Easter Joy

Claire daughter of DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley dyes eggs

For the past four years, Easter has been an important marker in my life. Maybe it’s because in my faith and in my family, Easter is a time of joy – and joy is something that hasn’t always been so easy to grasp since Shawn died. Even as the trees turned pink with flowers and the purple-red buds of the peonies peeked above the ground, even as there was hope and life everywhere and even as I heard the church sermons that proclaimed joy for this time of year – well, even then, I couldn’t always embrace the idea that joy was all around me.

The first Easter I celebrated as a widow was in in 2018, just a few months after Shawn died. I got the stomach flu and my friends Kristin and Becky took the kids to church with their families and did an egg hunt together afterwards, sending me photos of the kids that made me so overwhelmed with emotion that I sat in bed and cried big, fat tears. I was also waiting on test results to confirm that the abnormal breast exam didn’t really mean cancer.

It wasn’t exactly what I would call a joyful Easter. I was suffering so much from the stomach bug that I spent all day in bed and I tried to at least appreciate that I finally got a day without my kids. Clearly, I was really stretching to find some joy that year.

The second year was maybe the worst. That’s strange to say, I know, since I wasn’t a brand-new widow and I also wasn’t home with the stomach flu or a potential tumor growing in my chest. I mean, you’d think it would have been better! But I was reeling that spring from a rough breakup, and even though I’d started to feel a bit better, it was a pretty uneven road I was traveling. Every day I’d wake up and think, “my GOD, this is my life. I do not like it at all.” That year, I spent part of Easter day at Shawn’s grave, marveling at how much life there was around me – in the trees and the people and the birds – and yet, his body was there in the ground.

The third year – last year – was a time unlike any other, of course. I’d spent the month prior to Easter in full quarantine due to the pandemic, not leaving the house for anything, really. The kids and I became a unit, even more so than we’d ever been before. Every day felt like us against the world.

I was also falling in love. I hadn’t yet laid my hands on him, but Chris was mine, and I was his, even if our whole relationship had formed over the phone.

The day before Easter, I prepped the buttermilk roast chicken I was going to make the next day (if you have not made it and want someone to fall in love with you, I can highly recommend it.) I went on a run. I cleaned the house and sat in the sunshine in the backyard and tried to convince myself that even though I would be the only adult in the house, Easter wasn’t going to be terrible. I didn’t feel joy per se, but I felt okay about things. I had the kids, and on the phone, I had Chris.

Late that afternoon, I came out of my house and Chris was standing in my driveway. I was very, very surprised.

Easter last year was our first full day together. We took a bike ride with the kids and did a “egg hunt” with pieces of cardboard that we cut into egg shapes and then taped on little pieces of candy. The kids knew it was kind-of lame, but they pretended it was great, because they knew we were trying. That night, we ate the chicken and Chris smiled at me from across the table and I thought, “this is the Easter joy I have been missing.”

But really, I was in the early stages of love and the joy was more of an excitement kind of joy. I didn’t know where everything would lead with Chris. I felt the overwhelming sense of new love, new joy, new hope. What would it mean in a week or a month? I had no idea. I was just happy to have him there that Easter day.

And now, it’s Easter again. An important marker for me and for the kids. It’s also an important marker for all of us – me, the kids, and Chris – as a family.

Because today is a day when I feel a kind of joy that is different from last year. Yes, last year I felt excited, but this year I feel a kind of joy that I’ll call expectant joy, because it’s about my future with Chris, and also about our life together as a family.

Easter in my family (and in our church) has always been about rebirth and renewal, joy and excitement. I couldn’t always feel it, especially in those early years. But the joy was there, even if my vision was too clouded to see it. This year, I am so glad I can embrace it.

If you’re not there yet, if you’re in the years where Easter (or any other holiday you celebrate) feels dark and sad or maybe just dull and drizzly, that’s okay too. There is no right way to feel on these days, of course.

But I can say this: there is something to be said for knowing that there is joy in the world, even if it’s not yours at that moment. Because someday, in some form, that joy will come for you. Maybe it will be the excitement kind of joy for something brand new, or maybe it will be expectant joy of something yet to come. Maybe it will be a new love or a new friend or a new job. Or maybe it will be nothing new, but rather that you will find that you can sit in the sunshine and marvel at the peonies pushing up through the dirt. That, too, is a special kind of joy.

Image Credit: Becky Hale Photography.

10 Replies to “Easter Joy”

  1. This is my 2nd Easter without him. It feels harder than the first. I think, because the first one was last year (hello covid) and because I feel like I was in shock. So I wasn’t really feeling anything. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you what I did last year…
    This year I’m trying, but it feels so hard

    1. The second time of everything is really hard. If it’s any consolation, I found the third time easier. You’ll see that on my blog the first few months of the second year was really hard on me for just this reason. But it does get easier. Hang in there.

  2. My husband died of cancer In July its been 9 months yesterday . This is my first Easter with out him. I’m doing well .. Having a spouse die in Middle of Corvid is hard . Thank you for your blog

    1. It’s so hard. I’m so sorry to hear about your husband’s death. The first year is always so hard but especially this year, because grieving is so much easier when it can be done with others. But just know this – you’re not alone. So many people are grieving right now. I’m glad you’re here, reading and processing.

  3. Linda Morse says: Reply

    Thank you for this – my first Easter without my husband of 44 years and church was a significant part of our lives. We moved about 15 months before he died of a cardiac event and we’d only gotten out to see one church – then he broke his leg severely and was non weightbearing for for 3 months and then covid hit…I’m having a bad day today. If we still lived in our previous town of 23 years, I don’t know how I could have ever gone back into that church – even doing zoom a few weeks after he died back in November was very painful and I could almost feel him sitting next to me even at home. I haven’t been able to look at any churches due to covid, but it’s going to be hard to find one on my own – Easter is a tough time.

    1. Easter is really hard, especially at first. I had a really hard time returning to church the first time (I sat in the back so I could easily leave) but also, I found healing there eventually. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to find a perfect church – I do think you’ll eventually get there. For now, go easy on yourself. These are hard days for everyone, and much harder for people who are grieving.

  4. This will be the 3rd Easter without my husband and this last year has been particularly lonely because of the pandemic. But since I recently received my 2nd Covid vaccination, I was able to enjoy a great meal with my daughter and her family. The first one we’ve had together in over a year. And no masks, just hugs!

    1. Oh, I love this SO MUCH. I love seeing people reunite with family!! I do think that it will get easier to find comfort in others as the vaccination rates go up. I’m so glad you got to have a meal with your daughter and her family!

  5. Marjorie: This., “if you have not made it and want someone to fall in love with you, I can highly recommend it.”, lifted my spirit and made me laugh out loud. This is my 4th Easter w/o Anne. We’re not religious, but we always had a big (2 entrees!) family meal, good china and silver, Easter baskets with each getting our favorite candy. and it was a joyful celebration. Easter of 2017 was our last big family meal, too, because Anne wanted to forego the big cooking days, to prepare for the upcoming heart surgery. She died on June 12, 2017, the day of her final appointment before the surgery was scheduled. I briefly dreamt of her this morning, in the 5 minutes between the alarm and the snooze. She was leaning into me for a kiss, I was unaware in the dream that she was dead and I woke up just as our faces got close.
    I thank you for writing, and want you to continue. I am a bit jealous of you and Chris, but I’m happier for you two, than I am jealous. Love is what matters. RR

    1. Thank you so much for sharing – what a beautiful memory of your wife. And thank you for your good wishes. Easter can be a tough time, I know.

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