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Sitting Shiva

Although I’m not Jewish, I have friends and family who are and have heard a little bit about sitting shiva after someone passes away. In all honesty, I wish all rituals concerning death were like sitting shiva, which includes burying the deceased individual and for the next seven days friends and family visit the grieving family in order to provide comfort and support. I think this ritual creates a safe environment for grieving friends and family to mourn the loss of their loved one with others, rather than mourn all alone. I’m no expert on sitting shiva so if anyone would like to provide any more information–or correct me!– I’d love to hear from you 🙂 

This piece was inspired by the prompt: the appearance of compassion. Enjoy.


I didn’t know what to do.
She was so visibly shaken
but I felt

As we sat next to
one another
on her couch,
the yellow light
cast a shadow
upon her face
and I noticed
tears falling steadily into
her lap.

She seemed
so separated
from everyone else
in the house.
Surrounded by
familiar faces,

I took my hand
and placed it upon hers.

She looked at me,
her eyes
watery and searching,

Even more carefully,
I lifted my arm
from my side
and wrapped it around
her shoulders.

I pulled her closer
and as she wept,
her head gravitated toward
my chest
as I brushed her hair
out of her face
wiped the tears from her
when I felt
brave enough.

I didn’t let go.

Eventually, her breathing,
still labored,
slowed down
and the tears became

She began speaking,
saying things I
did not
and didn’t know
how to respond to;
but I
still held her

I listened patiently,
and even when she
fell silent
I still didn’t let go

neither did she.

5 thoughts on “Sitting Shiva

  1. Your poem is powerful and beautiful. Your actions were appropriate, compassionate and supportive and very much in the Jewish tradition. One walks into the mourner’s home and says nothing. It is totally up to the mourner to speak, or not to speak, and to speak from their heart.
    Joan Gross

  2. Pingback: Sitting Shiva | E-shiva

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