Shiva calls can be hard to make, especially if it is your first time. The information below aims to help prepare you to make a shiva call. Learn how to give comfort to Jewish relatives or friends in mourning.
Enter the shiva house quietly
Mourners are not expected to greet people at the door, and you don't want to interrupt if the service has already begun. Give a quiet knock, and then quietly walk inside the house. Please do not ring the doorbell.
Enter the room of the mourner quietly
The best way to greet the mourner is to sit down quietly near him or her. There is no expectation of a "greeting" between the mourner and the shiva caller. But if you want to give the mourner a hug or handshake, then you can do this. However, try to avoid everyday lines like "How are you?"
Respond to the mourner
If the mourner speaks to you, respond. But if they are quiet, then it is okay just to sit quietly in the room. It is tiring for the mourner to talk all day long, and he or she might prefer to just sit quietly in your company. If the mourner wants to talk, spend time listening and if the space presents itself, talk about the person who has passed away. If the mourner feels like talking, you can tell stories and share memories about the person who passed away with the mourner. Everyone mourns differently, and shiva is the time to be present for the mourner in whatever way is most meaningful to them.
Food and drinks
Mourners are not expected to be hosts, but those who are close to the mourners might offer some refreshments to shiva callers. It is acceptable if you want to bring some refreshments to the home - nuts, dried fruit, cakes, casseroles ... - for the bereaved family, but remember to respect the level of kosher observance of the shiva home.
Traditional Statement of Comfort in Judaism
The following statement of comfort is traditionally said to mourners - in Hebrew or English - just before leaving the shiva house.
May God comfort you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
Ha-Makom y'nachem et'chem b'toch sha'ar aveilei Tzion v'Yerushalayim.
Leave the shiva house quietly
Again, mourners are not expected to be hosts and see people to the door. Some people say the traditional line above, nod to the bereaved, and then leave quietly. Others give the mourners a hug or hand shake, and walk out quietly.