Six years ago, on Easter Sunday, my mother died. She had been living in Puerto Rico; I was miles away in New Jersey. As I grappled with grief, my family, congregation, friends and colleagues embraced me with love and prayer.

What I didn’t realize was that my children were grieving too. In the time that followed, my daughter, Sofía, refused to let us discard a coffee container her grandmother had bought. She insisted, “That coffee container reminds me of Wila!” (My mother’s name was Awilda, but my kids called her Wila.)

We had no choice but to leave that container in the pantry, right where my mother left it on her last visit. Sofía’s concern for keeping Wila’s memory alive in the house soothed my heart. She needed a physical reminder of her grandmother and, admittedly, so did I.

Coping with grief isn’t an individual matter. The truth is, we are more interconnected than we think, and moving on can be especially painful if we do it too quickly. For my family, that coffee container became a long-standing reminder of my mother’s life—in our memories and alongside the saints in heaven. It was a relic of Easter hope.

On Good Friday, the church comes together to mourn Jesus’ death. And Easter is a communal celebration of the eternal life God has obtained for us through Christ’s cross and resurrection. Even when our hearts are weary with grief, we can rest in the hope that we aren’t alone. God unites us in beloved community, now and forever.

Thank you, Sofía. I’m glad we kept that coffee container for years.

Practices

To help your family process grief together:

  • Honor your children’s way of mourning. Don’t force them to move on. Listen to their concerns, and be flexible with their wishes. Share memories together. Read the Easter story and discuss the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
  • Allow your community to care for you and your family. Kids need love and support from everyone in their lives, not just their caretakers.
Nelson H. Rabell-González
Rabell-González is associate pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Lodi, Calif. He was born and raised in Puerto Rico and is a graduate of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (2002). Rabell-González is married to Dr. Fabiola Ramos. They have two children: Hiram Rabell-Ramos (18) and Sofía Rabell-Ramos (16). Their dog's name is Lucas.

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