Reform Judaism/Grieving


In Judaism it is frowned on if a griever mourns for longer than the one year prescribed period of mourning.  Why?

In reference to this, someone said that anyone who mourns for more than a year is not grieving the deceased.  Do you know who made the statement and the exact wording?

Dear Phyllis,

The halacha (Jewish Law) about mourning is not about the healing of grief. It is about the formal rituals of mourning. We observe thirty days of mourning, for immediate relatives other than parents, and a full year for our parents. The reasoning of the ancient rabbis had to do with the large number of children in families. If, on average, a couple had ten children, then an individual might expect to bury five or more of their own children, five or more siblings, perhaps a spouse plus two parents. If one were to observe a full year of mourning; with the restrictions on entertainment, the need to say Kaddish three times every day, etc., one would live a life of perpetual mourning. So, the tradition is very emotionally healthy. It tells us to look forward and not backward and move on with our lives in spite of our losses. This is the dame reason why we don't visit a cemetery during the first year after a death until the unveiling.

After the prescribed, formal, mourning period, we are give the four days a year when yizkor prayers are recited as a way to compartmentalize our expressions of grief and to express those feelings as fully as we need to.

Everyone understands that we still feel loss and that no rule can tell us when or if it ends. Jewish Law does not say anything that would contradict that, but our basic orientation is about the goodness of life and the need to face forward.

I hope this is helpful. Shabbat Shalom.

Reform Judaism

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Rabbi Sue Levy


I will be happy to discuss questions about the beliefs and practices of the Jewish people and faith, including but not limited to Reform Judaism. I am not trained as a psychologist and do not, therefore, answer questions about relationships or other personal issues.


I am a rabbi with twenty-seven years of experience. I was raised in the Reform Movement. I am a Reconstructionist rabbi. I have served congregations in three states and am now retired.

Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, Houston Rabbinical Association, Southern Poverty Leadership Council, Rabbis for Human Rights

B.A., political science, Temple University, 1965 M.A., relition, Temple University, 1983 M.A.H.L (Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters), Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Wyncote, PA, 1986 Rabbinic Ordination, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, 1986

Awards and Honors
D.D. (Doctor of Divinity), honorus causa, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, 2011

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