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  • Writer's pictureAmy Orlovich

Sitting Shiva – Helping Those Who Grieve

How often do we rush to the side of a grieving friend or family member to only think, “What should I say?”  During the initial stage of grief,  it is actually better to say nothing at all.  In the Jewish culture, there are three stages of helping someone through grief (Palatnik & Palatnik, 2008).  The first stage is the Shiva Stage. The Shiva Stage is a week-long and comes from the word “sheva”, which means seven.  To “Sit Shiva” means to come into the mourner’s home and sit with them, quietly and calmly, while sharing memories of the loved one.  It is suggested that the grieving family members not leave the house for this week, so they do not have to put on a “public face” yet, and they can simply sit quietly in their loss and memories.  This means that the family, friends and neighbors must work to care for the needs of those who have lost and doing so creates a sense of community and love that the grieving individual/s so desperately need during this time. 

Sitting Shiva with someone encourages people to sit in silence, because oftentimes people fill this time with nervous talk.  This Jewish custom is letting those who are mourning know that you are there for them and feel their pain.  The visitors take their cues from the mourners; if they want to talk, you talk, but if they prefer silence, you are silent.

How important it is for us to remember that oftentimes the very best thing we can do for someone who is grieving is just to sit with them.  Our presence assures them we are there for them, and our silence is oftentimes more comforting than any spoken word.  Whether your teen has a broken heart over a lost relationship or your best friend is mourning the death of a child, sitting shiva with them is often what they need the most.

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

Palatnik, L. & Platnik, Y.  (2008).  Remember my soul:  What to do in memory in memory of a loved one.  Pikesville, MD:  Leviathan Press.

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