I Promise

Hi Everyone,

June 27th is my wedding anniversary. Andy died just a few weeks after we celebrated our 29th anniversary, and I remember being a total wreck on what would have been our 30th anniversary. What made the day even harder for me was that nobody said anything to me that day; not my parents, not my in-laws, not my children, not my friends. When I stopped crying a few days later, I realized that no one had said anything to me because they didn’t want to upset me. They didn’t understand that NOT acknowledging our special day, or giving me the opportunity to talk about how much I missed Andy, made me even sadder.

That day was the catalyst for the grief work I’m doing now; in addition to using my art and writing to comfort other people who are grieving, I am actively trying to change our grief culture by raising awareness of the type of support most bereaved people need. I figured if my friends and family– who I know love me a LOT– didn’t know how to help me on my grief journey, that other people most likely didn’t know how to best support their loved ones. Grieving is a normal, natural reaction to loss. When you lose someone you love, birthdays, anniversaries and holidays are emotional triggers. We need to be able to share stories about our loved ones; to hear their names spoken; to know that we are not the only one who remembers them. 

In Andy’s honor, I have chosen to make June 27th a day to celebrate the love we shared and the many wonderful things I remember about our life together. Towards that end I am sharing the ‘I Promise’ piece, which is based on our wedding vows. It’s one of the very first pieces I ever created.

Andy’s love blessed my life in ways I am still discovering; and I am devoted to keeping his legacy alive– not just for me, but for our children, and for everyone whose life he touched.

We often spent our monthly ‘date night’ at our favorite store– Barnes & Noble, which is where I go each year on Andy’s birthday and on our anniversary. Andy was a voracious reader, and I feel close to him when I am surrounded by books he loved. One of my personal remembrance rituals is to create a piece of art each year to express how I feel as I continue my grief journey. This piece, which I created June of 2015 to commemorate our 34th anniversary, features a book design.

How do you commemorate your loved one(s)? Since books were Andy’s passion, on what would have been his 60th birthday last October, I started working on a new book in his honor: 60 Remembrance Rituals: Creative Ways to Keep Your Loved One’s Legacy Alive. I invite you to share your special remembrance rituals for possible inclusion in the book. Click here for details. If you follow my weekly Zenspirations® blog, and have already submitted a remembrance ritual, I would still appreciate your taking a few minutes to complete the form, so I will be sure to have the information I need in order to finish the book. It will be an honor to help commemorate your loved ones along with my own.

Please leave a comment letting me know how I can help you on your grief journey. 

Remember– you are NOT alone,



  1. The love you and Andy shared will never truly be gone, it’s in a different place just now. Your memories and love, especially through your art, keep his spirit alive. It’s a blessing that you can share this with us.

  2. Beautiful as always! You never cease to amaze me with your selfless devotion. You freely share your talents with so many. Bless you Joanne!

  3. Your words are comforting to me and many people. Thank you for sharing with us your personal grief journey. It’s been almost 5 months since my sweet husband went to be with the Lord, I’ll never forget how you reached out to me and sent me your precious little book on loosing someone you love.
    Thank you for your kindness! Hugs and blessings.

  4. Most definitely remember to breathe and repeat again and again……tomorrow will come and with it new blessings.

  5. Beautifully written Joanne. To this day nobody remembers my daughters birthday(except for my Dad’s sweet wife who was not in our lives at the time that Aubrie died). Not even closest family and the best of friends remember-and they are fully aware of my life’s work! And they don’t remember even after I mention it every single year. It doesn’t hurt anymore, but, I still can’t help but to wonder how and why!

    Sending special thought of care and love for you on this special day! Happy Remembrance for your 36th wedding anniversary! XO

  6. Joanne, you bless so many by being open, communicating how grief touches everyone & also how to live past the grief.

    I’ll admit that I’m not a faithful reader of all you’ve written, so excuse me if you or one of your other readers have touched on a similar topic. I believe it to be grief, but I call it pre-grieving for “the love of my life” for the last 6yrs of his stage4 kidney cancer with mets diagnosis! This November we will celebrate 41 yrs married & 48 yrs together. We were high school sweethearts.

