The Little Reminders In The Grief Journey

Throughout the grief journey there will be different places your heart and mind will drift when a reminder of your loved one appears. While walking out of my bathroom one particular day I noticed a sweatshirt hanging on the back of the door. This sweatshirt belonged to my brother. My brother has been gone from earth for 5 years and 8 months. I gave his sweatshirt to my husband because they happen to be the same size. Often I see it lying around and it ALWAYS brings my brother into remembrance. 20151005_102307There is another particular item of clothing that I still have of his that hangs in my closet.  It’s a grey long sleeve shirt. I remember giving him hugs and feeling the softness on my cheek from this shirt. It’s made of a soft material and brings such comfort. The grey shirt is tucked back in my closet among the seasonal items and I only come across it every so often. When I do, I stop, reflect, and am reminded again of his presence on earth.

These little reminders produce different emotions and thoughts depending on where you are in your grief journey. Today, it is heartache and longing for his presence on earth. In the past, anger, and next month it may elicit a completely different emotion. I have learned through this journey that it is important to acknowledge these reminders and my reaction to them. Reminders give insight into where you are in your grief journey. They allow oneself to be aware in the grief journey. I have learned if I do not allow myself to sit in these moments, and reflect on them for a time, I will find myself depleted.

Time on earth with a lost loved one has many moments of heartache and sorrow.  The world can appear differently depending on the lens (or stage of grief) you are experiencing. If I allow no time to be in these moments of grief, I do a disservice to my lost loved one. My denial of heartache and sorrow dismisses the true depth of love I have for them.

Have you lost a loved one? What reminders do you stumble upon in your day to day life? How do you take time to reflect on their life and acknowledge your grief in these moments? Share with me in the comments below.

Much Love to You in Your Journey,


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  1. Amber McNair October 6, 2015 / 2:42 PM

    I’m reminded of our dear friend Celina… When I see red roses. When I hear a Whitney Houston
    song. When I see a dark haired woman with a red shirt on. When I receive a big bear hug much like she used to give. It is a sweet peace knowing she is happier now then she ever was

    • Joanna October 6, 2015 / 9:02 PM

      Aww… yes, Celina. Whenever I hear Out of Eden I think of her immediately. Thanks for sharing your memories Amber.

  2. Kayla Larson October 6, 2015 / 3:35 PM

    Hey Joanna,
    I love that you are wearing your heart on your sleeve. So much healing takes place just talking about our challenges, trials, and struggles in life.
    I have not lost a loved one to death, but I have lost many loved ones to offense. Which for me feels like the same thing, as it wasn’t my choice to lose them. I have had MANY moments of anger, sadness, loneliness… this type of grief also brings about self-doubt, and the feeling of being unlovable. Remembering allllll the memories we had together, the traditions, the made up jokes, the songs, the cartoons… you name it, it makes me feel a feeling I don’t know if I can describe. Maybe it is just that… grief. I have had a great deal of healing in the last 8 years, and have pushed myself to move forward and focus on what I CAN change. They say it is better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all. I believe that, it is true. We are never the same after loss, the changes are both a blessing and a challenge.
    I think of you often and how you lost your brother. He was loved very much. It would be very special to him to know that you remember him in such a way and that you honor him with your thoughts and time to reflect. Each relationship, and each person we encounter leaves some type of mark on our life as do we on theirs. And each encounter is significant. If we are changed for the good, the grief is worth it. I love your heart.

    • Joanna October 6, 2015 / 9:15 PM

      Kayla, Thank you for your sweetness…. It feels very healing to speak my truth and do it in a way that is my creative outlet. I feel so alive writing. I am so happy I get to throw it all out there and hope that someone connects with it all. Its such a gift to hear your sweet words. How you explain your movement from anger-sadness-loneliness-self-doubt-feelings of being unlovable-remembering-change of traditions…. this is your grief journey. Each person’s journey is unique to them and to their own loss. You explain it beautifully. One of the hardest parts of loss for me was the sense of loosing all control- life is tough when you are stripped of your control or (thought of) having control. You are absolutely right- you focus on what you can impact and move forward. This can take different amounts of time based on your own loss and willingness to succumb to your lack of control in life. I love your transparency. Thanks for sharing!

      • Kayla Larson October 7, 2015 / 10:28 AM

        Love you Jo! That out of control stuff is so true. I don’t think I’ve identified with it that way before. I imagine that’s a feeling you would have after experiencing something like 9/11 first hand, or as a parent watching your child be inflicted with a disease or misfortune. You’re right though, are we really in control, or is it just we “think” we are control. I used to take comfort in at least being able to predict the actions of others, now I find myself anxious, anticipating rejection. I’m so thankful to have a hope in the ONE who is in control and who can heal our brokenness. You inspire me dear friend.

        • Joanna October 7, 2015 / 10:45 AM

          Kayla, We are never truly in control. Tragedy brings this into great light. I am so glad this post has created such thoughtfulness. I can see your wheels turning as I read your reply. 🙂 I love reading your comments. Thanks for sharing! Love. You.

  3. Aisha October 6, 2015 / 10:17 PM

    Oh Joanna, this made me teary eyed!! It’ll be a year next Wednesday for when my dad died. I’ve been reliving the days leading up to his death and I’ve been feeling very anxious lately. It’s hard losing someone you love. I remember people telling me it will get easier with time, but I think it’s the other way around … it gets much harder, I think! If you don’t mind me asking, how did your brother pass on?! <3 love you, friend!! Xoxo

    • Joanna October 7, 2015 / 10:57 AM

      Aisha, Coming up on 1 yr anniversaries can be very difficult. You sound like you are handling it in a very normal way. My suggestion- write. A lot! You want to capture these memories as they are happening so you can reflect on them. If you push them because of the emotions you feel, your brain will not process and move and flow through like it should. Of course, this is only from my personal experience so I cannot say its a tell all for everyone in their own grief. Be gentle with yourself. For me, I felt the anxiousness before the anniversaries, or birthdays, or holidays. Its very normal for me now, but when you first have those feelings it can be scary. Breathe. It is very hard loosing a loved one. You are very early in your grief journey. One year is a huge milestone and can bring on some heavy emotion. I am so sorry you lost your father. You are not alone. Much love to you.

  4. Lila Penner October 8, 2015 / 8:20 AM

    My mind also goes, immediately, to Celina. I have kept her picture on the buffet in the dining room, and also a snapshot of her and Ryan in the kitchen. This time of year, today would have been her birthday, is especially filled with memories of my sweet cousin. I miss her. I will always miss her. But, my memories are all good ones. I also have an apron that belonged to my Gramma Merrick. Oh the memories and what I would give for just one more conversation with her, one more word of encouragement. What she, and Celina and others, put into me will be there forever, tho. And for that I am thankful.

    • Joanna October 9, 2015 / 12:43 PM

      This is so beautiful Lila. You are so vivid in your description of your love for them and longing for their presence. Thank you for sharing! Much love to you.

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