The journey across the bridge from the dark, wrenching pain and shock at the burial of a loved one, until one emerges once again into light of normal living, is a year-long journey that unfolds in three stages. The first stage is the seven day period of shiva, the second is the first thirty days (which includes shiva), known as shloshim
, and the final period ends at the end of a full year.
The most intense mourning is during the shiva. Mourning decreases as time goes on and one more integrates his/her new reality into the framework of life.
- Thirty days (Shloshim)
After shiva, much in the life of the mourner returns to normal. The mourner returns to work, wears leather shoes and resumes normal marital relations. This thirty-day period is also a very special time to do something as a spiritual benefit for the soul of the departed. It is quite common for people to make an extra effort to study about their heritage on a daily basis throughout the shloshim. (click here for a free personal phone tutor to learn any portion of the Torah in memory of your loved one)
The following is an overview of the behaviors that continue during the thirty-day shloshim. The mourner does not—
- Wear new or freshly laundered clothing
- Shave or get a haircut
- Bathe in the normal fashion
- Attend weddings or other celebrations
- Listen to music
- Get married
Beyond the thirty days, mourning is only observed in the case of the loss of a parent. Undertaking something special during this time, as a way to elevate the departed soul,
is a particularly meaningful and beautiful way to honor one’s parent after death.
For twelve months the mourner does not—
- Get a haircut until it reaches the point where friends would look askance at his appearance.
- Attend weddings or other celebrations or festive group meals
- Wear newly purchased clothes. If he must, then someone else should wear them first.
- For a parent, kaddish is said for eleven months
Mourning: A Return to Life
Judaism sees the miracle and gift of life as something precious and holy, overflowing with almost limitless potential. In every human being, Judaism sees a capacity to choose and build a life of beauty, goodness, kindness and sanctity. Yet, the death of a loved one is devastating. For every mourner, to one degree or another, and for various periods of time, life in the face of loss seems almost unlivable. Death threatens to drain life of its beauty and vitality. Still, even on the brink of despair, there is nothing that Judaism embraces more than life itself.
Each stage of mourning serves the purpose of drawing one back from the brink and renewing one's ability to wholeheartedly engage the towering wonder of life.
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