Helping a Mourner Who Is Sitting Shiva – From One Who’s Just Been There

My father passed away last week, after a long bout with prostate cancer, and I got up from Shiva on Wednesday. The Chesed from my Shul and community started immediately as the hospital chaplain is a member of my Shul, the Shomer who watched the body was also a member and one of my neighbors did the Tahara or ritual purification. Although most of us can not fill those roles, here are some other things that friends and Shul members did that gave me tremendous amount of comfort.

Going to the Cemetery
The cemetery is often a distance away, so going there to take part in the burial shows a great level of care and support. Most people don’t make the trip so it gave me tremendous consolation to see that friends took the time to help with the burial and to make a minyan at the cemetery.

Paying a Shiva Visit
I only sat shiva for two days inside my community, because I sat the other days with my mother and sister, so I knew it would be difficult for people to make it. I can truly say that every person that passed through the doors gave me consolation and support and I won’t underestimate that value in the future if I’m hemming and hawing about paying a Shiva visit to someone who is not such a close friend.

Help with the Minyan
Some of the excuses I’ve thought up in the past, when not participating in a shiva minyan include: I have to get out early, they probably don’t need me, and it’s harder for me to daven in a Shiva house. They might all be true, but from the mourner’s perspective the added stress of waiting for the 10th man to arrive is hard in these circumstances. If there is anyway to make it to the shiva minyan in the future, I’ll try to do it and I’ll keep in mind that being on time is a helpful element here.

Cutting Slack with the Davening
I’m sure I’m not the only one who hasn’t led the davening very often and is then faced with leading it on a regular basis. It was very helpful that those who davened with me tolerated my nervousness, mispronunciations and sometime slurring of the words. I’m told I’m improving and it really is meaningful that my fellow friends and daveners are cutting me a lot of slack in this area.

Sitting shiva is a difficult time, and I’m thankful to my friends, shul and community members for being there for me. Most of these are “just show up” mitzvos which require a little time from our schedule to provide a lot of support to the one sitting shiva.

3 thoughts on “Helping a Mourner Who Is Sitting Shiva – From One Who’s Just Been There”

  1. When I saw the title, the first thing I thought of was exactly what you wrote about davening.

    Let me start by saying this – I did lead davening very often, even before I started my aveilut. Even so, it still wasn’t the same as having to do it every day except Shabbat and chagim. Today is the 480th consecutive day that I’ve been saying Kaddish (my Mom died shortly before I would have finished saying Kaddish for my Dad), and the davening is still a struggle on some days. What makes it harder is that I’m in Israel, and I sometimes feel that the Israelis in the minyan surely yearn for the day when I’m finished. However, except for one person, they’ve all been very encouraging to me; I couldn’t ask for a nicer group. Even Israelis mispronounce and slur Hebrew words.

    המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים

  2. I’m sorry to hear about your father’s passing. Baruch HaDayan HaEmet.

    I recently handled my shiva minyan duties by first praying minchah with my regular synagogue around lunch time, and then later attending the shiva minchah around 20 minutes before sundown.

    I felt obligated to do this because it is very hard for me to pray correctly in a house of mourning.

  3. Though I can’t say I always appreciated relevant divrai Torah when I was sitting Shiva (though I did appreciate the intention), one of those maamarim was extremely comforting, and I’vetried to pass that on when I’mbeing menachem avel : that it says “Hashem yinachem eschem….”, that Hashem WILL comfort, why isn’t He comforting now in the present? It’s because now we have all the people who are coming to comfort us during the shiva, but after shiva is over and everyone’s going on with their lives, we alone are stuck with our grief, and that is the time when HKBH will be there to comfort and hold us up.

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