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Passover challenges – some are harder than others

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Reading the Haggadah at Passover FLICKR PHOTO
Reading the Haggadah at Passover FLICKR PHOTO

Dear Ella,

No one in our family is looking forward to the seders this year. Each of us wants to do our own thing at home instead of our usual large family seder.

This is our first seder without our mother, who died in November. The woman who held it all together for us, who made everything from scratch, who laughed while she served, who sang while she cooked, who organized and always looked beautiful at the table, is gone. If we could just snap our fingers and “pass over” this holiday, I think we all would. Even the grandchildren are feeling the terrible loss. I don’t know how we are going to get through the seder this year. She was truly the matriarch of our family.

Sincerely,

Heavy-Hearted Passover

Dear Heavy-Hearted Passover

Losing a parent is difficult to deal with at any time, but on holidays, the loss is intensified. You bring many grieving people into one room to go through the motions of what used to be a very happy and memorable experience, and all of a sudden you have been slammed into the unknown. No one feels like going through the motions. No one feels like celebrating.

Seders as you knew them will never be the same without your mother. You can’t change that. What you can do, however, is capture and honour her memory.

Prepare dishes she would have made and then talk about how no one can make them like mom. Sing the songs that she would have sung. Laugh, cry, talk, tell stories, share memories and make her spirit part of your seder. This year’s seder will be like no other before it. Allow yourselves to feel the loss and embrace the values and tradition she instilled in all of you.

Keeping her spirit alive is how she will continue to be with you forever. Each holiday, birthday and anniversary will be a time to remember. “Firsts” are the hardest, but you’ll get through each one in your own way. Don’t mask your feelings. Instead, accept the help of other family members and friends. This year, your mother will be with each and every one of you, firmly implanted in your hearts and minds.


Dear Ella,

Passover is here again and with it comes my yearly dilemma: my mother-in-law’s gefilte fish. We’re a fairly big group and everyone makes something to bring to the seder. My mother-in-law has been making the gefilte fish for years now. It tastes only slightly worse than it smells.

No one eats it. They all cover it with lots of horseradish and cut it up so it looks eaten, then the whole thing goes into the trash. It’s a shame and a sin to waste food like this, but I don’t know how to tell her. It also bothers me that it has become the Pesach joke around here, and I really feel it’s time to put an end to it. But how?

Sincerely,

No Fishing Please

Dear No Fishing Please

I’m sure your mother-in-law is good at cooking something other than gefilte fish. This year, have someone else take charge of the fish. Let her know that the fish has already been made, but you really need her to prepare the brisket, tzimmes or anything else you think would be enjoyed at the seder. I’m sure you really do need her help if you have a large group of people coming, so why not use her talents for something you could really appreciate. She will feel useful, and at the same time, you will get the help you need and the peace of mind of knowing you’ve done the best you can to solve this uncomfortable problem.

Your mother-in-law might be upset when you first break the news that someone else has already made the fish, but if you make a fuss about how much you need her to make something else, she will soon come to terms with her new task. It would be especially nice if you made a bit of a fuss over the new dish she prepares on seder night.

Chag Kasher v’Samayach.


Ella is the author of Hidden Gold – A True Story of the Holocaust. Her advice is not a replacement for medical, legal or any other advice. For serious problems, consult a professional.