I believe the topic of how converts should mourn when their non-Jewish parents die has been discussed in this forum before, but I couldn't find a recent thread specifically about the issue. I thought this article was a thoughtful exploration of the topic. For context, it is relevant that the progressive Orthodox rabbi who wrote the article is a patrilineal Jew who converted as a young adult and has a non-Jewish mother who is still alive. So for Rav Shmuly, this topic is a personal one as well. The Converts’ Dilemma: Mourning a Gentile Parent
The article was interesting. It is fairly liberal in its viewpoint. I have been through the loss of both parents and frankly it was very difficult for me from a halachic perspective, I cannot emphasize strongly enough how important it is to consult one's rabbi BEFORE the situation arises. My biggest challenge was that the funerals for my parents were held in their home church. Halachah absolutely forbids me to enter a church sanctuary and/or to participate in the funeral (it is considered a church service).
Thanks for the verbal vote of confidence, Simcha! For the record I attended both funerals and participated in each. In the process I violated at least 3 biblical commandments (but whose counting). Hashem and I had long talks and I am satisfied that G-d wanted me to honor my parents in the way I did. So who really cares what the rabbis say. (Insert smiley face here!!)
Welshabba: You fulfilled the mitzvah of "kibud av v'em" (honor your parents) which is important enough to be one of the ten mitzvot to be emphasized in the giving of the Torah. We stand in recognition of their special status when those mitzvot are read in the weekly Torah reading. My sponsoring rabbi once said: "We do our best and God will understand", and I think that sentiment certainly applies to your situation.
I'm quite sure that when my dad dies (and he has progressive dementia so that is not likely to be in the far future), no funeral or memorial service will be held in a church because that would go against his wishes since he has negative views of organized religion. (When I converted, his main worry was that I might become intolerant of other people who were not religious.) He was turned off by his mother's devout, but hypocritical, Christianity. He was deeply hurt when her health was failing in her 90's and she told him that she could not go to heaven in peace because he was not "saved" since he never attended church. He felt it was wrong that if he was a good person and lived a righteous life that it didn't seem to count in her eyes. Furthermore, my mom has only been a regular church attendee off and on over the years, so she does not have very strong ties to any church.
But since my dad is not Jewish, and given his antipathy to religion, I wonder what level of observance of traditional mourning practices would be the best way to honor him. I do not usually attend a daily minyan so I will not try to say kaddish daily for 11 months. I am lucky that my Jewish community is accepting of a range of personal observance levels, so I have seen people choose a variety of ways to mourn ranging from shiva minyanim both in the morning and evening to enable them to say kaddish three times a day and then attending daily minyan for the next 11 months, to less often or more informal gatherings of support during shiva.
Recently members of my congregation gathered for an evening service at the home of members whose long-time friend had died. He was not a relative, but he had no living first-degree relatives and no family in the area, so in fact my friends made the funeral arrangements and were the executors of his will. One of the members of our congregation (but not one of the members who are ordained rabbis) conducted the graveside service. Similar to a regular shiva, it allowed my friends to share stories about the life of the departed, and since that man had gone to their home almost every week for Friday night dinner, many of us had met him and could share what we remembered too. I brought over dinner and ate dinner with them before the evening service. They had only the one day of "shiva" because it was a friend, not a first-degree relative.
The one attendee of the "shiva" who was not a member of my congregation was an Orthodox co-worker of one of the mourners. He must have noticed that the rest of us obviously knew each other and asked about that. I think he was impressed that there were more than two dozen people who had come to their house that evening. What I know is that one of the reasons there was such a good show of support is that my friends are incredibly kind and generous and have often hosted and been supportive of many other people. I remember that they invited us to Rosh Hashanah dinner at their home when we were new members of the congregation more than 20 years ago.
Tonight will be the first night of the shiva minyanim for a member who is just returning from burying the second parent to die in only a week or two. Because the remaining parent was so ill when the first parent died, she observed shiva for the first parent in Minnesota where her parents and one or more siblings live. She will observe shiva with both morning and evening minyanim for the next several days, with the shiva held at the home of other members who are close friends and have a bigger home. We usually just move the location of usual daily morning minyan from the shul to a shiva house.
As far as how to honor one's deceased gentile parents, I am only comfortable sharing what I have found to be common themes from several years of conversations with rabbis. Kaddish is optional. Shiva is out. It is only required if the deceased is Jewish. One cannot give Jewish "honors" to a non-Jew even parents. If one chooses to perform any Jewish rites (e.g. kaddish, yizkor) they should be done in a way that is in some manner different from the traditional manner. For example instead of saying kaddish for a parent for 11 months, stop after shaloshim. As always the best answer is consult your friendly neighborhood rabbi!
No shiva for gentile parents is the Orthodox viewpoint. I have seen views by Conservative rabbis that a convert must sit shiva for non-Jewish parents and well as views that it can be done, but is optional. I know it isn't "proper" by Orthodox standards, but I have decided not to consult a rabbi when one of my parents dies. Based on all the other things that I did ask the Conservative rabbi (who was raised Orthodox and is still very traditional) who sponsored my conversion, I am pretty sure that he would tell me about different opinions and then tell me that mourning for parents is a very personal matter, so that I should choose what seems best to me from among the permissible options put forth by the Conservative Movement. That's basically how he responded when I asked him about how I ought to observe the laws of "Niddah". Furthermore, I have watched as members of my Jewish community who are Jews by birth choose to observe mourning rituals in a wide variety of ways, with some choosing the completely traditional mode of shiva with kaddish 3 times a day, continuing with kaddish 1-3 times a day (as schedules allow) for 11 months, and some choosing less ritual (reflecting both observance level and also practicalities of people's lives with family and work responsibilities. My community has fairly open "community standards" for anything that does not affect others---i.e. strict kashrut and Shabbat observance in the shul, but no judgement of members if they are less strict in their personal lives. There are certainly members who would not eat cooked food at the homes of other members, for example, but that's a OK because it is personal matter. If I were to choose to fully observe shiva, I know that my Minyan would make sure that there would be a minyan at my house for me to say kaddish every morning and evening of that period.