Managing grief on holidays, birthdays, or anniversaries can be especially difficult. Here’s some tips on how to cope with anniversary reactions.

What are Anniversary reactions?

Anniversary reactions can happen on any special day – a holiday, birthday, an anniversary of a traumatic event, etc. These triggers can cause reactions that range from mild distress, to more serious psychological symptoms. The grief often peaks on these trigger days, and the intensity will often subside 2-3 weeks after the specified day.

The 5 stages don’t work for everyone

While the 5 stages of grief (read about them here) may work for many people, coping with serious grief doesn’t always conform to such cookie-cutter steps. Every person processes these feelings in a unique way, and we encourage you to process them in whatever way feels right to you. Often, these stages come in a different order, or not at all. Don’t worry about grieving the right way – the right way doesn’t exist. Focus on moving forward, while still honoring those we leave behind.

Plan Ahead

Acknowledge that anniversary reactions exist – and plan for them. Get your mind, and heart, ready for the feelings that may come on these tough days. Set some goals for yourself, and stick to them. Make plans with someone who won’t let you back out of them. Make an appointment at the salon, to volunteer at the homeless shelter, or to visit a friend; commit to doing some good.

Stay Busy

This does not mean avoiding your feelings. Instead, channel your energy into giving back, and surround yourself with gratitude and love. Participating in commemorative ceremonies can often be a good strategy. Try volunteering, giving blood, or spending the day with people you care about.

Turn V-Day into U-Day

Valentine’s Day can be especially hard for people missing their spouse or partner. Focus on channeling the love you are feeling into love of yourself. Take a day appreciating the person who you spend the most time with – you. The best way to honor the ones you’re missing is by cherishing yourself.


Need more grief counseling, or extra help on dealing with anniversary reactions? Healing Minds is here to help, wherever you’re at in the healing process. Give us a call at (775) 488-9760 to set up an appointment.