In the Jewish tradition we have prayers to mark many phases of the grieving process. We find comfort when we recite El Maley Rachamim at the funeral, The Aramaic memorial prayer for the dead. Mourners recite this prayer at every service, every day, in the presence of a minyan (prayer quorum) over the course of a year (for a parent) or thirty days (for a sibling or offspring). The prayer actually makes no mention of the dead, but rather prays for the sanctification and magnification of God's name. throughout the mourning period, and yizkor prayers at key moments throughout the year.
These words provide comfort as we journey along the path of mourning. And though there are some traditions for ending periods of mourning—Seven-day mourning period following the funeral of a first-degree relative, during which time family members remain at home and receive visits of comfort. Other customs include abstinence from bathing and sex, covering mirrors, sitting lower than other visitors, and the lighting of a special memorial candle which burns for seven days. , for example, concludes with a walk around the block—there are surprisingly few rituals marking time and calling attention to the many “firsts” a mourner experiences after the death of a loved one.
Here at Ritualwell, we are grateful to those of you who have shared rituals addressing some of these difficult moments, such as the sight of a loved one’s empty chair at a holiday gathering or the occasion of removing a wedding ring after the death of a partner. It is often these commonplace moments—when we simply miss our friend, relative, or companion—that are the most difficult to face. Creative ritual can help us find meaning or comfort in these moments.
Over the years I have received inquiries from mourners searching for a variety of rituals: lighting a shivah or (Yiddish) The anniversary of a death, usually marked by the lighting of a 24-hour yahrzeit candle and the recitation of Kaddish, the memorial prayer. For U.S. Jews, the unveiling of the headstone usually takes place on or around the first yahrzeit. candle, ending Lit. Thirty The first thirty days after someone dies. This is an intermediate stage of mourning -- less intense than then initial week of shiva, but more intense than the remainder of the first year. It is customary not to shave or cut one's hair and not to attend social gatherings, parties, concerts etc during this time., and concluding the daily recitation of kaddish at the end of 11 months. If you were to create a ritual for these or other markers along the path of mourning, what would they be? Which moments do you long to mark with ritual? Let us know your ideas!