Friday, 28 Adar I, 5784
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How To: Sensitive Nichum Aveilim

Yael Hanover, who sat shiva for a child, advises the proper conduct when comforting a family who has lost a child. Full Story

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LOSS/PETIRAH (passing on)
May 27, 2014 1:24 pm

Why is the term ‘loss’ used for a neshomoh that has left this world?
One knows where the niftar is. The neshomoh is with HKBH and the physical body has been laid to rest and IYH will be brought back with Moshiach at Techias Hameisim.

Spot on!
May 25, 2014 1:18 am

Brilliant. As full of head as it is of heart! Should b shared amongst ALL frum circles, and Misaskim may be a good start.

so sorry
May 23, 2014 1:52 pm

so sorry for all the people who lost there loved ones myslf including lost my brother, and yes each one is different and difficult!may hashem comfort us alland send moshiac . now!!!

stay only 5 minutes
May 23, 2014 12:21 pm

you are not supose to speak un less spoken by the avel

Great points
May 23, 2014 10:45 am

from both the article and the comments.

May 23, 2014 10:43 am

I know losing a sibling isn’t the same thing. But a friend of mine who lost a child once asked me for my perspective so she could understand what her other children might have gone through.

Sometimes I do go to be menachem avel to someone who I don’t know. When someone loses a child, many times there are siblings dealing with the loss as well. When I sat shiva, I didn’t get much support, since I was just a sibling not a parent.

To #42- You are an amazing person and I’m glad to call you my friend.

Been there
May 23, 2014 10:25 am

I dont think people realize what a comfort it is to see and talk to friends and relatives during shiva… We were touched by the cards and letters that keep arriving after shiva as well.. but there are some points to remember in addition to the ones stated above: 1. Please respect times for visiting as stated on doors or collive. It its disconcerting for the family not to have time to eat, or rest. 2. Dont come late at night..it might be convenient for you, but not for the family! 3. DO NOT OVERSTAY! Other people want to speak… Read more »

to #34 from #13
May 23, 2014 10:05 am

I wrote… EXACTLY WHAT YOU SAID. That its uncomfortable for everyone, but since its ABOUT THE OVEL it doesn’t help to make me feel even more insecure thus placing more of an influence on how I feel in the situation. I should be able to focus all my energy on trying to comfort them. I’m not disagreeing with the sharing of suggestions of what to and what not to say, I’m opposing the strongly-worded and one dimensional (other people disagree?) ways of sharing them. IE. – Remember, some people may feel uncomfortable if… – Try not to focus on… –… Read more »

to # 42
May 23, 2014 9:42 am

I cannot agree more. When our son passed away, we were strengthened by the little acts of kindness, the beautiful recollections and the mitzvos that people pledged in his memory. If you don’t know the child, say a simple, “I’m so sorry” and “hamakom”. Or sit quietly and say some tehillim. So often, the mourner just wants to speak. Listen, but don’t offer advice. If you have to offer something, offer to do a mitzvah in the child’s memory. On behalf of all of us who have gone through the deepest pain of Golus, we beg for Moshiach now.

May 23, 2014 8:33 am

Thank you! That made me cry

To 33
May 23, 2014 8:07 am

Really beautiful points, thank you.

Another been there done that commenter...
May 23, 2014 3:02 am

To number 39: How about the one, “Hashem only takes the good ones”. My husband replied, I’d rather have a bad son and have him be here. There is a support group for bereaved parents. Our Tapestry is put out by a Ch woman. Another suggestion … If you must fill the silence, please, please please tell us a story about our child! You truly have no idea how much that means to us. One friend sent me pictures she had when our kids were younger. The best people for me were the group of chai lifeline counselors. They drove… Read more »

its ok to cry
May 23, 2014 12:03 am

I lost a brother, and when ppl cried, I felt very touched. I felt like tgey were sharing the pain. I do agree with everything els though

To number 16
May 22, 2014 11:37 pm

The one that kept silence was Aaron not Moishe. Moishe did say that now he understood that nodov and avihu were greater than even him and Aaron and that’s what Hashem meant “bikrobay ekodesh”.

another one
May 22, 2014 11:02 pm

dont say: Hashem only tests the strong people.
oh really? He sits and waits up there to see who is strong and then throws them a tragedy “because they can handle it”?!

saying such things makes a person feel like “i’d rather be weak and still have my child here!”

