July 8, 2024

Navigating A Wedding Anniversary After Losing A Spouse

by Lanna Britt

Few life events are as painful and earth-shattering as the loss of a spouse. The days and weeks that follow a partner’s death are incredibly difficult as you are forced to plan a funeral, make countless decisions and interact with the world that continues to spin. At some point, you fall into a new routine and life gets just a bit easier. However, as time passes and you approach your wedding anniversary, an entirely new wave of grief may hit you. In this blog, we’ll strive to provide comfort and tips about how to navigate your wedding anniversary after losing a spouse. 

Acknowledge The Difficulty

After the loss of a spouse, facing a wedding anniversary can be extremely difficult. What once was a day filled with joy and celebrating your love may now feel like a painful reminder of your loss. Don’t skip over the fact that this particular aspect of the grieving process is really hard. Too often we shove our feelings down or ignore them entirely, which is never a recipe for good mental health. In the days and weeks ahead of your anniversary, take some time to sit and journal your feelings. Naming our emotions goes a long way in the process of working through our pain. Are you angry at your spouse for “leaving” you too soon? Is it fear of the unknown that most terrifies you? A study conducted by UCLA psychologists found that putting feelings into words produces therapeutic effects in the brain. When we feel angry or fearful, we have increased activity in the part of our brain that is our fear response center, the amygdala. However, the study found that when participants named the emotions they were feeling like anger or fear, the response in the amygdala decreased and in turn there was increased activity in the part of the brain involved with inhibiting behavior and processing emotions. One of the professors involved wrote, "When you put feelings into words, you're activating this prefrontal region and seeing a reduced response in the amygdala. In the same way you hit the brake when you're driving when you see a yellow light, when you put feelings into words, you seem to be hitting the brakes on your emotional responses." As a result, an individual may feel less angry or less sad. "Putting our feelings into words helps us heal better. If a friend is sad and we can get them to talk about it, that probably will make them feel better."

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Make a Plan

Benjamin Franklin famously said something to the effect of, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” I have found it helpful to make a plan for an approaching special date involving a deceased loved one. How do you want to spend the day of your first anniversary after losing a spouse? Who do you want around you? You might plan a celebration of life with some close friends on that day to give you something to do and people to be around on a tough day. Others may want to spend the day quietly at home, visiting the cemetery or looking through old photos from over the years. Consider a mixture of the two and plan around when you usually feel at your best. If you are a morning person, plan a brunch with close friends and family. After that memorial gathering has finished, you can head back home for some down time and personal reflection. Another option is planting a memorial garden or lighting a custom memorial candle while watching a favorite movie you shared. If you are interested in personalized memorial gifts, make sure to order ahead of your anniversary so you ensure your custom memorial gifts have arrived before your desired date. You have enough stress in your life not to add to it with having to constantly check your tracking order! Remember, most Laurelbox orders ship within one to three business days. However you choose to spend your first anniversary after a death, there is no right or wrong way to grieve the loss of a spouse. Give yourself loads of grace and space to work through all your emotions.

Communicate Your Expectations

Depending on your situation, you may have a circle of friends and family ready and willing to support you through your grief journey. That is the hope for all of us and a great reminder to invest in relationships. Hard times are inevitable and if we do the work of being a good friend or family member on the front side, chances are when we are walking through a valley, we’ll have loved ones nearby willing to stand in the gap with us. Once you’ve acknowledged your feelings and made a plan for the day, let people in your circle know what to expect. Did your spouse always send you flowers at work on your anniversary that you looked forward to each year? Let your children know that’s what you’ll miss most and if they are old enough, ask them to continue that tradition at least for the first year. Is the pain too fresh and new and you’d rather pretend the day didn’t exist? That’s okay too. Let friends know you appreciate their concern, but please avoid any “Happy anniversary” texts or calls right now. Just because you don’t feel up to marking the date this year, doesn’t mean you won’t feel differently in the years to come. If friends and family happen to forget your anniversary, give them grace and kindness you’d like returned. We all have a lot going on and important dates can get missed. They may have not known what to say and therefore said nothing. But don’t continue the silence, let them know it’s okay to acknowledge the loss. Something as simple as, “Hey, not sure if you remembered but yesterday was our anniversary. I made it through but it was hard. Can we get coffee sometime soon?” Grief makes us uncomfortable and far too often, when we don’t know what to say, we say nothing. Let’s begin to change that! 


We hope this blog has been helpful in reminding you there is no right or wrong way to acknowledge a wedding anniversary after the loss of a spouse. Some people might find solace in celebrating the day to feel closer to their spouse while others might prefer not to. Allow yourself to feel your emotions as they come, find support in friends or family, and be open to creating new traditions and incorporating remembrance gifts into your grief journey. No matter what your day looks like, know that your Laurelbox community is here holding space for you and your grief.


Lanna Britt was a national news producer in Washington DC for nearly a decade covering politics, breaking news and current events.  She now lives with her husband and three children in Richmond VA. She has two sweet babies she’ll meet again in heaven.

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