Grief and Easter: Remembering Loved Ones

For me, Easter isn’t the first holiday that jumps to mind when discussing how hard grief can be on holidays or special days.  Yet, crawling out of winter – filled with dark and cold – into Easter and spring – filled with bunnies and baskets and pink – can be pretty jarring. The “most difficult holidays” are different for each of us and are dependent on our traditions, meanings, and memories.  Easter can be a tough one, especially with all the talk of spring, rebirth, and new life.  Others may be excited and you may be . . . well, not excited.

easter remembering basketSo what can you do, other than crawl under the covers and hide?  For all special days, there are two things we try to do every time – plan and find ways to remember.  Sounds easy enough, right?  Well, it may actually take a bit of work.  But it will hopefully make the day a little more bearable if you spend the time to get ready for it.

Let’s start with remembering.  The idea of remembering may seem painful, but sharing happy memories can actually fill a tiny bit of that empty space left by those we have lost.  Consider ways you can share memories together.  You can go around the table, put out photos or scrapbooks, or do whatever else feels right.  Not sure?  One idea we love for Easter is to create a “remembering basket”.  This is easy, great for kids and adults alike, and you probably already have all the supplies!

 What you need:

  1. a basket
  2. plastic Easter eggs
  3. paper
  4. markers
  5. stickers or other decorations (optional)

What you do:

Set up a small table with all the items.  Throughout the day encourage everyone who is comfortable to write down a memory, something they miss about the person or anything else on a piece of paper and place in an egg.  At an appropriate time, open the eggs and share all the memories.  Some people may not want their memories shared or added to the basket.  That is fine too.  Encourage them to write down a memory, place it in an egg, and keep it in their own Easter basket (or purse, whatever).  Keep in mind with activities like this that you never want to push people to do something they aren’t comfortable with.

Though the holiday is just a couple of days away, planning is still important.  Below are some suggestions to plan for the holiday:

1. Identify which individuals you will be spending the holidays with. Who will be present for events, traditions, and celebrations?

  • Make a list of the individuals you will be with.
  • Often times these individuals will be dealing with the same loss.
  • If you will be spending the holidays alone or with people far removed from your loss, grab a journal or a notebook and complete the plan on your own.

2. If you decide to involve family and friends in making a plan, talk in advance.

  • Call, email or talk in person, even if just the day before, to make a plan for the day.
  • Discuss any specific anxieties, things people want to do for the day, and things they don’t want to do.
  • Don’t overlook the children. Even the youngest family members need to have a chance to express feelings and concerns. It’s also important for children to feel heard.

3. Decide what to do about tradition

  • Identify the rituals and traditions that will be the hardest.
  • Allow each member of the group to discuss what will be hardest about these identified moments.
  • Brainstorm ways to make these elements of the holidays easier. In the end, you may decide to keep the event or tradition the same, change it, or skip it until next year.

4. Discuss roles and responsibilities

  • Your loved one may have held several roles and responsibilities during the holiday season.
  • Take a little time to make sure there aren’t any roles, big or small, that will need to be filled or changed (i.e. who will plan the holiday meal, who will dye Easter eggs, who will make Easter baskets?)
  • Some people may not feel comfortable stepping into their deceased loved one’s shoes to fill these roles, respect their feeling and don’t push.
  • Make sure the roles and responsibilities don’t fall too heavily on one person.

5. Communicate with children affected by the loss

  • The holidays are hard for children because, although they are sad about the loss, they still may be excited for the same reasons we all were as children. Let them know they don’t need to feel guilty about enjoying themselves.
  • Ask them to let you know if they start to feel sad.
  • Make a special code word they can use if they need a break or some space.
  • Click here for posts about kids, teens, and grief.

6. If you haven’t already, take time to think about you and how you will take care of yourself.

  • Make a plan for how you will cope when things get really tough. Will you take a walk, journal, listen to music, get some space, exercise, etc.
  • Give yourself permission to cry.  This may be an especially tough day – there will probably be some tears and that’s okay.
  • Set aside time for decompression and self-care after the day.  It may be stressful.  Check out these 64 self-care tips for grievers.

