Members of the Jewish faith observe Shiva, a seven-day mourning period following the funeral of a family member. The word Shiva literally comes from the Hebrew word for seven. While sitting Shiva, family members do not work and typically stay home.
How will you know if the family is sitting Shiva? There is usually an announcement at the funeral, in the newspaper obituary or death notice, or if the bereaved is a member of a synagogue, in the synagogue’s weekly bulletin. The announcement will state what days and times the family is receiving visitors.
What should you expect? While every Shiva is different and reflects the family and their religious beliefs, it is common that during Shiva, family members and friends congregate at the home of the bereaved to comfort the mourners. Traditionally, there is a religious service each evening of the Shiva.
It’s customary to bring food, such as meals, baked goods, fruit or cheese. You might check with close friends of the bereaved to inquire how you can help. When visiting the bereaved, give your condolences and then wait for the mourner to talk about whatever he or she chooses. If the mourner wants to be silent, the visitor’s role is just to be with them; your presence is what’s important.
The following do’s and don’ts will help guide your visit:
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Image via Creative Commons/Marian Sigler