My newly widowed sister-in-law says she doesn’t want to come to us for the holidays this year due to her fear of COVID-19. We do not know what to do. We are not sure if she’s being honest and really just wants to be alone – or if we should insist that she join us.
Would it be considered disrespectful if we continue to invite her? She doesn’t have anywhere else to go to for the holidays. How can we make her realize that we really want and enjoy her company without making her feel bad if she really doesn’t want to come?
Firstly, your sister-in-law must be made to understand that what you are offering is a sincere invitation because you enjoy her company and want her to continue to feel part of the extended family, not just because you feel sorry for her/your loss. Losing a spouse, or any family member, especially so soon before the holidays, can be devastating and disorienting; knowing that she has people who love her and welcome her is both comforting and uplifting.
She is not alone in her concern about a possible “second wave” of Covid infections. Many community leaders are cautioning us about letting down our guard too quickly. For this reason, her refusal might be consistent with her overall behavior irrespective of her new status. From that standpoint, you must accept her desires and see if there are other ways to “embrace” her. Perhaps, sharing some of your prepared foods or sending a special gift will make her feel that, circumstances aside, she always has a place at your table.
You might also be able to assure her that you will take all necessary precautions to make sure she is able to socially distance herself from other family members while still sharing in the holiday spirit.
These are strange times. Pesach was different for everyone. Let us hope that the New Year will bring an end to this magefah and that we will all be written for a year of health and happiness.
Tizku leshanim rabot.