How Do I Retrieve A Lost Item From A Shiva House?

Dear Miriam,

I can’t find my earbuds. I’ve retraced my steps, and the only place I think they could be are the shiva house I went to earlier this week. What is the least awkward way to get them back without disrespecting the mourners?


Ear Bud Error


Dear Error,

Depending on when shiva is ending, your last intrusive option is to go back to the house for another visit. While you’re there, try to find the missing earbuds. If your schedule doesn’t allow for that, hopefully you know someone else going for a shiva call, and you can ask that person to be on the lookout for you. Both of these options have the potential to veer towards strangeness if you (or your friend) seem like you’re snooping, so if you don’t immediately see the earbuds, you just need to accept that you’re doing an extra mitzvah by visiting the mourners and not make it weird.

However, if shiva is over or you don’t have a good phone-a-friend option, you’re either going to have to let these go or reach out in a way that might be uncomfortable. Figure out if there’s someone tangentially connected that you can reach out to, rather than contacting the mourners directly. Even another member of the family would be better than someone who is in the category of a mourner, so avoid contacting the spouse, sibling, or child of the deceased. A simple email expressing your condolences and asking if anyone found your missing item would be fine.

If they find them, you need to get the earbuds in a way that absolutely minimizes inconveniencing the family. Whatever time they say you can pick them up, show up at that time. Bring dinner or dessert with you. Be gracious, and keep your appearance as brief as possible.

If you reach out and the answer is that no, they don’t have them (or if you get no response), don’t follow up, and you’ll have to just let it go. Maybe they’ll turn up in a month or a year. Maybe someone from the shiva house will bring them back to you some other time in the future. And, most likely, either that’s not where you lost them or, in the chaos of shiva, someone else picked them up or put them down somewhere else, and you’re not going to find them. Sometimes we lose things, and it’s never a good feeling. But going to shiva is always the right choice, and maybe next time, check your pockets before you leave.

Be well,