Visiting familiar places when you’re grieving

In a time of loss, the world can feel strange. Sometimes even a drive around your own familiar neighborhood can be disorienting. Everything just feels so different. You may also find yourself changing routes to avoid places you shared with your loved one.

This is normal, especially in early grief. Sometimes it can feel just too painful to return — to that restaurant where you shared so many meals, to that park you explored together, even to the church pew where you once sat, side by side.

Here are some suggestions for navigating this:

  • No Need to Rush. At some point, it might be helpful to return to those familiar places (and some may be unavoidable as you go about your day), but if you don’t feel ready just yet, no need to push yourself. Be gentle and give yourself as much time as you need.
  • Ease Into It. At some point you might feel ready and even a little curious about what you will experience if you return to one of these places. You could take a trusted friend or family member with you so you can reminisce together. If you prefer to process quietly, you could just take a journal or sketchbook with you.
  • Let Healing Happen. One of the mysteries of life is that you can’t make healing happen. It is a grace that arrives in its own sweet time and own mysterious way. However, you can create conditions in your life that are conducive to healing. For some, returning to places full of memories can be part of the healing process.

In time, many people do find comfort in these familiar places. Where absence was once felt most acutely, you may begin to feel a quiet sense of presence — of not being so alone — as you walk with your memories down that familiar path.


Optage Hospice Chaplain Jenny Schroedel facilitates grief groups across PHS sites and in the larger community. Jenny is also an author, most recently of Naming The Child: Hope-filled Reflections on Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Infant Death.

If you are interested in joining a group, contact Optage Hospice or call 651-746-8200. Optage is the home and community services division of Presbyterian Homes & Services.