Saturday, April 15, 2017

When Grief Invades Easter

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I wanted to write, again, about grief and the holidays.  Most people think of grief associated with Christmas, but any holiday can bring up forms of grief.

It's important to have compassion on yourself.  Twenty two years ago, Easter was on April 16, the same as the year I am writing this.

A friend went to church with me that morning, and we heard the glorious story of Jesus conquering death.  I Corinthians 15:55 was shouted from the rooftops.  "Oh death, where is thy sting?  Oh grave, where is they victory?" (KJV)  The triumphant songs signaled the ending of Lent and the start of celebration.  The toe-tapping, joyful songs associated with this glorious day.   April 1995 was the last time I sat in an Easter service without grieving.

How can someone grieve when the whole point of Easter is there is no more death, no more pain. The simple truth is we still live in a fallen world.  And we see death, we say goodbye even on the most holy and joyous of Sundays.

After church, I fixed lunch for my friend as he had to work at a nursing home and his shift started at 2, which didn't give him enough time to go home and then head back to work.

Unknown to us, as we were having lunch, the family was called in to my grandmother's room at the facility where my friend worked.  No one thought to tell me.  One of his co-workers offered to pick me up as my mother was already there and I didn't have a car.

How one day can go from such a celebration to mourning is still almost incomprehensible to me.  My grandmother had been suffering from stomach cancer, so it was expected, but to go from holding hands in church as the congregation recited The Lord's Prayer to a couple hours later holding my grandmother's hand as she left this earth.

I was there as she took her last breath.  I don't know if I was naive or didn't want to believe she had left us, but I ran for a nurse.  She knew with what I described my grandmother had passed.  She paged for an RN, and my friend also came from his floor to be with us and see if we needed anything.

Twenty-two years later.  I no longer go to church on Easter Sunday.  It's too difficult.  To sing "Up from the Grave He Arose" with memories of my grandmother invading the day.

Because Easter is a holiday that moves, most years it feels like I mourn my grandmother twice.  Once on Easter, and then again on April 16.  This is only the second time the days have coincided in the lat 22 years.  It will be another eleven years until it happens again.  It feels like she has two days of remembrance of her death.

In the Catholic tradition, a saint's feast day is the day they depart from this earth.  But I've never been able to separate the joy and mourning.  Maybe someday.  Isaiah 61 talks about the oil of joy replacing mourning.  But it hasn't happened yet for me.  I have been reading The Other Side of Complicated Grief: Hope in the Midst of Despair by a nurse who lost her husband and her adult son.  I doubt I will ever see Easter the same was as I did in 1994, but each year is different, sometimes easier, sometimes harder.  Sometimes I think of wonderful memories of Grandma, other times I feel sad wishing she had not been so sick so much of her life.

All I can think is it was 1995 was the end of Easter as I knew it.

Yet this year, a good friend passed away two weeks ago.  I'm still mourning my mother who has been gone since 2014.  Easter is April 16.  Again.  I'm thinking what it would be like to be the disciples, to be devastated by their loss, and then Jesus reappear.  I can't begin to imagine the elation.  But for some people, Easter brings not so great memories.

No one can fully understand another's reaction to things because each person is different.  Each person walks a unique path, filled with their own hopes, dreams, and heartaches.

This Easter, take a look around for someone who doesn't seem to be having as good a time as everyone else and take a moment to speak an encouraging word to them.

Life is messy, and we all need each other to get through it.

As for me, I'm planning on spending Easter Sunday doing things I enjoy.  It might not be the traditional way to spend the day, but it's what makes me happy, and sometimes that's all we can ask of ourselves or others.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent! ~ I'm in a similar boat of emotions for relative reasons ~ so I too, plan on enjoying Easter on my terms. Although I have lots of wonderful Easter memories from my earlier years, I'm not into the traditional or commercial aspects of the current holiday right now.