When a Public Funeral, Burial and Shiva Is Not Permitted

Perhaps one of the most difficult unprecedented measures taking place as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus, is the inability for loved ones and communities to gather after a loss and observe traditional practices surrounding end-of-life.

When a Jewish individual passes away, notwithstanding the level of religious observances, the mourning family would typically receive emotional and physical support like hugs, hand holding, nourishment, and help with arrangements, throughout the funeral service, internment, shiva (a structured period in which people come to the mourners’ home to pay respect), and beyond. With COVID-19 coronavirus making it more difficult for people to partake in the traditions designed to help with mourning, a new kind of grief may be experienced; that of not only losing a loved one, but the loss of those practices and physical interactions as well.

Expressing Condolences and Providing Support When There Is No Shiva

There are many ways to show support and help friends and family during a time of loss. When it is not possible to attend a funeral, burial or shiva, below are several ways to still provide comfort.

Use Technology

When physically being with one another is difficult or not possible, hosting Virtual Gatherings to honor and remember a loved one, can help bring people together safely.

It is also appropriate to reach out to those mourning via phone, text, FaceTime and other means of technology. It is never intrusive to send love and care. A response may not be received, but it is always nice for mourners to know that they are in people’s thoughts, especially when their traditional mourning practices, like shiva, have been uprooted.

Personal Notes and Messages

In general, writing a sympathy note, message or condolence card sharing thoughts and offering personal expressions are well received. Given restrictions, closures and limited resources, an email containing sentiments is also acceptable.

Bereavement Meals for the Family

It is a common tradition to send a condolence meal or sympathy basket to shiva, especially if you are not able to attend. This is a thoughtful way of paying tribute and at the same time providing nourishment for the family when they are not thinking about or find it difficult to prepare meals for themselves. While the family may not be observing a traditional shiva due to COVID-19 coronavirus, helping to nourish the family is still important. In fact, they may have less support in this regard than they typically would, making it an even more impactful gift.

Plant a Tree in Israel

Planting a tree in memory of an individual or family's loved one remains an appropriate way to express condolences. This is a time-honored tradition for all life cycle events and perpetuates the life and legacy of friends, family and ancestors no longer here. Together with the tree planting, a custom certificate will be created and mailed to the family.

Your Support Can Still Be Felt

There will never be a replacement for personal interaction, and traditional mourning practices like shiva. However, these suggestions for expressing condolences and honoring the deceased during COVID-19 coronavirus, will help those grieving to still feel loved and supported by their community.