Writing sympathy cards can be difficult.
Why? Well often you may also be in shock from an unexpected death. It’s hard to think when you’re grieving too.
Plus it’s difficult dealing with people in pain and fresh grief.
And sometimes you just don’t know what to say in a sympathy card.
Let me share with you some of my experiences . . .
I remember several sympathy cards that stood out.
Some were touching and memorable. A shared memory or two.
Two of them were written by folks who credited my parents with making a difference in their lives — and the writers graciously shared brief explanations of how.
My parents would have minimized their roles. Still I think they’d be pleased that their help is still appreciated decades later.
One of the most touching messages wasn’t in a card . . .
Instead, it came months later in an email. And filled in some information about one of my parents as a young adult, uplifting my spirit.
Information my sisters and I never knew.
On the other hand, some cards were — well — not personal or memorable.
Yes there are some challenges in expressing your sympathy . . .starting with just what to say in a sympathy card.
But that shouldn’t stop you!
Remembering the ones left behind can be an invaluable gift from you. Maybe it’s part of your journey or mission.
So how do you figure out what to say in a sympathy card?
Frankly there’s no one answer. Here are some tips to get you started . . .
1) Send a real card.
Not an e-card, which is impersonal and may get sent to a spam filter. And not a computer page with a computer-generated signature.
If you’re good at crafts, you can make a card yourself.
And certainly if you have the right software, a computer generated card printed on card stock can be lovely.
Be sure to sign it rather than having a computer printed signature.
2) Make it personal.
Write a brief line or note in your own handwriting. If you have a happy memory to share about how the deceased made a difference in your life that is a nice added touch.
This isn’t the best time to share a funny story. However, depending upon the situation you could offer to share a smile or tears about the deceased when the bereaved are ready.
Just taking the time to personally express your sympathy is a lot.
3) Don’t add to the pain of loss.
The loved ones are grieving.
And likely feeling pain in their hearts. Maybe pain for what they’ve lost . . .what they didn’t do, or . . .even what might have been but cannot ever be now. This is not the time for flip answers, or to remind the family of anything unpleasant.
Don’t dwell on the circumstances of death or give advice. Just express your sorrow at their loss.
Don’t know what to say?
How about starting with something like. . .
My deepest sympathies in the loss of your ____.
My heart hurts for you in your time of loss.
Our thoughts are with you at this time.
4) Offer to help if you can.
Adding a simple line along the lines of “Call me if I can be of help” or “I’m here if you need to talk” are often very welcome.
It shows how much you care for the survivors. Even if they never take you up on it, it’s often comforting to know how much friends and family care.
5) You’re thinking and/or praying for them, so tell them.
Some people find this one tricky. Afraid of offending if they offer prayers . . .and afraid of offending if they don’t.
Sounds like a no-win situation, doesn’t it?
It really depends upon the family and you. If they know you’re a pray-er, likely they’ll accept your sincere statement of prayer. You may be more comfortable acknowledging in writing your thoughts are with them.
How can you express this? You could start with one of these . . .
You and your family are in my thoughts.
You’re in our thoughts.
We’re thinking of you in your time of loss.
And if you feel comfortable expressing you’re praying . . .
You and your family are in my prayers.
You’re in our thoughts and prayers.
We’re thinking and praying for you in your time of loss.
6) Close with respect and sincerity.
Some closings you may find helpful include . . .
With deepest sympathy,
Sending you our sincere condolences,
Thinking of you,
7) Keep it honest and sincere.
If you can only say a few words that’s okay. Some of the most heartfelt cards and notes are very short.
Do you know . . .?
Death of a loved one is among the highest stresses people face.
Seeing how your body responds to stress can be helpful in learning how to change your response to negative emotions.
Have you heard about HeartMath’s Personal Stress Reliever?
It’s a unique program that helps you see how your body reacts to stress and offers drug-free solutions. Check it out now by clicking here.
May you have a safe caregiving journey . . .good health . . .and happiness,
Caregiving With Purpose
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