It’s Easter afternoon as I write this. I admit that I can’t remember the last time I went to church on Easter morning. Heck, I can’t even remember what I did last Easter. But this year something has been different. I trekked to church this morning and enjoyed the entire service, all ninety minutes of it. This year, more than ever though, I missed many of the Easter rituals that have traditionally been part of my life.
Holy Saturday in particular was an important day for my family. We gathered with my mom’s family on the north side of Chicago at my grandparents’ house for a large meal. However, that meal didn’t begin until the entire crew (all ten grandchildren) and at least one aunt (Mom and/or one other sister would stay behind to help Grandma Zurawski finish preparing the meal) walked several blocks to the church with a basket filled with food to be blessed. The basket was placed along the side of the church along with a slew of other baskets and the short service took place with the blessing. When we returned to Grandma’s, we shared the meal with the whole family.
The deaths in my family changed our rituals. After my maternal grandfather died, we stopped the Holy Saturday meal at their house and Grandma spent Easter with one of my aunts and her family. After my paternal grandmother stopped knowing who we were at the nursing home, we stopped visiting her. In 1995 my last grandparent died, and so did all of our historic family rituals (by then Mom had long since stopped hiding jelly beans around the house for us to find on Easter morning). In the years since, I haven’t developed any new rituals. Some years have been spent with friends, a few with family, but most of them I don’t recall.
This morning I listened as the priest described Easter as a day of new beginnings. My hope for all of us is, that despite any pain we might feel on this day because our loved ones aren’t with us, we know that we have an opportunity to create new rituals, new beginnings, new connections. Life is never static and while we miss the rituals around which our memories with our deceased loved ones are formed, we have opportunities to root ourselves in the present with the loved ones still around us and create new memories.
Michelle Linn-Gust, Ph.D., is an international author and speaker about finding hope after loss and change. She is the author of several books including Rocky Roads: The Journeys of Families through Suicide Grief and Ginger's Gift: Hope and Healing Through Dog Companionship. Her first book, based on the suicide of her younger sister Denise, Do They Have Bad Days in Heaven? Surviving the Suicide Loss of a Si..., inspired siblings around the world in their survival after a loved one’s suicide. She is the President of the American Association of Suicidology and lives in Albuquerque, N.M. Read more about Michelle at www.michellelinngust.com.