & Loss site right now is mind blowing. Feb 26 is the ‘worstdayofmylife’ versary. 10 years ago 26 Feb we lost our youngest son.He was diagnosed at 20 & left us at 25. The quick answer is to Leukemia but it is really to a medical error. The mistaken medication was ordered about 1 1/2 yrs. before he passed but it took that long for the complications to finally take him from us. I still can’t use the words ‘he died’ or ‘death’. Before I forget I must mention that attending a “grief workshop’ did wonders in the healing . I highly recommend them to anyone. We still keep him ‘alive’ as we talk about him nearly everyday. We still have his cat, Dexter. ( Dexter now rules the roost). Mark rescued Dexter, after he chose him & he was filling out paper work we found out that Dexter was born the very month Mark had his transplant. Tho I’ve had set backs I’ve been getting better & better every year. Recently I thought I was to the point of complete acceptance & I wouldn’t have set backs . I had planned to place a memorium in our local newspaper on the 10 year ‘versary’. Others whom have lost kids may relate to this next note……. THEN on Super Bowl Sunday I was having a Great Day. I was fixing snacks & watching when an ad come on. It was the one ” I’ll never learn to ride a bike…. I’ll never learn to drive a Car etc….. I thought it was a commercial for a Car & then WHAM!!!!!!! The kids voice said I’ll never do these because I DIED!!! I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach. I cried harder & longer than I have in a few years. That day & the next were hard for me with occasional tears. I still can’t believe that they would make & show that Ad. Now I’m not up to composing something for the newspaper. But I will put something on my facebook page & send an email. As others have said. You don’t want others to forget that your loved one once was alive & that his/her life mattered. BTW during Marks 5 year battle with Leukemia/transplant &complications every night the last thing we said to each other was “Good night, love you, see you in the morning”. I still say that outloud to him every night. If others aren’t doing something similar you might try it, it gives me some comfort. What else gets me thru is knowing that he is in Heaven & free of the pain he endured for 5 years. Thank you Krista for this. Blessings to all still coping with the loss of a loved one/ones.

  19. Weegee Aki (Pelekane) said on February 24, 2015 at 10:28 pm ... #

    I lost my dad “Pele” recently on January 12,2015. It was heartbreaking.I enjoyed reading your story a lot.I’m sharing because we had our Dads funeral on January 30,2015.I want to make 1-year Celebration of His Life in May 2016 since the rest of the family wants to bury him with are mom in June 2016.He was cremated..They don’t seem to want to get involved because its to much time consuming and they want to throw it there way.So its me and my kids and Fiance doing this for the love and memory of our dad.He was loved by the men he worked with as a Cowboy for Parker Ranch for 50-yrs.The family doesn’t realize that our Dad loved and was loyal to being a Paniolo.Also he loved his fishing,diving,camping,hunting etc.My sisters and youngest brother doesn’t know all this…..The day of his funeral not many came because it was to far and traveling is hard.So I’m doing this one year celebration of his life to Honor my Dad,the Cowboys and the familys that knew him from Waimea,Hawaii.Its a time of Joy and Happy times and most of all letting go.So I hope and I Pray with Gods Blessing that my family come to terms of joining us on His Celebration of Life.Aloha for sharing.

  20. lucy said on March 18, 2015 at 1:10 pm ... #

    1st of April this year is the anniversary ..I have lost the love of my life,my husband and as I walk through the streets where we once walked together I find it so hard to believe it has been that long.I lost him to cancer..I don’t know what to do that day..Tears come and go very unexpectedly..Maybe I’ll bake his apple pie take it to work ans share with our colleagues, we worked at the same place,and they all knew him and loved him..
    My heart goes to all of you guys, and I say to myself nothing is forever here not even goodbyes..
    We’ll meet again
    Love and peace

  21. Suzie P said on March 31, 2015 at 11:25 pm ... #

    Bless you my Dear, First,thank you for sharing your loss,I’m sorry for your suffering.My son,Corey at 22 years young died of a accidental death, Feb.11,1996.For many years my family gathered and we sent red heart balloons to heaven from the big downtown bridge in our city. One year I spent the evening,all night and next morning with all his friends.We played cards,talked,cried,ate & drank.By being with his friends it’s bittersweet. I love them all so much.I go to all the weddings,the baby showers,their kids graduations & more. I would’nt miss any of it,but it also reminds me of all Corey has missed.You are accomplishing a great deal by getting thru a day,one after another. You were very raw in 2012,I pray you’re doing better now.I hope to celebrate Corey’s life in 2016,not his death,as he’s in my heart,soul and mind every moment. I learned to live and cherish every moment I’m given.My husband died 11 mos.after my son,we will enjoy each other again,& that will be forever…

  22. Mary said on April 5, 2015 at 10:04 am ... #

    Your post has certainly resonated with me and so many others. I want to say thank you to everyone who posted. I just read through every single post. The feelings of other people’s grief, combined with my own, are staggering and heart wrenching.

    Today is the sadversary of my youngest sister’s passing. She left a husband and three children, a mother, two sisters, and numerous other friends and family.

    I miss my sister every day. There will be a piece of me that is forever missing. But, interspesed with my grief are still feelings of anger toward my sister. She made some very poor choices toward the end of her life that continue to affect her children. Her husband has made even worse choices since my sister’s death. Who does this affect the most? Their children, who struggle to understand why their life is so difficult at times, because it’s impossible for children to see the fuckedupness of their parents until they are adults themselves.

    I struggle with seeing my mother’s grief over losing a child and trying to be there for her grandchildren in a way that grandmas shouldn’t have to be.

    All I can say is it’s really, really hard with all these competing emotions. Sometimes grief wins out and I cry and cry. Sometimes anger wins out and I’m so pissed off it’s hard to acknowledge the grief. Maybe the anger is helping me to not feel the grief, since grief can be so paralyzing.

    I hope you have been able to get through the deathversarys a little easier as time passes.

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