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This is a question of 2 different possible statuses, each with its own implications.

In Maurice Lamm's "The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning," he writes (page 26)

He is not considered an onen if there is absolutely no possibility of his participation in the arrangements

Thus, he or she is not an onen if ...

He could not physically be present at the funeral preparations because he is...overseas

I understand that to mean that if someone is so far removed that he or she could not be at all involved, then that person is not an onen. But if that person WILL be involved at a later date (as the body is being transported to the overseas location) that person will BECOME involved and will then be an onen, and then an aveil.

So what is the status of the person before he or she becomes an onen?

And if there is a delay in the moving of the body, if the person overseas is an onen, for how long can a person remain an onen?

  • The classic case of aninut not starting at death is when the relative died while in jail. Aninut/avelut doesn't start until they get the body or they give up hope of the king releasing the body (YD 341:4) – Double AA Jun 22 at 1:58
  • @DoubleAA is there any official halachic status in the meanwhile? – rosends Jun 22 at 2:01
  • The problem with this is that our days arrangements can be (and most certainly are!) made over the telephone and via other electronic means. When my father of blessed memory passed away in New Jersey earlier this year, my brother was in California and I was in South America and we made most of the arrangements before either of us could fly in. These matters are not at all pshut – Josh K Jun 22 at 11:39
  • @JoshK As earlier, you're just bringing up a technical difficulty of applying these classic rules in certain more common modern cases. The questions are still worth analyzing in their original context for understanding. – Double AA Jun 22 at 15:28
  • Fair enough, @Double AA. – Josh K Jun 22 at 22:35
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It appears from Chachmas Adam 153 with the paragraph starting with the words "מי שמת בתפיסה ולא ניתן לקבורה" that when the family can not bury the body...

  1. if the relatives give up on burying the deceased for whatever reason, the aveylus begins.
  2. it's possible to have implicit "giving up of hope" and then aveylus begins.
  3. if they can not bury but do not give up they are "neither in aveylus or aninus".
  4. If someone is involved with the burial, they become an onen.

It appears from this source that there is no "status of the person before he or she becomes an onen" all one needs to do is be involved with the burial to become an onen and if they can't see 1-3 above. No reason why it can't be via phone across the world (as in Josh K's case) as anyway if someone lives in the same city as the chevrah kaddishah they still need to phone them and make arrangements.

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  • This answer basically can be shortened to say "Chachmas Adam 153 makes no mention of any special status in such a case." Not unlike your other answer judaism.stackexchange.com/a/114855/759 – Double AA Jun 22 at 15:27
  • This answer is helpful but I still can imagine(!) a case in which the person cannot be involved with the burial until a fixed, certain point, even via technology so I'm still curious. The simplest version would be if a plan is set in motion from the moment of death to transport the body overseas and happens automatically and the person overseas must make the arrangements after the body arrives. The person doesn't know with whom to deal or what arrangement need to be made until after landing so nothing can be done. Or something hypothetical like that. – rosends Jun 22 at 17:42

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