Mourning: Shiva


Shiva: The Hebrew word for seven, meaning the first week and the most intensive phase of mourning.

Shiva begins the day of burial and lasts seven days, with exceptions when there are holidays.

Throughout this period, mourners traditionally sit on or lower to the ground, do not leave home, and do not work, shave, cut their hair, take luxurious baths, watch TV, go to parties, concerts or other joyous events, have sex, or listen to music. Traditionally, the mirrors in the shiva home are covered with black cloths. It is the community’s obligation to ensure the basic needs of the mourners are met by bringing food. Friends and family come to the shiva home to give consolation. Today, many families identify visiting hours so they are not overwhelmed by visitors and MealTrains can be set up so the mourners can define and limit what food people bring.

NOTE: Shiva is suspended on Shabbat, though it is observed on Friday morning, and then again Saturday night.

At most, a minyan gathers at the mourner’s home twice a day (morning and afternoon/evening) to pray together and for the mourners to recite Kaddish and share memories about the deceased. You might choose to gather once or twice a day, in person, virtually or both. You can invite family and close friends for particular days and wider community on other days.

On the seventh day, in the morning, mourners literally “get up” from shiva by gathering for morning prayer with community, reciting Kaddish, and then walking around the block with family, friends and guests. It is traditional for the community to physically lift the mourner out of their chair; this symbolizes a re-entry into society, lifted by the community into that process, and marks the transition into the next phase of mourning.