Talking with experience
May 22, 2014 10:15 pm

Something said to one Ovel can have the opposite affect on another Ovel. Having said that, generally speaking,
– Don’t talk about other things to ‘distract’ the Ovel
– Remember they are in shock, they may say things that will surprise you. Go with the flow.
– Some may want to talk about the niftar. Tread carefully.
– Tell the Ovel what you and others are doing for the Neshama
– if you know the Ovel, stay in touch after Shiva. Then it is even harder to manage

Actually ...
May 22, 2014 9:39 pm

Very touching article. Comment 16 is actually wrong. Moshe Rabbeinu said quite a bit when his brother lost two sons, and it is recorded for us both in Shas and in Medrash. Furthermore, the Gemara records stories of what Tanaaim said when they visited a colleague who lost an infant. So let’s lay off the revisionism please.

Just sharing also ...
May 22, 2014 9:33 pm

First, to the author of the post, and to #33, thank you for sharing. You state some very important, sensitive points. Having just sat shiva myself recently, I have learned that it is not important to sit for long; do come — as the show of love and support of the community is important, but there is no need to say anything. Come, show your support, say “hamakom” and go…And I do agree with #33, that it was the random acts of kindnesses of people after Shiva, that made me cry each time — but in a healthy way. I… Read more »

to number 12
May 22, 2014 9:30 pm

To number 12 of what to say to an engagement that broke up….. Depends on how close you are to the person. How bout say…I’m sure part of you feels embarrassed that since the word got out there saying your engaged and then it didn’t work out – if I were in your shoes I would feel very uncomfortable – like others are judging me. Like there’s something wrong with me. And additionally dismissed by those that say oh everything is for a good purpose -something better will come up. That would make me feel very dismissed and minimized. I’m… Read more »

To number 13 - its hard for everyone
May 22, 2014 8:03 pm

But its really not about you. During shiva all we should be concerned about is the grieving family. Whenther or not you are insecure or uncomfortable is irrelevant. Sometimes I go in, sit silently and leave, if the person isn’t talking. It doesn’t matter at that point what you feel like, its about the person that is suffering with the loss of a loved one.

From a mother who has lost a child...
May 22, 2014 7:37 pm

I don’t believe there r any definite wrong or right things to say at a shiva(other than perhaps not forcing the parent to vividly rehash (and thus relive) the specific details surrounding the Incident…each person is so individual in how they w/choose to deal with this…I remember for myself , the 2 most painful aspects to deal with were not knowing where she was or if she was experiencing any pain, and feeling like I couldn’t bare being away from her indefinitely and that my relationship w/her was severed (חו”ש), … What helped me was the following… In an answer… Read more »

Well said
May 22, 2014 7:37 pm

And may you only be blessed from now on.

'Only Simchas'
May 22, 2014 6:58 pm

A while ago I saw in a sefer that we should not say ‘only oif simchas’ by a Shiva house because ‘simchas’ is also used as a ‘cover-up’ word for mourning, like Hilchos Aveilus is also called Smochos or the like.
We should better say: From now on only happy occasions. or Freileche zachn.
We should not have to write about these things any more.
Moshiach Now!

thank you # 18!
May 22, 2014 6:47 pm

some of the things you wrote I would have never thought were no no’s! thanks for sharing!

Thank you Yael
May 22, 2014 6:42 pm

I understand #13 too and I’ve learnt to stay for 5 minutes max or less if there are many people and say the Posuk with as much feeling as possible to the Avel and add a heartfelt wish for the Geula and then leave. May we no longer have to do this mitzva very soon – Moshiach Now !

Good post
May 22, 2014 6:11 pm

People can be super dumb. There is nothing to say.

One more..
May 22, 2014 5:50 pm

you are such a strong person, Hashem kmows who to choose…

Thank you for your wisdom
May 22, 2014 5:50 pm

May Hashem bentch everyone with long life and good years.

Well said
May 22, 2014 5:29 pm

Yael, I am so sorry for your loss, but thank you for sharing this with us. It needs to be said.

I was at a shiva several months ago where a woman kept questioning the avel “But what happened? But what HAPPENED?” Even when it was clear the avel didn’t want to get into the details of the death, the idiot woman kept asking. It was ridiculous.

to #21 from #18
May 22, 2014 5:13 pm

unless u know the intimate details of their relationship, you can’t say it.
suppose they had a very difficult mother/daughter overbearing controlling situation.
“be strong for her sake…” when in her opinion her mother did everything in her opinion to treat her like a pansy?

my point is that giving advice and opinions are out of place totally in a shiva house.

#19 mentions the halacha that the avel has to talk first.
let them lead the conversation in their direction.
the most we should do is gently encourage them to expound on whatever they want to talk about.

Thank you for writing
May 22, 2014 5:08 pm

Thank you for sharing your thoughts regarding this extremely sensitive topic. I hope people will apply this lesson to writing comments on collive since the family obviously reads them.

