The funeral home where we attended last month's services for Hennie Schneider — Sol Levinson & Bros. of Baltimore — offers a variety of information for mourners, presented in a sensitive, thoughtful fashion. This was extraordinarily helpful for me, particularly given the depths of my ignorance concerning Jewish custom and practice in these circumstances. And I deeply respect any institution that includes a Bereavement Library within its facilities, "... open to the public for education and grief support".

As we waited in the foyer before Hennie's ceremony I picked up a small booklet titled Prayers of Comfort and found it to be full of wise advice. In the section "How to Console":

Your visit to the mourner at home is more than a courtesy call. In Jewish tradition, the moment is too critical for mere courtesy. It calls for consolation. During this brief visit you could bring comfort to someone in need, or you could act as just another spectator to tragedy. The mandate of our humanity and of our religion is that we bring sensitivity and empathy to those who mourn. ...

This is followed by suggestions that resonate in many contexts:

  • Let the mourner begin to talk and set the tone ...
  • Listen considerately — not as though you are taking a breather before beginning to talk again. It is better to be silent than overly talkative.
  • Show concern for the mourner's well-being. ...
  • Ideally, your conversation should not be distracting but therapeutic.
  • Speak of the departed. It may appear to be hurtful, but in fact it helps the mourner to unburden himself. Recall the major events in his life, his opinions on important matters, the quality of his relationships.
  • Levity may bring you relief — but it is inappropriate for the mourners. However, humorous anecdotes of the deceased spoken respectfully are quite in place.
  • Do not dwell on your own mourning experiences as it may appear to belittle the grief of the newly-bereaved.
  • Do not offer gratuitous psychological advice.
  • Conclude your words of consolation with hope — that the values of the departed will be incorporated by his relatives and friends; that the sunlight of health and happiness will shine once again on the family members; that this tragedy will turn into an experience of personal growth; and that the behavior of his survivors will reflect on the worth of the departed.

(see JohnsonCondolences = [1], DeepSympathies (30 May 2001), HennieSchneider (27 Dec 2003), ... )

TopicLife - TopicLiterature - TopicLibraries - 2004-01-07

(correlates: DavidCopperfieldInFashion, Comments on BitsOfConsciousness, HennieSchneider, ...)