My father passed away on the Monday of Holy Week. I remember feeling angry towards the Church on Easter Sunday that year as I made the long journey to my father’s burial service, wondering how the Church could go on celebrating while my father was no longer with us. Working in the Church, I wondered if this would haunt me every Holy Week or if it would pass over time.
Every Holy Week since then has been different for me. A creeping numbness and frustration threatens to seep in, as I see all the churches promoting Easter egg hunts and holy week services with eager anticipation for Easter Sunday celebrations. It all seems so noisy, especially compared to the silent emptiness left from those who have passed on.
Four years later, I am reminded of the beautiful Easter sunrise that morning as we began the long drive to his service. In the midst of the grief and frustration I felt, there was this glimpse of peace.
This week I am reminded that I am not alone in my grief.
I spoke with a stranger on the phone the other day who mentioned that her parent, too, had passed away during Holy Week. A beloved church member, friend and coworker of mine, passed away just a few days before the anniversary of my father’s death, and her absence is obvious to anyone who walks in the church these days.
So I write to say, to you who are grieving this Holy Week: you are not alone.
If you are struggling to make it to the Easter festivities, it’s okay. If you are not feeling very celebratory, it’s okay. If you are questioning how others around you are going on about their everyday business, it’s okay. What I’m saying is, give yourself some grace.
I told a colleague of mine the other day, what I’ve learned most from my grief experience is that grace is your best friend. When grief arrives as an unexpected visitor or one who overstays their welcome, accept it with a large heaping side of grace. Give yourself permission to take care of yourself in the midst of grief. Do what you need to rest and restore your soul.
The Easter season is not about eggs or food or how many church services you can check off your list. It is about the free and abundant grace that God gives to each of us. So accept that gift; breathe in the unconditional love of God, and know that you are not alone.
“May God who knows your grief bless you with the gradual awareness that there is no dying that cannot be transformed into life beyond imagining. May God rise and be revealed to you in your loss just as surely as the flower emerges from the dying seed and the butterfly from the abandoned cocoon. May this ever faithful God be with you and gently stir hope into your grieving. May the faithful God bless you.” -“Faithfulness”, from Silver Linings – blessings for Shadow Times by Maxine Shonk, OP
Let us praise God for his glorious grace, for the free gift he gave us in his dear Son. (Ephesians 1:6)