    BTW Happy Wedding Anniversary! ?

  7. I was one of the people who knew it was your anniversary and deleted it from my calendar
    I have learned a lot since then. Thank you for teaching me to be a better friend. Your artwork and thoughtfulness never cease to amaze me.

  8. I was one of the people that knew it was your anniversary and deleted it from my calendar. You have taught me to be a better friend. Thank you for being a wonderful teacher , and for all the work you do to improve the world.

  9. I just discovered your blog today. And today my mom is not doing well and headed to the same hospital my dad died in last year. I haven’t been able to grieve his death and may be facing my mother’s soon. I feel like I found your blog just in time. I love the book and art pieces you have created along with the concept of morning journaling which feels like something important for me to do. Thank you for sharing your journey and lighting the path for mine.

    • Hi Susan,
      Thank you for sharing. Starting my ‘morning journaling’ practice has been incredibly healing. It’s a LOT easier for me to stay grounded in gratitude when I am disciplined enough to greet each day with a prayer in my heart and a pen in my hand. I hope you will finding it as connective and healing as I do. I am so sorry to hear that your mom isn’t doing well; it must be surreal to have to return to the hospital where your dad died. Please stay in touch and let me know how you are doing. Remember– you are NOT alone.

  10. I lost my husband, unexpectedly, on March 18th of this year…. June 24th would have been our 29th wedding anniversary…. he was 51….. I see a lot of similarities with our losses….the last 3 months have been devastating and I felt just like you did this last Sunday on our anniversary…. even though I had family and friends send me texts and a few called…. my children ( 22 year old twins) wanted to tske me to dinner and a movie but I just couldn’t do it….we ordered in from one of our favorite restaurants and celebrated that way… some days are so dark… but seeing your post gives me hope that maybe, somewhere down the road…. the pain will lessen… thank you for sharing your journey…..

  11. I love your new blog, Joanne, and forwarded it to my dear friend who lost her daughter at age 19. Thinking of you today,

  12. Linda, I can relate. My in-laws never once mentioned Gavin in the 28 years since his death and would Change the subject when I brought him up on holidays or other special days.

    For years I was hurt by this, and then one day in recent years it dawned on me…they were handling how they experienced his death in a way that felt comfortable for them, which included not talking about him.

    For those of us who need to talk, another’s silence can be so very painful and feel so personal…but I found that stepping back away from my own pain and considering that their needs might be different completely changed the way I thought and felt. I no longer cringe, but feel a regard for the way they have chosen to deal with their grandson’s death.

  13. Thanks for sharing with us. I have also lost my dad two weeks ago and are still grieving. It feels as if the world just continues, not realising that a very great person has left the earth. I loved him dearly.

    • I am so very sorry for your loss. When we lose someone we love, we start to operate on grief time, which is spacial, not linear. You are right– the rest of the world continues on with their lives, and at first we don’t really know rejoin them. The best advice I can give you is to create a support team, and educate them so they will know what helps you and brings you comfort. Take one day at a time, one hour at a time if necessary. And remember– you are NOT alone.

  14. Hi Joanne,
    You know I have been a long time fan of yours. This Thanksgiving falls on my favorite brother’s birthday. He was my best friend, my protector and we shared a bond no one understood. It came from years of abuse I had to endure from another brother, I had 5 brothers. With that said, when he passed 2 years ago Dec 22, 2016 my world crashed around me. I don’t know how to get through this….I miss him so very much and my Mother too. At 59 I am the only one left in of our family. It seems so unreal. I don’t think grief really goes away. I believe it just kinda melts into soul and every so often it rears it’s ugly head to let you know he is still around. Know what I mean?
    The one comfort I have through all of this is my Lord. I cling to Him some days like glue.

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