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How to Make a Shivah (Condolence) Call

by Judith KayeJudith Kaye Training & Consulting

  • The basic tradition is that the mourners are to be treated as guests this week, not as hosts. Usually the mourners leave the front door unlocked, so you should just walk in.
  • If you brought food, go right to the kitchen and ask someone (not the mourner) to help you put it away (for the mourner’s future dinner) or put it out for immediate consumption.
  • If food is set out for visitors, help yourself if you are hungry, keeping in mind that you are not at a party.
  • According to ancient and current wisdom, the most important gift you can give the mourners is your full, complete and nonjudgmental acceptance of their feelings, thoughts, attitudes and behaviors, no matter how awkward or embarrassing for you, and no matter how much you may want them to feel better.
  • After giving your condolences, you don’t have to make conversation or small talk. Follow the mourners’ lead. Try not to talk about your own experiences with grief or loss – that can have the effect of withdrawing support from the mourners and focusing it on you. Just be there. If the visit triggers memories or feelings for you, talk those out with someone else later on. If the mourners want to talk about the deceased or about the death, let them. It’s also fine to ask questions to draw them out.
  • If you see other people you know, try not to visit with them in a way that deflects attention from the mourners, or that creates a party atmosphere. If you want to make small talk or have a social visit, make a date to meet the person at a later time. If you must visit now, try to keep the tone and mood in keeping with your sacred obligation to comfort the mourners.
  • Be sure to say goodbye when you leave.

Thank you for doing the mitzvah of comforting mourners.

Wed, December 12 2018 4 Tevet 5779