8. Find ways to incorporate your loved one in the holidays. This is the best way to feel close to your loved one and fill their absence. You may want to find at least one or two ways to incorporate your loved one in each tradition and event that you identified as potentially being difficult.  If the remembering basket isn’t right for you, we have a list of 16 tips for continuing bonds with people we’ve lost This list was made for the “big” winter holidays that somehow seem to span from October to January, but plenty of them apply to Easter and grief too!

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March 2, 2018

12 responses on "Grief and Easter: Remembering Loved Ones"

  1. Yes Alysssa, I am only child also and lost both my parents. My mother was taken away from me on August 10, 2014. I lived with her my entire life for 49 years she did not make it to my 50th birthday. I have family but they are very selfish it seems none of them have the “decentsy to call me or invite me on holidays. I cry on the holiday and Mother’s day is a horror for me. I have been so upset and my family is a major disappointment. Especially when my mother point them first and now I see they do nothing in return; my mother would be quite angry with them if she was here now to see this. She was worried for me before she passed asking my aunt to please make sure that I am okay and instead my aunt never speaks to me or asks me how I am. I think my mother would be very unhappy to know this that her own family is “alienating her only child” …me. It has been very hard to see their true colors come out after her death; they are not true disciples of God as Catholics.

  2. This year Easter falls one the 1 year anniversary of my mom’s death. She died April 1 2017 from complications of pneumonia at 55 20 days before her 56th birthday. It has been hard since we were very close. She was a single mom and I am the only child and now I am a single mom with a little girl. My daughter is heartbroken that her grandma is gone. Then my father died Jan 3rd of this year a month before his 60th birthday. I was upset with him and didn’t talk to him much after mom died. I did get a chance to speak to him before he died but I still have guilt for being so distant in his last months. We were not close he was a voice over the phone but it still hurts to have no living parents.

  3. We didn’t hide. We honored someone named Sgt. Lowell Ferguson bc his birthday was on Easter Sunday this year. He was with my daughter’s godfather, Richard, in Vietnam. That’s Bien Hoa in the photo, their nonmoving post when they were in Bin Dinh Province.
    Sgt. Ferguson is the one on the left. Sgt. Blanton is on the right and they both died on the same day in the same way except it took Sgt. Ferguson longer to succumb to his wounds. Sgt. Blanton, the really good-looking one, was killed outright. I don’t know either of them but I feel like I do a little, especially Sgt. Blanton bc we visited his final resting place on Veteran’s Day, 2015. Sgt. Ferguson is too far away to visit; he lived in Florida.

  4. I lost my sweet nephew this past Halloween in a car accident..#DevoStrong…one of sweetest kindess well mannered young man you’ll ever meet…I struggle Everyday SINCE his passing…the whole in my heart feels U repairable ???I know he is in a better place…just hurts/stings so every holiday hurts…luv u nephew Aunty will honor you all the days of my life

  5. Our son loved chocolate and Easter was a chocolate time… miss you Joel x

  6. My oldest son passed away March 9. It is the most difficult hardest thing I think I’ve ever dealt with. He always loved this time of year too.

  7. Easter this year is the first anniversary of my son’s death. I like that Easter egg idea.

  8. Remembering any holiday is painful. I don’t let myself go there, ever. I live with the grief that keeps on giving, traumatic brain injury. It stole my son’s future from him and mine too.

  9. My Son was Born on Easter that year. 3/26/1978 – 2/26/2008.
    I have a candle holder & I found egg shaped candles that i arrange them on and put it in the glass cabinet that i have just for him.

  10. Lost my daughter 18 years ago. I have tears flowing every holiday, her birthday, Easter. Sometimes it’s just a memory. But I try to keep busy. I put a fresh silk arrangement on her gravest before Easter. Spending day with 2nd husband going to church. Then visiting my mom! My daughter was the best. But I was told God takes the best. For her needs are more important with God now than on earth. Love her always!

  11. My oldest daughter died April 5th 2010, Now this year Easter falls on that date. I don’t like it

  12. This Easter, I’m remembering my deceased loved ones and friends. May they find peace wherever they are.

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