Funerals and the Shiva period (the week following burial) are times that we mark with friends and relatives with the same commitment and closeness that we share at times of celebration. While our intentions are to console or comfort our bereaved friends or relatives, it sometimes is difficult to know the best way to do this. Here are a few suggestions.
The funeral service serves as the foundation on which the process of mourning is built.
Recognizing the importance of the mourners to be surrounded by family and friends, Jewish tradition deems attending both the funeral and burial services to be a mitzvah, a religious obligation.
The Shiva Period
Like all other Jewish mourning rituals, the Shiva takes place within the context of the community. Prayers are recited and throughout the Shiva period friends and family visit to offer support and condolences. The paradox of the Shiva is that while the family can withdraw from the community, the community cannot withdraw from the family. This reminds the mourner that others truly care.
The Shiva Visit
If you are not certain what to say-be silent. Your presence and support mean more than you know.
There are no words to take away the grief, sometimes it’s best just to listen. Your presence and acceptance is sometimes more important than your advice. Allow the mourners the opportunity to express their grief.
Share your feelings.
Do not hesitate to talk about the deceased, whose memory is very much alive in the hearts and minds of loved ones.
Demonstrate your affection.
Show your acceptance.
By accepting the mourner’s behavior without passing judgement, you will communicate that you care about them unconditionally.
Grief can make daily living a burden. During and following Shiva, you can assist by providing meals, organizing a minyan, car pooling, grocery shopping or helping the mourner seek legal advice. Help them but allow them to remain in charge of their lives.
Grief is a process of adapting to change rather than recovering. Be patient in allowing relatives or friends to “get over” their grief after Shiva. Remember, your patience and compassion will make a difference in their healing process.
Categories: Etiquette & Customs