Great advice under the circumstances
May 22, 2014 5:05 pm

For close friends and family of the deceased, i would say, if you are close enough you would know what to say and what to do. For friends and others who feel they should go menachem them i say, go! it is important and will show the community concern, it does help! just please if you need instruction on what TO DO, just dont do anything other then listen and say the posuk “המקום ינחם” before you leave. and don’t linger too long, it gives the wrong impression
lastly, we should all know and experience only good things

to #18
May 22, 2014 4:49 pm

I heard someone said “Be strong for her sake because this is what she would want from you”. It helped. I don’t get it, what is wrong with this phrase.

Only simchos
May 22, 2014 4:37 pm

Remember, when being menachem avel, it is not about you, but about the person sitting shiva. The mitzvah is not greater if you stay longer.

excellent article
May 22, 2014 4:35 pm

Excellent article.

To all who are now asking, so what should I say: You don’t have to say anything. I vaguely remember there is even a halacha that you are supposed to let the mourner(s) open the conversation. Just let them talk, and when you get up to go say the possuk and something like may we only know from simchas from now on.

thank you for this
May 22, 2014 3:45 pm

unfortuantely, in my volunteer chevra kadisha work, i’ve heard the most horrendous things in shiva homes. it’s either some people are just plain stupid or they think that by spouting off their opinion they will make the aveilim feel better Here are some horrible ones we hear way too often 1.At least she lived a long life, many people die young 2.He is in a better place 3.There is a reason for everything 4.You can have another child still 5.She was such a good person God wanted her to be with him 6.I know how you feel 7.She did what… Read more »

to #7
May 22, 2014 3:42 pm

use common sense! After reading this article, you should pretty much understand what is appropriate to say…
If you cant figure it out, you prob shouldn’t be going…

to #7
May 22, 2014 3:33 pm

Say. NOTHING AT ALL. Go sit a few minutes but say NOTHING. Moshe Rabainu said NOTHING when his brother Aharon Hakohen lost 2 sons.

May 22, 2014 3:25 pm


May 22, 2014 3:06 pm

Quite sensible and clearly written. Thank you.

May 22, 2014 2:55 pm

Being menachem avel is so difficult for me for all the wrong reasons. I am absolutely petrified of doing or saying something wrong. In the end, I always get over myself and try to not really say anything. This is enlightening, definitely for people who do feel the need to say things and maybe don’t weigh what they wish to say, but language like “ABSOLUTELY DO NOT” just makes me feel more and more self conscious of anything I’ve ever said in such a situation and more and more hesitant of putting myself out of my comfort zone in the… Read more »

Similar question regarding sensitivity
May 22, 2014 2:53 pm

Can someone (preferably someone who has unfortunately experienced it) please write an article regarding what should be said to someone who has had a broken engagement?

to #5
May 22, 2014 2:44 pm

there are better options then just not turn up. if every one thinks that then they wont have any comforters

Thank you for your enlightening article
May 22, 2014 2:26 pm

I would like to add that if you are not friends with the family, do not go! This is not a time to meet the mourners for the first time! Lots of people think by going to strangers during Shiva is a very supportive action, but it is unfortunately exploiting the privacy of the family. People feel they have an excuse to enter their home, as no one screens the visitors at the door. Many people go for their own curiosity, and that is not appropriate. Ask yourself before going, “am I going as a supportive friend, or as a… Read more »

Well Stated
May 22, 2014 2:20 pm

It is so very unfortunate that the author has write these common-sense guidelines because of personal catastrophic experiences but kudos to her for putting pen to paper and sharing. A must read to everyone planning a Shiva call. I would like to however add one more point, never say “I know what you are going through” or “I know how you feel” because unless you are G-d forbid in their shoes there is no way you will ever know or comprehend how they feel. May Hashem bless you, your family and all those who have suffered through these unthinkable tragedies… Read more »

May 22, 2014 2:20 pm

Lets pray that from now on we should ALL know only SIMCHAS!

that's a whole bunch of what not to do's
May 22, 2014 2:18 pm

now let’s hear what we should do there

Thank you!
May 22, 2014 2:07 pm

We should know only simchas and good news between now and Geula, it should be immediately

May 22, 2014 2:05 pm

That’s why I would never come.

G-d bless you
May 22, 2014 2:05 pm

beautiful and sensitive. Sorry about your loss.

Sorry for your loss
May 22, 2014 1:18 pm

And thank you for such a practical and useful article.

Thank you for posting this
May 22, 2014 1:14 pm

You should give this to Misaskim or other organizations that help with Nichim Aveilim.

very Smart!!!
May 22, 2014 1:12 pm

Agree with every word