By Jacki Post Ashkin , LCSW-C and Gail Lipsitz
Why does a loss seem so much harder during this holiday? Holidays are meant to be special occasions that we share with the people we love. Of all the Jewish holidays, Passover is the time when families are most likely to come together, and home is at the heart of our observance. No wonder we become painfully aware that an important person in our lives isn’t there to share the joy this year. We’re wondering whether the Passover traditions that we’ve been observing for years will feel different, and what will that do to our sense of identity and continuity? And how will our personal loss affect our shared experience of the Seder?
What’s really on our mind as Passover draws near is: How am I going to get through this holiday? Here, from bereavement experts at Jewish Community Services, are some suggestions for coping.
- Acknowledge the loss. Everyone is aware that someone important is missing, so don’t avoid the obvious. Talk about how you miss your loved one and invite others around the table to share memories, too.
- Find support from family and friends. You do not have to “be strong” for others.
- Set an “empty place” at the table in honor of your loved one. Some may instead find comfort in sitting in the chair that was their loved one’s spot.
- Light an extra candle in memory.
- Place a picture near where you are seated.
- Allow yourself to cry when the tears want to come.
- Don’t be afraid to laugh. You are not dishonoring your loved one by laughing; he or she would surely want to see you enjoying life.
- In your private moments, it may be comforting to talk to the person who has died.
- Make a memorial for your loved one.
- Use your spiritual and/or religious practices to find comfort.
- Think ahead about what rituals and traditions may change in your Seder. For example, who will say Kiddush if the person who always did is no longer there? Who will conduct the Seder? Plan with your family and guests, and acknowledge the changes during the Seder.
- If it feels too overwhelming or painful to have your traditional Seder this year (whether you were a guest or the host in the past), you may find it helpful to make a change. Consider accepting an invitation from friends, attending a community Seder, or scaling back on your own guest list.
- If your emotions feel overwhelming, as may happen as the holiday approaches or afterwards, it can be helpful to talk with a therapist, bereavement counselor, rabbi, or other trusted professional, or to join a support group to help cope with your loss.
Passover is about remembering our past and telling our stories. Our stories would not be complete without including the people we’ve loved and lost. Just as we invite the spirit of Elijah to join us at our Seder, so we should also welcome the spirit of our loved ones to be present as well.
By Jacki Post Ashkin , LCSW-C, Senior Manager, Resource Development/Marketing, and Gail Lipsitz, Coordinator, Public Relations, Jewish Community Services