If you’ve ever written a sympathy note or card, you know what it’s like to sit and ponder your words.

Even more than weighing your words before speaking, wondering what to say in a sympathy card can be a problem.

As a compassionate person, you know it’s stressful for the family.  And you don’t want to add to their pain.  Intentional or not misplaced words can hurt both you and the bereaved.

And the process of finding the right words reminds me of sand spurs.  Why?  Because it’s less painful  to avoid saying the wrong thing, just like it’s less painful to avoid sand spurs.

This is the time of year when sand spur seeds turn brown and hard.  They are hard to eradicate and are nasty weeds.

Have you ever seen a sand spur?

For much of the year it can look like grass, especially if you’re not familiar with it.  Its seed though is particularly wicked.  It’s round with spikes on it.  And at the tip of each spike is a barbed end.

What To Say In a Sympathy Card: What Message Am I Sending? Sandspur next to paperclip for comparison in size.

As they grow, they are initially surrounded by leaves, much like an ear of corn.  In the fall they ripen, turning hard and brown.  Like many seeds, they fall off the plant easily.  Instead of being carried by a breeze, unfortunately they often get caught on clothing, fur and skin. 

And when they prick your skin, they are actually more painful when removed.  Thanks to the barbed ends.  Yes, that’s the voice of experience.  Ouch!

When they get tangled in an animal’s fur, they can require trimming the coat to remove them.  Because they can be challenging – and painful – to remove, a dog or cat may not want you to touch them.  Even the most gentle animal can resist attempts to remove the spurs.  They are often afraid of the pain.

Are you afraid of adding to the pain of the loss?

It’s natural to be concerned about making the pain of the bereaved worse.  If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of well-intentioned but misguided words you know how painful they can be.

So you may be paralyzed, unable to think clearly what to say – or how to say it.

If so you’re not alone.  Even the most eloquent speakers can be left speechless in the face of death, especially an unexpected one.

How do you decide what to say in a sympathy card or note?

Well, you can start by getting in the right frame of mind.  And one of the first things to decide is what underlying message do you want to say? 

  • Do you want to comfort the bereaved with your words?
    Of course you do.  If you didn’t you wouldn’t be reading this post!  Recognize you are offering comfort with your words and actions.
  • Are you offering your help?
    Actions do speak louder than words.  Just taking the time to express your condolences means a lot.  So does offering needed help. 
    Maybe help in the days and weeks that follow the funeral may be more needed than help now.
    Remembering the bereaved can include everything from asking them out to lunch to calling and seeing how they are to running errands for or with them.  And more…
  • Are you thinking of what they need right now?
    Putting yourself in their shoes can be difficult, but it can help prevent you from saying or writing something you might regret later.  If you’ve never experienced a loss in your life, this may be difficult.  Consider asking the advice of someone who has dealt with grief and knows the situation.

For a free list of 10 things you can write in a sympathy card, just leave a comment on this post. If you’re reading this on a site other than www.CaregivingWithPurpose.com, be sure to leave your comment by clicking here right now.

What To Say In a Sympathy Card: What Message Am I Sending?

To your healthy caregiving,

Dr. Ina

Ina Gilmore, M.D. (Retired)
“The Knitting Dr.”

Founder www.CaregivingWithPurpose.com and www.TheKnittingYarn.com
Ambassador of Elder Care www.HowToLiveOnPurpose.comClick here now to get help deciding what to say in a sympathy card.

P.S. For more help in writing a sympathy card get my Kindle Best Seller! You get instant access.  Just click here right now! 

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