Shiva is the Jewish seven-day mourning period for the immediate family of the deceased. The primary purpose of sitting shiva is to create an environment of comfort and community for mourners. It helps guide friends and family members through the loss of a loved one.
The mourners sit in low chairs that are closer to the ground. As a kid, I thought sitting shiva was actually sit and shiver.
Thanks to COVID, we now have virtual shiva, which makes it easier for people to support the mourners. In my case, it means non-Jews can attend, requiring more explanation. My niece shared the following virtual shiva etiquette with me:
The best thing is to log on, mute yourself and get a feel for the room. If you knew the deceased, you may have the chance to share a story. If you didn’t, or if you don’t want to speak, just listen. Your presence here is truly the thing that matters. A family member may serve as a sort of facilitator, or if there are only a small number of people present, it may be less formal. Feel free to drop in for a short amount of time. There is no need to stay for the whole hour.