Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Brief Explanation of Jewish Mourning Traditions

For millennia, Jews have found solace and comfort in structured traditions that ease their loss. Traditionally, the first seven days after a burial are the “shiva” mourning period where the family is not expected to participate in regular life obligations. Instead, the community takes care of them and visits their home to pay respects. Just like any religious custom, different cultures, times and families each adapt the traditions to suit their needs.

Jill’s first priority is to help Theo best cope with Gene’s loss. She will be trying to maintain as much normalcy in Theo’s first week of school as possible. She also has a number of family members in from out of town this week.  Once they are gone, her house will be all too quiet.

Jill welcomes anyone who would like to pay their respects to visit her and Theo at their home on Saturday or Sunday, Aug. 24-25 from 1-5pm.

Following are some of the Jewish guidelines that might be helpful:

  • Please wait for the mourners to come to you. It is best to not seek out the mourners when you first arrive, but instead wait until they acknowledge you. Let Jill approach you when she is ready as she may be sharing a private moment with someone else or needing to pull herself together.
  • Keep your greeting brief and simple. It is appropriate to offer a hug and say something such as “I’m sorry for your loss”, or “this must be so difficult for you”, or “I will miss Gene so much.” Let her move on when she needs to and be aware that Jill may want to acknowledge other visitors.
  • Your visit is all about helping the mourners. Please don’t expect that Jill will be able to engage you in the conversation that you need or would like to have about Gene’s death. Realize that Jill will be in shock still, and may be feeling overwhelmed. Don’t take it personally if she isn’t up to talking to you. She may even choose to leave the room and seek solitude. Your presence itself will mean a lot to her.
  • Focus on your experiences with the deceased. Reminisce about fun times you shared with Gene and his family. Talk about funny things that he did. Talk about the contributions he made in his life. Please try to avoid talking about other deaths, other people with the same illnesses, etc.
  • Try not to burden the mourners with your own grief. Gene’s sudden death is horrific to many of us and we are all grieving him. Try not to get so distraught around Jill that she feels the need to console you, or that your tears destroy what self-control she is able to maintain in public. This is especially true when you see her with Theo.
  • A condolence visit is relatively short and informal. Stop by for a half-hour to an hour and let Jill know that you care. You don’t need to dress up or plan on spending the whole afternoon. Families are welcome, especially friends of Theo’s.
  • No gifts, flowers, or food are expected. Your presence is the most important thing. If you like, a card or a photo of Gene would be welcome.