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Facing a Lonely Passover
Ilene Springer

Matzah, the Seder, ancient Egypt. These are some of the things that come to mind when we think of Passover. But probably the most poignant thought is that of family and friends. For better or worse, what would Passover be without sharing it with the most important people in your lives?

And yet, every year, some people -- and most of us eventually -- have to face the first Passover without someone significant, whether it be a husband, wife, mother, father, or wonderful friend. And for those people, it means that this Passover will be different -- and difficult. This is especially true for older adults who, according to geriatric researchers, often face accumulated losses. But there are some things you can do for yourself (or others) to get through a lonely Passover.

Acknowledge the loss

Don't expect things to be the same this Passover if you've lost someone close to you. Allow yourself to remember how it was before, and give yourself time to grieve. Don't try to pretend everything is okay for the benefit of others. If possible, do something in the person's memory, such as lighting extra candles. Change the tradition a little. Some people say it's helpful to sit in the person's place at dinner, so you don't dwell on the empty spot. Or if you've always held the Seder at your home, go to someone else's house this year. Do anything to make it easier. And most important, remind yourself that the holiday or your present circumstances will not always be like this: pain does lessen over time. Find others who share your grief, and support each other.

Make some plans

If you don't have as seder to go to at someone's home, check out the many seders (sedarim) held at various temples and Jewish community centers. It may even help you to volunteer at one. Or invite someone over to your home for an informal seder; the company and a little tradition is what's important, not a big, elaborate meal.

Give yourself some extra TLC (tender, loving care)

At a time when you're feeling especially sad, it's important to take extra good care of your physical and emotional health. Keep up your exercise; long walks are the easiest and best. Eat properly and avoid self-medicating yourself with alcohol or other drugs. And by all means, get enough rest. Grief is a very physically taxing process, and you need time to renew your strength. In other words, be good to yourself.

Ask for help

It's normal after a loss to experience sadness around a holiday like Passover and on other memorable occasions as well. But if the sadness persists and deepens, affecting your functioning, you may be suffering from clinical depression which requires medical intervention. If you're feeling sad and hopeless for two weeks straight, if you're having trouble eating and sleeping (too little or too much), call your doctor.

On Passover, we open the door for Elijah. This Passover, when you open the door, also let other people into your life who can help you during this tough time.

This story originally appeared on Jewish