What should you say to a grieving friend at Easter*?
Here’s how to support grieving friends at Easter — or any time:
- “I’m thinking of you (and your family).” This simple expression of caring is always appropriate.
- Send something (a card or another tangible token) expressing your awareness.
- Bring edibles (snacks, groceries or ready meals).
- Invite them to eat with you (at home or out).
- Listen. Let them reminisce, rage, and roar their grief. Laugh along at great memories. Mourners need to share their feelings.
If you wish to share Easter-related (or other religious-themed) thoughts of comfort with your mourning friends, think carefully before and while speaking. Their grief is valid, and your words should acknowledge that.
Never make assumptions — or admonitions — about what the bereaved should do, feel, or believe. If you express how you feel about your own faith, only speak in relation to your feelings — not in relation to their loss.
How can you express your own belief near religious holidays without diminishing the loss your friends feel?
- “I’m thinking of you and your family this Easter.”
- “You and your family are in my prayers as I celebrate Easter this year.”
- “Sending you loving thoughts at Easter time.”
- “I miss your mother, too, and I look forward to one day seeing her again. But it’s hard to not have her with us. Thinking of you during my Easter commemoration.”
- “I take comfort in the joy of the resurrection to come, but I realize this is your first Easter season alone.”
If your beliefs are vastly different from your grieving friends, you might say something like:
- “Even though I don’t celebrate Easter, I know it’s been important to you, and I know you’re mourning. I’m thinking of you.”
I hope you’ll adapt such positive statements in reaching out to your mourning friends.
Now, having said all this, please let me delve a bit deeper.
I continue feeling conflicted about Easter. It still brings me blister and balm, solace and sorrow. Community and isolation. Heartache. Hope. (I wrote more on this in Easter Grief: Life and Death and Loss and Hope.)
I miss my own (and my daughters’) childhood Easter observations — chocolate bunnies, colored eggs, children with parents at church.
I dislike dwelling on the graphic horrors of what Good Friday inflicted, but I daily ponder my gratitude for the empty grave Easter morning revealed. I believe that because Jesus Christ was resurrected from that grave, I’ll therefore be reunited in the hereafter with the loved ones I’ve lost.
And I take comfort in knowing — within the perspective of eternity — our till-death-did-us-part separation is temporary.
But I didn’t, I don’t (and I perhaps never will) take comfort from others telling me to feel that same hope I already embrace.
- Don’t admonish mourners to remember the reason for the season. (You might think you’re saying something positive, but what they hear is that you’d rather preach to them than acknowledge the depth of their sorrow.)
- Don’t tell the bereaved they should be “happy” for the faraway, future fulfillment of their faith. (They’re grieving lost loved ones now — and throughout the rest of what they foresee as long, lonely lifetimes. Future hope doesn’t restore or negate ongoing absence.)
- Don’t assert or assume that devotion to Deity makes grief go away. (It can lighten the weight of mourning — it did/does for me! — but grief and love are connected. Let mourners mourn as they will, and let them also worship as they will — or won’t.)
When a mourning friend asks what comforts you in your faith, by all means, share the beliefs which offer you consolation. If a bereaved coworker asks what speaks peace to your heart, testify to that source of solace. When one who has lost loved ones worries over their own soul, witness what strengthens yours.
Six-plus years after my husband’s death, I still feel ambivalent about hearing “happy Easter.” But it always feels good to hear someone say, “I’m thinking of you.”
*Many of your faith traditions differ from mine. Please understand, I mean no disrespect or disregard toward yours. Please adapt and apply these suggestions to the religious holiday observations and practices sacred to you and to your grieving friends.
I try to make this site relevant to helping everyone learn ways to support their mourning friends — regardless of their faith traditions. Belief doesn’t banish bereavement.
But because my faith plays such a formative role in my life and worldview, it sometimes features in what I write about, including topics like this Easter-inspired post.
For those of you who celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter — and beyond — I hope you will enjoy this brief Easter video: #PrinceOfPeace