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Jewish Mourning Customs: An Introduction

 

Return to Guide to Death and Mourning for Interfaith Families

 

Traditional Jewish mourning practices are based on a cultural sense of how mourners feel and what they need. They are intended to help mourners navigate a difficult period, and they may or may not match your feelings and needs. For example, in Jewish law and custom, a mourner is the parent, child, spouse or sibling of the person who dies. A person who survives an aunt or uncle , grandparent or close friend is not a mourner in the Jewish legal sense, even though their sense of loss and grief may be very great. The wider family and community does participate in the mourning process, and this can provide people in the extended circle of the person who has died with an opportunity to participate in comforting mourning rituals. But the traditional definition of mourner only includes the deceased's nuclear family.

While many people find that Jewish mourning practices are good for their psychological grief process, there may be some customs that would be difficult for you or cause dissent in your family. This overview is not meant to be prescriptive--only to sketch out the basic principles.

Mourning on a Schedule

The First Week of Mourning: Shiva

The First Month of Mourning: Sheloshim

The Year of Mourning: Saying Kaddish

Stone Setting: An American Jewish Custom

Yahrzeit and Yizkor

The Guide to Death and Mourning for Interfaith Families is also available as a downloadable PDF and Word document.

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