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Consoling Mourners

Consoling Mourners

Being There


"What am I supposed to say?"

Consoling a mourner is one of those challenging situations that we would all rather avoid. But it's an act of kindness and a great mitzvah, especially during the shiva week, the prescribed week of mourning that follows the funeral of a next of kin. And it's not really so difficult: What's really needed most is the fact that you are there.


Visit as often as your company will be appreciated and beneficialVisit as often as your company will be appreciated and beneficial. A traditional shiva house has prayer services every morning and evening when kaddish is recited by the mourners—and a minyan [quorum of ten] is required. Your attendance at these services will certainly be appreciated.

Have a seat next to the mourners. Allow them to speak first. Allow them to steer the conversation in whatever direction they wish. If they feel like crying, cry along; if you perceive that they want a break from crying, talk about the weather. All the while, look out for cues that you've sat long enough.

When that happens, stand up and say: "May G‑d console you, together with all mourners of Zion and Jerusalem." Then quietly take your leave.

More Details:

  • Consider the somber atmosphere. Avoid greetings, welcomes and farewells.
  • There's no need to bring anything along; it's your presence that comforts and consoles. If you do wish to bring something, think useful: something like a kosher meal for the mourners.
  • We don't say to a mourner, "What can you do? You can't change the way the world works." Once a life has perished, it is time to accept the Divine decree with love.
  • Traditionally, we don't make shiva visits on Shabbat.
  • Sometimes consoling words aren't enough. Was the deceased the family's breadwinner? Start a fund for the family.
  • Can't make it for a personal visit? Make a telephone call or send your condolences in a card or email.

For more, see our Shivah & Mourning section.

Illustrations by Yehuda Lang. To view more artwork by this artist, click here.
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Simcha Bart for August 11, 2016

Judaism realizes that we cannot continue with our life as "normal" when someone close to us passes away. Therefore, we need to release our feelings of grief and sadness through physically demonstrating our mourning during the Shiva. This is also meant to be a time of reflection on the fleeting nature of life and how we have to make every moment count towards the purpose for which G-d placed us on this earth. Additionally, it shows respect for the departed that we do not occupy ourselves with the mundane matters of life when someone close has been taken from us. Please see here for more on this topic.


Candy Bklyn August 10, 2016

why do we sit shiva for a loved one when he dies Reply

Sam Leon November 1, 2014

Re: good shiva memory This happened to my grandfather, or blessed memory. He passed away of thyroid cancer just before I turned ten. Reply

Shulamit June 6, 2009

good shiva memory When my very beloved father died, I had many shiva calls, plus the minyan for kaddish at our house. But one of the visits that brought long-lasting positive feelings was when a friend said "if you'd like, tell me about your father." Then, "are you more like him or your mother?" All she was doing was opening the door for memories and reflections and gave me a chance to talk about who my wonderful father was. I loved my friend visitor for that. If I had started to talk about my dad, I probably would have recounted his last few weeks on earth, as an elderly, sick man. but this gave me a different viewpoint and honored his unique being. Reply

Sierra Germany (KS) November 22, 2008

too true my grandfather passed away the day before my 14th birthday this year. of course, by birthday wasn't all that great, but i was too worked up to mind. when we went back to my grandma's house, people kept stopping by. they would stay too long, laugh too much and generally brought donuts. We had one full kitchen table of donuts. yes, stop by, say a prayer, but don't ask the grandkids their opinion on the whole thing! it offsets what you're trying to do. offer comfort, but don't overstep your boundaries. Reply

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