The Love We Shared

Hi Everyone,

37 years ago today, I walked down the aisle wearing my mother’s Priscilla of Boston wedding dress and my mother-in-law’s beautiful, hand-beaded crown, and stood under the Chuppah (Wedding Canopy) with my beloved, Andy Trattner, as we joined hands and united our hearts in marriage.

Andy and I wrote our own wedding vows– “I promise to share with you in times of joy as in times of sorrow; to talk and to listen; to honor and to appreciate you; to provide for and support you in trust and in love” which I wrote in our Ketubah  (Jewish Wedding Contract), and incorporated into the ‘I Promise’– one of my first-ever pieces of lettering art.

The “I Promise” vows helped guide us throughout the 29 years we were married. {If you like these vows, and would like to use them for a wedding or anniversary Ketubah, please check out the design and text options in my new CalligraphersInkEtsyShop.}

The love that Andy and I shared lives on in my heart and has inspired me to work towards changing the culture of grief in America. This began on one of the worst days of my life– my 30th wedding anniversary, June 27th, 2012. It was the first anniversary since Andy died, and I felt SO alone. When you lose someone you love, birthdays, anniversaries and holidays are emotional triggers. They remind us of the void in our lives, and can send us into a tailspin. I was distraught–in part because it was my 30th wedding anniversary and my husband wasn’t here to share it with me, and in part because despite having friends and family who love me, NO ONE– not my parents, not my in-laws, not my children, not my friends – mentioned it. I was devastated. I didn’t understand at the time that no one said anything to me because they didn’t want to upset me or make me cry. They didn’t understand that NOT acknowledging our special anniversary, or giving me the opportunity to talk about how much I missed Andy, further isolated me in my grief.

Eventually I realized that if my friends and family– who love me and want to be there for me– didn’t know how to help me on my grief journey, then other people who were grieving most likely weren’t getting the type of support they needed, either. Although I had no idea how to become an advocate for change, I decided that day to try to make a difference in Andy’s memory. It’s one way that I keep his legacy alive.

If you know someone who has recently lost a loved one (and since grief is a lifelong journey, by recent I mean within the past couple of YEARS), there are ways that you can help. Creating a sacred space for people to talk and companioning someone on their grief journey makes a huge difference. 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 memory I am actively working to develop tools that can be used to support people who are grieving, as well as creating commemorative art to bring comfort, hope and healing to those who have lost someone they love. You can find my art and blog posts along with many helpful free resources on my website, Please share it with those you know who are grieving or supporting someone on their grief journey.

In honor of our 37th anniversary, I wanted to share a page from one of my morning journals:

Please leave a comment to let me know what I can do to help you support someone on their grief journey, and/or how I can support you on yours.

You are NOT alone,





  1. Much love, Joanne, for all you do and for you you are. Sorrow at the loss of a loved one is deep, and it never really ends. It simply changes form. You miss talking with THAT person. Being with THAT person. Simply sitting in a room quietly with THAT person. That is what makes the void so deep and impossible to end. The words you said at your wedding “to talk and to listen” — that is the key to supporting someone in grief. Sometimes tears are cathartic and should fall… stories should be told so that memories are passed on… Love doesn’t die with the ones we love.

  2. As always, I can’t get enough of what you write.

    I have a friend whose 16 year old daughter committed suicide. It has been about five years since this happened and I can tell just by her Facebook posts alone that my friend is still hurting every single minute of the day. I often wish that I had your gift of eloquent writing so that I could say beautiful things to her to lift her up.

    Anyway, please don’t ever stop sharing your love for Andy with all of us.


  3. My husband Jacob passed away November 30th 2018,we knew each other since high school, grew up a street apart from one another,he was my best friend and lover ,my everything. I have four daughters from ages21 to 5 years old. We miss him dearly.Thanks for sharing,grief because it s not talked about when it happens it is very difficult uncomfortable and awkward. I face my challenge s each day and learn new things.

  4. Dear Sister Joanne, my daughter, Catherine Ching Macuha, died Aug.10, 2015, unfortunately, her baby girl, Sophia Isabelle, whom she left, on the same date, will be celebrating her 4th birthday also on August 10, 2019. Her mother died while giving birth to Sophia. She succumbed to Thrombosis which filled her heart with water and blood.
    It pains me so much knowing she’s already gone and me so far and not besides her duringbthose tryingbtimes. She’s in Maryland while I’m here in Manila, PH. Today, almost 4 yrs, since I left MD in Nov. 2016, I haven’t talked nor heard from my grandchildren nor from their Papa. He doesn’t want us to be connected anymore. They got 3 kids, 2 boys (Raymond, 11 ands Luke Francis 5 ) and 1 girl (Sophia Isabelle). I missed them so much and I could only requests for prayers for my grandchildren, my daughter Catherine and their Dad, JR. He’s got a new wife now, he remarried 9 mos, after my daughter died and he also adopted a child, the child of her wife from failed relationship; now theybhàve their own child, aged 2 yrs and 6 mos old. I am praying that the pain I felt while I was taking of their baby girl before and other matters that me cried so much, might be healed and somehow relieve me of the pain that has been with me for 4 yrs now. Please pray for us, that someday, my daughters husband, be loving and caring about us his, mother in law and that I will be given a chance to hug, meet and embrace my grandchildren, once more. Help me God. Thank you so much for reading my piede. In Jesus name Amen.

