Grief this Easter: remembering loved ones

Easter has really crept up on me this year.  Here in Baltimore we had snow on the ground earlier this week.  That just isn’t Easter weather.   Anything creeping up when you are grieving can be a disaster .  Holidays, even when they don’t creep up, can be a disaster.  When every day feels impossible, holidays feel even more impossible, and facing this Easter may seem unbearable.

For me Easter isn’t the holiday that first comes to mind when we talk about how hard grief can be on the holidays or special days.  And yet crawling out of winter, filled with dark and cold, into Easter and spring, filled with bunnies and baskets and pink, it can be a jarring as those Christmas carols that seem to start playing in November.  The hardest holidays are different for all of us, with different 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.

So 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 read for it.

cute and therapeutic?! what could be better?

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!

remembering basket 3 What you need:
-a basket
-plastic Easter eggs
-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 ones 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 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 our self-care post here for some tips.

8. Find ways to incorporate your love oneremembering basket 2 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 19 ways to remember your deceased loved ones during the holidays here.  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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Sheryl Pescor

Posted on March 29, 2013 at 4:12 pm

My husband actually died during the week of Easter 4 years ago. All of my family live in other states so I will be alone for Easter.This week has been filled with tears already. The closer we get to Sunday the more I cry. I believe I will go to a movie so I will not be home alone and thinking about being alone. I really miss him and thought by now I would not feel the sadness so much around the holidays.



Posted on March 29, 2013 at 10:38 pm

Sheryl, I am so sorry that you are feeling so alone this Easter. There is this pervasive grief myth that things get easier so much sooner than they do. For most people many years pass and the sadness is still there, when we feel like it shouldn’t be so overwhelming. It gets easier. It gets different. But the saddness is still there, in waves, good days and bad days. Going to a movie is a great idea! I am sure there are many others feeling the same anxiety of being alone and I am sorry we didn’t include more ideas for those alone in our post, so I will mention a couple other ideas here for others. Some other suggestions for a holiday alone are volunteering at a shelter or soup kitchen, planning a “spa” day at home with books or movies you have been wanting to watch/read and your favorite foods, and visiting a nursing home where there may be others who could use a friend for the holiday. If you are feeling especially ambitious and have time to plan, many Social Service offices offer “respite foster care”. There is an in-depth approval process, but once approved you can invite a child living in a group home to spend a holiday with you. Having worked in a group home early in my mental health career, I saw these holidays benefit many kids, but also the invidual who would invite them. As someone who loves watching TV shows marathon-style, but inevitably feels guilty about it, spending the day with a TV show box set on DVD with no apologies is a favorite for me on sad, lonely days. Sometimes we need guilty pleasures for the toughest days. Lastly, if you have access to skype or face time you may want to consider joining your family in other states virtually for a little while. It isn’t the same as in person, but it can be a lot more comforting than just a phone call when you can ‘see’ them. Take care this weekend. You will be in our thoughts.



Posted on March 31, 2013 at 9:58 am

This is my first Easter since my husbands sudden death in January pushed me into this nightmare I now live. We had o children, no family at all and no close friends, for 30 years we were a world unto ourselves and then, within 4 days he died and left me a widow in a wheelchair… Facing a live all alone. I don’t know how to handle this.



Posted on March 31, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Meryl, I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your husband. With it being so recent and such a sudden loss I cannot even imagine how tough this holiday must be. Have you considered looking for a support group for other widows in your area? This can be a good way to connect with other people who have gone through similar losses and who may also be alone and seeking support. Many hospices offer widow support groups and other grief services that are free or at a sliding scale. Some communities also have more informal “meet ups” for widows. There is a website called where you can search for widow and your area for meetups. Once are feeling up for it you could look at other ways to seek new friendships. Sometimes taking a class at a community center or community college, joining a book club, or volunteer group can be ways to meet other people. Even if it doesn’t lead to friendships, it is a nice way to be around other people. There is also a book by Florence Falk called On My Own: Learning the Art of Being a Woman Alone. Though she did not lose her husband, she did a lot of introspection about lonliness after her divorce. It is on amazon Thinking of you today . . .



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