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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Paulsen, MA, LMFT, RPT-S

Grief & Loss: Thanoversary

“If there is ever a day where we aren’t together, keep me inside your heart, and I’ll be there forever.”

— Winnie the Pooh

Thano meaning: eternal life.

Versary meaning: returning annually.

A thanoversary is the date someone died and is sometimes also referred to as a “remembrance day”. The language we use is important and this subtle change feels like a better word than “anniversary” which often implies a joyous occasion.

In my small community, June is hard. I can think of 4 deaths over the years, all occurring in mid-June, of young men ages 16, 16, 20, & 20 on the dates of June 16, June 20, June 21, & June 21. I think our community experiences collective grief this time of year remembering those lost whether knowing 1 of them or all 4 of them.

When a thanoversary is approaching, it is normal to experience anticipatory grief. Anticipatory grief is when there is an upcoming day or event where we expect to experience more grief than usual. This can create feelings of anxiety/worry or dread as the day approaches. The first thanoversary is often the hardest and will bring back a flood of emotions and memories from the day they passed away. I’ve worked with many grieving individuals over the years and this conflicting feeling seems present in all of them: it feels like a lifetime ago since they last saw, spoke to, or touched their lost loved one and yet they remember those last moments and memories as if they were yesterday too. A lifetime ago and only yesterday, all at the same time.

The more we try to suppress or ignore thanoversaries and our dread about the upcoming day, the more anxious we often become. As David Kessler would say, we need to “feel it to heal it”. So, rather than suppress or ignore the day, it is instead better to lean into it by acknowledging and remembering our loved ones in various ways. Below are some suggestions.

5 Ways To Remember:

  1. WRITE. Write your lost loved one a letter about what’s been going on in the past year since they left the Earth (or the past year since their last thanoversary) or about what life has been like without them for the past year.

  2. VISIT. Visit their gravesite or where their ashes were spread and talk to them.

  3. HONOR. Listen to their favorite music, watch their favorite show or movie, read their favorite book, or make & eat their favorite meal.

  4. REMEMBER. Look through pictures or spend time with their belongings you’ve kept (these are referred to as linking objects).

  5. GATHER. Gather with friends and family who are also grieving and share stories and memories.

Above all, it is important to be kind to yourself. The day will come and go and hopefully so will your feelings of anxiousness, heaviness, and dread.

If you want to begin individual counseling to work through your experience of grief & loss, visit our Getting Started page and fill out our New Client Information Form. We are here for you.

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