  5. Our stories are similar I lost my husband & life as I knew it over 10 years ago ,I am still grieving & depressed .I have no desire to meet someone new or move on .I prefer living with the memories we made over our 35 years together .Please accept my most sincere condolences.

  6. Your book was the firzt6book I bought after my husband passed on 4/28/19. I love it and have shared it with others. Thank you!

  7. You’re amazing. Just creating this page alone is something that will be helpful to so many. I was married for 34 years and lost my husband 3 years ago. His death was preceded by my daughters death just 10 months prior. I’m raising her little boy since birth, he’s severely autistic, every day is a struggle sometimes.

  8. The Utter horror hit two weeks ago when my Daddy died. The details don’t matter.

    I’m struggling now to design a replacement headstone, compose obituaries suitable for the community he was raised in and for the community he was raised in as well.

    His cremains arrived over the weekend by USPO and his firstborn Grandchild who bears his name signed for them. I was out of town.

    Creating meaningful resources for my three adult children to aid in processing their grief is weighing on my mind. We will all be together the second week of July. I’ve given them a heads up that I’d like to spend some moments focused on their “Pa Woo”. I’m Baptist, one daughter is Morman, her twin is agnostic and their older brother is in flux about beliefs.
    How do undefined believers grieve? Ugh! I don’t have the energy to spin my wheels and spend my money on resources that are of meaning to them. But it is so difficult for me to process my own grief experience, and to take their diverse feelings into account. I keep checking in with him to see how they are doing. ‘I’m ok” sigh! Should I not try to plan any moments of remembrance? Just let it go??

  9. Suzy and I were married 41 years when she passed away suddenly on 12/31/13 at 0300. Even though it’s been several years She is always on my mind. When she left a huge part of me followed her and and bigger part of her stayed behind with me.
    Thanks for sharing your story. You put into words the things I wish I could say.


  10. Thank you so much for sharing from your heart, and from your journey of love, grief and healing, dear Joanne. So many family members and friends have lost a very dear loved one in just the past year. We’ve been going to many, many funerals and sending many, many sympathy cards. So many people have been grieving so deeply, some with unimaginable pain and sorrow like I’ve never seen before. I feel like I need to constantly be learning more about how I can better love, support and care for these precious people. Thanks again for sharing with us, Joanne.

  11. Beautiful! My husband was ‘promoted’ (as we call it when a good person dies) 25 years ago; we were both just 30 and had been together 7 years. Your words ring so very true. I applaud any and all efforts to encourage people to open up about death and loss – it will happen to us all, so why not learn that everyone deals with it differently, and that celebrating those who have gone on before is truly a lifeline and a healthy way to not only process the new norm, but keep the memory alive for all that loved that person. Thank you, Joanne!! And Happy 37th Anniversary ?

  12. Thank you for baring our soul. This is easier for some people than it is for others.

    Like your family/friends, few if any of Mom’s friends/family say anything to her on Dad’s and her anniversary. Dad died in November 2010. Their 65th anniversary was August 2019. Their marriage was not perfect, but it was as perfect as they get. They set an example for us kids about respect and emotional security.

    Unlike Andy, Dad had many more years under his bel, had pretty much done everything he wanted to do & had been sick for awhile when he passed. So while his death was less shocking than Andy’s, Mom’s grief is very real, and as you point out, grief is different for everyone,. She is quite articulate, yet dismisses journaling .Unlike you and me, support groups make her feel worse. She has rebuffed efforts from her clergy & other well-intending people to distract her from her grief. She never developed a good sense of self, that is to say, she always identified as someone’s wife, mom, sister, aunt. BTW, she was outstanding at those roles and many of benefitted from her. She is grateful for 3 loving kids and kids-in-law who dote on her, but she only has 1 grandchild who lives many states away, so whereas sometimes grandchildren provide a healthy distraction, Mom has to create (or accept) non-traditional ways to distract herself from her grief. It does not help that she completely “blacks out” (figuratively) when it comes to technology. So much of the way that people connect these days, is something that she has tried but cannot do. She is very proud, so rarely allows her kids to help her overcome the digital divide.
    I am not looking for suggestions, but I want t thank you for allowing me this space to express myself. I miss Dad, too–immensely. But I have other facets to my life which provide tremendous distraction. Mom always taught me to reach for every resource, yet she has shot down most. I am learning patience.

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