Chevra Kavod Hamet
Society for Respect of the Dead
Our tradition divides bereavement into distinct phases. Each of the periods is to heal, or as Dr. Ron Wolfson put it "to adjust to the finality of their loss." At the same time our tradition guides the community in giving comfort to the bereaved, to let the mourners know they are not alone.
Phase one: Aninut is the period from death to the conclusion of the funeral. Arrangements are made, but no mourning takes place. The mourners are often numb with shock and disbelief. A beautiful custom of condolence traditionally takes place at the end of the funeral.
At the end of the burial service, friends say: "Ha-Makom yenahem ethem b'tokh sha'ar aveilei Tzion v'Yerushalayim" "May the Omnipresent comfort you among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem." You are not alone.
Phase two: Aveilut begins at the conclusion of the funeral and continues through the seven days of shiva unless cancelled by a festival. This is a time when the mourner does not work, shop or leave home. Friends comfort the mourner by providing meals and by being there to listen, to talk and to pray.
Phase three: Shloshim, thirty days from the day of burial. There is a partial return to normal life, e.g. to go to work but not to parties.
Phase four: Shanah, eleven months. After the death of a parent the mourners say Kaddish, the hymn of praise to God, for a year.
Phase five: Yahrzeit, anniversary of the day of death.
Phase six: Yizkor, memorial service on Yom Kippur, Shemini Atzeret, last day of Passover and the second day of Shavuot.
(Ron Wolfson, A Time to Mourn, A Time to Comfort)
Helpful Suggestions When Visiting A Shiva Home
1. The most universally appreciated expression of sympathy is a hug and three words, "I'm so sorry."
2. Be open to different ways people respond to grief.
3. Those who don't cry can be just as devastated as those who can't stop crying.
4. Death is never for the best, even if the person was old or very ill.
5. Don't assume that, because there are other children, the pain of losing a child is any less.
6. Don't say, "I know how you feel." There is no knowing how a newly bereaved person feels.
7. Avoid statements like: "Don't worry, you'll get married again," or "You'll have another baby," or "It's God's will."
8. As we fulfill the mitzvah of comforting the mourner, ask to hear stories about the deceased or perhaps share such a story with the mourners.
9. The classic Jewish expression of condolence is HaMakom yinachaim etchem batoch shar avlai Zion v'Yerushlayim, which means "May God comfort you together with all the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem."