Karyn Ellis, M.A., L.M.H.C.

My Grandma's Buttons and Negative Association

Counselors are taught to not disclose personal stories but in this case I am making an exception as this is something everyone has experienced.

I remember the coat my grandma wore to my grandpa’s funeral when I was ten. I loved my grandpa and couldn’t imagine a world without him. My grandma’s coat was a peacock-blue color with big chunky gold buttons with swirl patterns on them. There was a big blue glass stone in the middle and along the outer edges there was a purple, green, red and yellow stone of a smaller size. I believe she bought the coat just for his funeral, saying “there was always too much black at funerals. I just needed something with color.” I was obsessed with that coat and the buttons. After she got sick (and eventually went on to be with my grandpa) I never saw the coat again.

15 years later I was sitting at my grandmother’s (my husband’s grandma) table working on fixing some of her jewelry when she gives me a bag of odd jewelry pieces and buttons, “ I don’t know if you can use any of this or not but I know you are crafty so I thought of you.” I got home and dumped the pieces into my hand—seeing what their made of and if the pieces were broken at all. I grabbed for the next item. I picked it up and paused, holding my breath. I had a pinch of pain in my heart but it took me a minute to figure out why. They were just buttons. Gold buttons with a swirl pattern and different colored stones. I set the buttons aside, just at the corner of my eye while I moved on to the other items. It finally hit me. The buttons were the same as the ones from my grandma’s coat at my grandpa’s funeral. I went through the bag to find more. As I am typing this I have three of them in front of me.

What is the significance? I have a negative association or attachment to those buttons. They aren’t just buttons they are a memory. The memory of my grandpa’s funeral, they take me back to the ten-year-old sitting in a big room with a casket trying to figure out why he died. I am at peace with it now but the buttons are still a reminder.

We all have numerous items that are associated with a memory, person, or feeling. Seeing a particular item or picture triggers a strong emotional response. It doesn’t have to be pain or grief. You can even feel anger, frustration or fear. Sometimes those associations or triggers cause us to:

But you don’t have to face it alone. Partner with a friend or family member. Let yourself grieve and stop trying to let the fear hold you back.