Comforting mourners, showing you care
We have compiled some information to help guide you as you find ways to show you care for the deceased, and their family during this difficult time.
What is the meaning of Nichum?
Nichum Aveilim is a Hebrew term meaning “comforting mourners,” and refers in part to the Mitzvah of visiting the house of mourning during the shivah period.
When may we begin to visit mourners?
Jewish tradition holds that friends should make no effort at consolation before the burial. Accordingly, the appropriate time for a condolence call begins after interment, and continues throughout the shivah week.
What is the purpose of a condolence call?
Traditionally, most mourners do not leave their homes during shivah. It is a time to grieve, to work through pain, and then to take a first step back toward life.
The process cannot be undertaken alone. The presence of a support system of friends and family is essential to healing.
Your visit helps. Your presence is the greatest gift you can give to the bereaved family.
What happens when you arrive?
Shivah is a time when we reminisce, remember, recapture memories of a loved one. As such, what we usually do during a condolence call is to listen to those memories that the mourner wishes to share or to share with the mourner your own memories of the deceased. Usually, you need not stay more than thirty minutes or so. During your visit, supporting, listening, and responding to the mourner should be your primary goal. Do not stay too long, especially if the room is crowded, and do not visit at hours inconvenient to the mourners.
What is an appropriate atmosphere in a house of mourning?
During the shivah week, we strive to spend the time thinking about our loved one, time spent together, relationships forged, special times shared. It gives the mourners an opportunity to speak openly about those special memories, and for others who knew the deceased to share their memories of the deceased with the mourners.
Should we bring a gift or flowers?
No. Except for food, it is not customary to bring anything with you to the house of mourning. Again, your presence is the main thing. If you wish to “do something,” make a contribution to the deceased’s favorite charity or to a synagogue fund established in his or her memory. A particularly meaningful gesture for many Jews is to plant trees in Israel through the Jewish National Fund.
What if we cannot be physically present during shivah?
It is proper and comforting to write a card or note if you cannot be present. If you were close to the deceased, or are friendly with the mourner, it is also appropriate to call.
Should we visit mourners on Shabbat?
Since one does not publically sit shivah on the Sabbath, we generally do not pay shivah visits on Shabbat. If, however, you are close with the mourner, and your visit would help lift their spirits while not violating the Sabbath, there are times when it might be appropriate to visit.