6 Year Anniversary

Today, February 16, 2016, I celebrate my only brother, Jonathan. He lived a short life. It’s been 6 years since he left and I am thankful for the beautiful memories I have of his life on earth. Each year on the anniversary of his death there is a range of emotions that surface. People refer to it as the grieving process. I refer to it as life. Writing was a gift my brother had and the poems he left behind are a source of strength. I am so glad he decided to write and continued on with it throughout his lifetime. He continued to grow in this area and it was something I really loved to encourage in him. There is a sense of closeness to his memory when I write because it has an attachment to a beautiful memory. 

I’ve experienced a lot through these last 6 years of my grief journey. The biggest thing that I have held on to are the memories and the largest struggle has been sifting through the range of emotions after loss. If I were to give one solid piece of advice to anyone who is standing next to someone who has just lost someone tragically, it would be this. The things they will say or express in their time of grief may sometimes worry you or sadden you. You are without emotion if their loss doesn’t somehow move you. Listening allows the griever to move through their grief. How many times will it take? I cannot tell you there is a timeline in this journey, because I don’t believe it begins and ends one day. As I wrote previously in my post entitled, “This is Life,” the grieving somehow have to learn how to move through their own lives and work through this grief. Again, the best thing you can do as a loved one is listen, and allow them to speak without correcting or judging. The very opportunity to speak up about their loss will allow a great amount of comfort during this time. 

Looking back, year 5 was the year I felt the full finality of Jonathan’s absence. My husband and I took a little boy into our home just 5 short months previous (as we are foster-adopt parents) and I was feeling that this little guy would have brought a lot of joy to my brother. The loss felt great because of the things that were happening in my life that my brother was not around to participate in and contribute to. Twenty-fifteen, I started writing again about my brothers death. I sat in my corner chair with my laptop, listening to music and wrote. I was startled by the things that came out of me. They were not flowery words, but raw and honest. The first 2 years after my brothers death I did a lot of reflecting through writing and then one day stopped, and put a wall up against expressing my voice with pen and paper. I haven’t found the right opportunity to share this until now, but here are some of the things I began writing last year on this date that really helped me process some really deep sorrow and allowed me to move through a very dark period in this grieving process and into a place of hope. I cheer my words now because I can see how they freed me to express and be ok with where I was in this life. 

Written February 14, 2015:

On February 14th 2010 I received the call that my brother went missing and there was a note believed to be a suicide letter. This night 5 years ago was torturous. I was thousands of miles away and had absolutely no control. He wasn’t found until 2 days later. Those moments run through my mind like a movie.

The Reel of Grief

A reel rolling the terror of my reality. It’s a clear genre. The cold sorrowful song of death.

The finality. It stops. Comes to an end.

The reel rolls. Hits stop on the world rolling by.

Could 5 years come and go and the reality still feel so cold.

Each screening provokes another emotion untold.

Up and down. Around and through.

Reeling through the memories. Each one unfolds. Ranges of emotions untold.

Written February 16, 2015:

Found February 16, 2010

Those moments, imprinted in my memory for all eternity.

Each day produces a new wave of emotion. Calm seas is what I long for. The waves of grief allow only at will.

Rolling On The Waves

Anger. Drops of tears. Heart aches. Brain spinning ’round.

Rolling on the waves. Loss of past and present. Loss of dreams. Family severed. Memories becoming the sum of a life lived.

Rolling on the waves.

Brother. Friend.

Rolling on the waves.

Time ticking. Minute to the next. Day by day. Year after year.

Rolling on the waves.

See your face. The call of angst. Unable to save.

Rolling on the waves.

It comes back to the start. Not birth. But death. Loss. Begins the day my heart fell apart.

Still rolling on the waves.

Finding your voice after loss is one of the hardest things in this grieving process. It has been scary writing about this journey for fear that those who know me may worry for me and my overall emotional state. Let’s be frank, when you are raw with your words it can make some people worry. The truth is that writing frees me to have purpose and to share with others the very realities of this journey. Each written word is felt deeply and expressed freely simply to help those who are grieving and reading to be assured they are not alone. I too was once searching for a familiar voice many years ago and found little in the light of this topic. My hope is to change that in some small way.

The loudest message I give myself 6 years later is to never underestimate the power of your life on this earth. You have purpose. You have a voice. Life can certainly be messy and the most powerful words are the ones that go out of your mouth over your own life. Speak life to your very being and encourage yourself today.

Much love to you on your journey.


P.S. Dear Jonathan, I love and miss you. -JoJo





  1. E February 16, 2016 / 8:56 PM

    Beautiful. I love you Jojo. Thank you for being transparent. It’s one thing to feel grief, another to understand it and yet another to allow it mold you as you continually process this life altering circumstance. It’s makes the journey.

    • Joanna February 22, 2016 / 9:02 AM

      Thank you E. Love you.

  2. Jennifer February 17, 2016 / 8:15 AM

    Wow, Jo. Deep, real, honest and touching. Much love. <3 <3

    • Joanna February 22, 2016 / 9:02 AM

      Thank you Jennifer.

  3. Jackie September 9, 2016 / 6:14 PM

    Thank you so much for your honesty. That reel is real. People really need to know that they are not alone. The feelings come, but it is what we do with them that brings purpose to the loss. I so agree with “The truth is that writing frees me to have purpose and to share with others the very realities of this journey. Each written word is felt deeply and expressed freely.” Thanks so much for sharing. I look forward to reading more.

    • Joanna September 10, 2016 / 8:26 AM

      Thank you for your words Jackie. Much love to you as you navigate the recent loss of your mother.

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