The departure of a loved one is one of the most painful things we experience. Visiting a loved one’s grave is a helpful part of mourning.
It can help you retain a connection to the departed, which provides a bit of comfort when you feel lonely and empty.
Because cemeteries are often quiet and serene, visiting your loved one’s grave also provides an opportunity to reflect and meditate.
What does the Bible say about visiting graves?
What You'll Learn Today
Is It A Sin To Visit a Grave?
You probably already know the most famous grave visit in the Bible. In John chapter 20, Mary Magdalene visits the tomb where Jesus had been buried, only to find it open and empty.
She definitely did not go to check on the tomb. She likely went to grieve about Jesus and reminisce about his life.
Nowhere in the gospels does Jesus, after resurrecting, admonish Mary for visiting his tomb. In fact, nowhere in the Bible is there a command, warning, or teaching against visiting graves.
In Genesis 35:19-20, Jacob marks Rachel’s tomb with a pillar much like we mark and decorate graves today.
So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem), and Jacob set up a pillar over her tomb. It is the pillar of Rachel’s tomb, which is there to this day.
The intention of the pillar was to mark her burial place, so people could stop and take note, and maybe even take a moment to reflect on Rachel’s life and their own mortality.
Bad Reasons For Visiting A Grave
The reason why some Catholics are uncomfortable with the idea of visiting a grave is that sometimes people go there for some questionable reasons.
For instance, people often visit graves to talk to their loved ones. For most of us, it’s a way to grieve and connect with them.
We clearly know we are not really communicating with a dead person. We are simply expressing our inner thoughts. But if you do believe that you are actually talking to a dead loved one, that’s a sin.
The Bible is against the practice of speaking with the dead. Here’s Deuteronomy 18:10-11.
There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead.
In the Old Testament, the punishment for mediums was death by stoning, indicating the seriousness of the offense.
Even if you don’t visit a grave to talk to a dead person, you may still have some not so good intentions such as:
- Expressing anger towards God or someone. Being angry is not a sin, it’s how you express it that can be unrighteous. Cursing and hurling insults in anger, whether directed to God or someone, is a sin. If you are experiencing doubts about your faith and why God would allow your loved one to die, your local priest can provide guidance and counseling.
- Neglecting God and His Gifts. When someone close to us has died, it can feel like a part of us has been ripped away. Instead of praying to God for healing, peace and hope, we can sometimes seek these things from our departed loved ones. If you eventually turn away from God, that becomes a mortal sin.
- Asking a loved one for forgiveness. You should only seek penance from God either directly or through a priest. Only God can forgive you for any sins you may have committed against a loved one, and He is the only one who can take away the guilt and shame.
The most important thing is to search your heart and be honest with yourself about why you are visiting a loved one’s grave.
Is it simply an act of mourning and remembrance, is it an unhealthy ritual that could put your relationship with God on shaky ground?
Good Reasons To Visit a Grave
You are not sinning by visiting a grave. It can actually be good for your heart and mind, as long as you are doing it for the right reasons.
It’s okay to visit a grave to remember your loved one and meditate on the time you spent together. You can also take that time to express your love and respect for them.
It’s also alright to weep and mourn at the grave. God knows how much it hurts.
For some people, a grave provides the solitude and space they need to weep and pour out their pent up emotions. This can help with healing.
A grave visit is also a somber reminder of our own mortality, as well as a hopeful reminder that we’ll meet our loved ones again.