The Best (and Worst) Things to Write to Someone On The Anniversary Of A Death

What do you say to someone on the anniversary of a death? You want them to know you’re thinking of them.

You want to offer them some comfort on this painful first death anniversary. You’re just not exactly sure what words to use.

We’ve been there.

So, we’re glad you’re here.

This post is all about helping you honor a death anniversary with words that bring real comfort to those who are grieving. 

It’s also about helping you steer clear of words that do the opposite. 

How to Acknowledge The Anniversary of a Death 

Death anniversaries are a vulnerable time for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. You recognize this, so you’re looking up “words on the anniversary of a death” to avoid the biggest pitfalls and find a message that would bring them comfort.  

Consider the following actions you can take to show you care:

  • Enjoy, send, or share a  treat the deceased used to enjoy. 
  • Ask your grieving friend if you can treat them to a coffee/tea/meal. 
  • Send a “Thinking of you” care package with self-care items, etc. 
  • Donate to a cause that mattered to the departed loved one.
  • Offer to sit quietly together (reading, watching a movie, etc.)
  • Set an annual reminder on your phone, so you’ll remember future anniversaries.

The Best (and Worst) Things to Write to Someone on the Anniversary of a Death 

The right words on the anniversary of a death can be elusive. You don’t want to repeat what you’ve already said, but you’re not sure what your friend really wants to hear. 

Looking through the following do’s and don’ts — nine helpful tips in total — can help you find words that comfort and avoid those that don’t. 

DO remind them you’re thinking of them. 

Whatever words you choose in your death anniversary message for a friend, know that it means a lot that you remembered in the first place. But they won’t know that unless you tell them.

With that in mind, here are a few examples of things you can tell them:

  • “You’re on my mind today on the anniversary of [loved one’s] passing.”
  • “Hard to believe a year has already passed since… How are you doing today?”
  • “It’s been a year already, and you’re on my mind today. Sending you love!”

DO keep it simple.

You don’t have to write a long, complicated, or emotionally-charged message to communicate your empathy and concern.

Sometimes, a brief, simple message is best. And if you know each other, simple, meaningful expressions will say more than flowery words.

Here are a few examples:

  • You’re on my mind today. 
  • I’m thankful whenever you’re on my mind. And you’re there a lot today.
  • I know this Christmas will be more challenging for you. I’ll do what I can to make it easier.

DO offer to treat them to something when it’s convenient for them.

If you’re hoping to bring some comfort to their hearts, it can’t hurt to bring some refreshment or warmth to their bodies with a hot, soothing drink or a wholesome meal.

If they decline the invitation to go out, you can send them a thoughtful gift

  • “I’d love to meet with you this week to bring you something and catch up.” 
  • “Thinking of you today. Can I take you to lunch this week?” 
  • “Thinking of you and I found a little something you can use whenever you like. When can I bring it to you?”

DO share good memories involving the one who passed. 

Add a comment like, “What they did/said meant so much to me,” or “I really miss their sense of humor.” Let your friend know you remember the good things about the one who passed.

If they’re open to it, you can take turns recalling good memories. 

  • “I remember the first time I met [loved one]. I’ll never forget the kindness they showed to everyone around them.” 
  • “I’ve never met someone so confident of their gifts without being conceited about them.” 
  • “One thing I will always treasure about [loved one] is how quick they were to forgive and to express genuine gratitude.” 

DO remember the departed on important days other than death anniversaries. 

The death anniversary isn’t the only day of the year your friend will find difficult.

Think of holidays they enjoyed together, or wedding/relationship anniversaries, or the age at which the loved one passed. 

  • “May this birthday bring you more joy than tears. I would love to bring you something if you know of a good time to come by.”
  • “I know this age has special meaning for you, and I send the warmest of hugs. I’d love to deliver one in person this week.” 
  • “Thinking of you on your wedding anniversary and sending a hug. I know you miss him. Tonight’s dinner will be provided by me, if you’ll allow it and if you’ll be home for a special delivery.”

DON’T tell them their loved one is in a “better place.”

Avoid saying anything like this. It comes across as dismissive and even shaming the one who’s grieving.

It’s as if you’re telling them, “You shouldn’t be sad about this person dying because now, they’re better off than when they were with you.” Yikes. 

  • “Just think of how happy they are, now. Try to be as happy as they are.” (Ugh!)

Instead, put yourself in their shoes, imagine you just lost someone important to you, and think of what you’d want others to say (or not say). 

DON’T ever suggest they’re taking too long to grieve. 

Imagine you’re grieving the loss of someone important to you, and someone marks the anniversary of their death by saying something like, “So, what have you been doing this year to help you get past your grief?” 

The death of a loved one is not something anyone is obligated to “get over.”

Trying to rush the grieving process only sends the message, “I’m tired of talking about this person, and this grieving business is getting in the way of something I want.” Not a good look. 


More Related Articles

31 Comforting Things To Say When Someone Dies

51 Of The Best Things To Cheer You Up

How To Express Your Condolences Beyond “I’m Sorry For Your Loss”


DON’T compare your grief to that of the one you want to comfort.

This is similar to the previous warning against rushing the grieving process, but this approach attempts to persuade the grieving friend that their grief could not be more painful to them than yours is to you — and look at how well you’re handling it! 

  • “No one grieves the loss of [so-and-so] more than I do.” (Doubtful.)

This isn’t a grief competition. Your friend doesn’t want to hear that your grief is equally strong (or possibly even stronger). They just want to know you’re there for them.

DON’T say you know how they feel.

This suggestion is a follow-up from the previous point. You know it’s a bad idea to tell your friend your grief is just as intense as theirs.

Here’s an example of another big no-no.

  • “I know how you feel right now because I feel the same way — which is why I brought cake and wine. Which one you wanna start with?”

I mean… cake and wine aren’t bad ideas, but no. You don’t know what they’re feeling right now, even if you’ve lost someone, too. That said, you can still be the friend they need.

How Do You Help Someone on a Death Anniversary? 

Even if you can’t be physically present for them, and it’s too late to have something delivered in time, you can send love to a grieving friend in any of the following ways: 

  • Send them a text message or email to let them know you’re thinking of them. 
  • Write down your favorite memories of their loved one and share them.
  • Send an-card with the same message, possibly with a follow-up e-gift card.
  • Call them and talk to them on the phone — or over a webchat, if they’re up for it. 
  • Let them know something is coming their way (late) in honor of this day. 
  • Ask if they’ll be home and order them a special lunch or dinner delivery.

Even if they decline that last offer, they’ll appreciate your wanting to do that for them, just to honor the memory of their loved one with them, while also giving them some space. 

How will you acknowledge the anniversary of a death?

Now that you know the best and worst things to write to someone on the anniversary of a loved one’s death, which responses sounded the most helpful and heartfelt? 

After all, the goal of this post is to help you show your grieving friend some love to help them through the most challenging days of the year. Keep in mind, though, that sometimes, your silent presence at their side is better than the best words you can think of. 

Start by just letting them know you’re thinking of them.

Your friend needs your consolation and support in this trying time of his or her life. Check out this post to know what to write to someone on a death anniversary.

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