Shiva is a ritualized period of Mourning for the immediate family of a deceased person who practices Judaism.
It is a time of deep sorrow and reflection where the Surviving Family typically forges their normal activities and gathers at their home, inviting the community in for prayer and support.
Shiva is observed by all sects of the Jewish community, but variations in customs and practices do exist between denominations.
Regardless the level of religiousness, the primary purpose of shiva is to allow mourners to Grieve, share memories of the deceased, and find support and consolation from their community during what may be a difficult time.
Key details about shiva include:
Duration: The term "shiva" is derived from the Hebrew word "sheva," which means seven, and it typically lasts for seven days, beginning immediately after the Funeral of the deceased.
Practices: During shiva, mourners observe various customs and practices to express grief and honor the memory of the deceased. Depending upon the religiousness of the deceased and their family, these practices may include sitting on low stools or cushions, refraining from grooming or wearing jewelry, the covering of mirrors, and not engaging in activities of entertainment or celebration.
Home Observance: Shiva is most often observed at the home of the deceased, or at the home of an immediate family member. Each day over the course of a week, the family receives visitors who come to offer condolences, comfort, and support.
Community Support: Shiva provides an opportunity for friends, family, and members of the community to come together and offer condolences, support, and comfort to the bereaved family. Typical condolence gifts like flowers are not given; instead, it's customary for the surviving family's community to provide food to support the daily gathering of people.