I don’t remember what we did for Easter the year my sister died.
To be honest, maybe we didn’t do much that Easter. I don’t know. It was a little over a month after she died, and I only know that much because I just googled “Easter 2004” to find out — the memory is missing completely. My brother in law was temporarily living with us, and we’d had to “celebrate” his, my dad’s, and my brother’s birthday in that month in between, which we also didn’t really do.
Since moving out California (and out of the Church), most of my Easters of recent years have been spent unceremoniously at home, just another Sunday, with maybe a call to my family and opening the USPS flat rate shipping box they still send me with Easter basket goodies (which is very sweet and cute of them to still do).
Some of you might be at home today doing some of the things you normally do on Easter — dressing up, doing Easter baskets, “attending” church (online), making a special meal and sitting down together, taking a walk together, maybe having a picnic in a field of wildflowers and flying kites as my family and I used to do when we were growing up.
And some of you might not be doing any of the things as you normally would. Whatever you’re doing to cope and adjust with the differences demanded by this year is OK.
Adjusting is never easy when it comes to things we hold dear, or sacred, or given. In the various chapters of grief I’ve encountered in life, I’ve found that losing and/or having to adjust traditions specifically has been extremely hard.
Traditions are, in a way, something sacred, even religious in their own right. They are pillars that we can count on. Constants that, when the world changes, we feel robbed by the thought that these constants might not be able to be so constant after all.
I’ve spent several Christmases and Easters in the past years alone, or in “non-traditional” places, doing “non-traditional” things.
Sometimes I find comfort in practicing the traditions, even when the world seems wildly inconstant. And sometimes it’s just seemed fake and like a lot of effort, and it’s easier and more honest to just sit on the couch and take the day as a day of rest in the most sloth-like ways.
For me, I’m comfortable with the different nature of Easter this year because I’ve been here before — I’ve lived here on these holidays for a while now.
But I feel for a lot of you as this is new, and as you cope with Easter being one of those pillars that you’re either trying to hang on to as something that stays the “same,” or as a tradition that you’re releasing this year, and it feels weird, and sad, and irreverent in that way.
For me, traditions are immensely helpful and comforting and are something that brings me joy when they’re upheld year to year. But that’s only true for however long they work.
I don’t remember the Easter after Julie died, but I do remember Christmas that year. At Easter, I assume we either tried to do what we normally did and it felt fake, or we didn’t do much, again, I’m not sure.
But I know that at Christmas, our long-time family friends, the McCoy’s, invited us to come join them in their big family Christmas day celebration. The invitation held, between the lines, the invitation to make some new traditions, ones that worked for our now-changed and grieving family.
I have always remembered that invitation, and it has been a painful but healthy one to embrace in many points of change in my life. New traditions, ones that fit your current space and life status, are the ones that give opportunity to bring joy and comfort in new ways.
And, at the end of the day, in the historical sense of what this holiday represents, it is to be a day of new birth, new beginnings, moving forward from the past — which might have been good for then, but which now doesn’t fit anymore — and offering a new perspective, a new tradition, a new way of life.
I pray that you all find some joyful ways to create new traditions today.
I have found some that I have begun to practice in the past few years.
They’re different than what it used to look like, and that’s OK to grieve the change.
But they also fit better for where I am now, and that’s OK to celebrate.
In the Christian Church, we start the lenten season with the saying: Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
Today is the culmination of that season — the day to give us hope that out of these ashes beauty will rise — from the dirt, new life will spring forth.
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Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.