And Loving Sympathy Cards
When a friend has lost a loved one, sending them letter of sympathy or writing a personal condolence note is a thoughtful gesture. Over the years, many of your friends are inevitably going to lose loved ones. Death is as much a part of life as birth, yet it naturally makes us feel much more uncomfortable. When our friends lose a family member, it forces us to have to face up to our own mortality, or the mortality of our own family members. When a friend you care about loses a loved one, there is no better way to show your concern than to write a sympathy note or letter of condolence. What can you say or do that will bring them a tiny bit of comfort?
A Simple Preprinted Sympathy Card Can Help
If you don't know what to say, you can always purchase a preprinted condolence card or sympathy card at your local card shop. They usually contain thoughtful messages that have been professionally written and designed to be tasteful and considerate. If there is a line in the card that seems especially appropriate, underline it before signing your name. You can always add a sentence or two about the deceased, if you knew them. If you didn't know the deceased, simply sign and send the card so your friend will know that you are thinking of them.
Everyone may wish to keep a few condolence cards on hand to they are prepared to send out a card in a timely manner. If you are interested in ordering a few, you may want to use this
Write a Condolence Note on a Blank Card
If you feel comfortable, and prefer not to use a preprinted card, you can always write a condolence letter on your own stationery. Either decision is correct. The important thing is that you don't postpone sending a note because you forgot to purchase a card at the store.
When you write your note, begin by stating how sorry you are for your friend's loss. Let them know how sad you were to hear of the death of their loved one. The next part of the note will depend on how well you knew the deceased. If you didn't know the person who died (for example, if the deceased is the parent of a friend), mention what you remember of any conversations you may have had about that person. For example, you might say, "I remember how you laughed when your mother sent you a gift labeled with your sister's name!" If you do not have any such stories, simply tell your friend that you are sorry for her loss, and you are thinking of her. You might also offer to visit or go to lunch with her, when she is ready.
If you did personally know the deceased, mention a fond memory you have of that person, such as "I remember the fabulous cookies your mom used to bake when we were young."
Finish your note by saying you know how much your friend will miss having their loved one active in their life. You may also want to add a statement such as:
"I cannot imagine what you are going through. Please know I am here for you when you are ready to talk."
"My heart goes out to you and your family during this difficult time of loss."
Sometimes, you don't know what to say, and would like to use a quote from the past. Here are a few that you might want to use:
"When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight." Kahlil Gibran
"Death leaves a heartache no one can heal; love leaves a memory no one can steal." Engraved on a headstone in Ireland
"A human life is a story told by God." Hans Christian Andersen
These quotes are all a thoughtful way to begin a personal note to your grieving friend. They are also a gentle way to introduce some of the wonderful memories you have of the deceased.
Allow your Friends Time to Grieve
Avoid including negative memories in your condolence note. Also, avoid making broad statements such as "I know what you are going through," or "I understand what you are feeling." Even if you are sure this is true, the grieving person may feel that no one else really understands the depth of their pain. This is also not the time to say, "Your mother has moved on to a better place," or "You'll be feeling back to normal before you know it." Friends and relatives should wait several months before suggesting to their grieving friends that they should begin to "get out of the house" or "go to grief counseling." It may take them some time to get back to normal, and you will need to be patient.
Attend the Memorial Service
The primary reason we go to funerals and memorial services is not just to show our support for the person who had died, but to lend our support to those who have been left behind. They need to know that they are not forgotten and alone. If it is at all possible, make every effort to attend the memorial service and speak to the grieving family members. You do not need to say much. Tell them how sorry you are for their loss, and give them a hug if it seems natural. Your presence and your words will mean so much.
Later, do not be surprised if they cannot remember seeing you at the service. Grieving family members are often in shock and overwhelmed, and they may not be thinking as clearly as normal. Do not be insulted. Instead, be loving and supportive.
Make a Donation to a Charity
In addition to your personal note of condolence, there are other thoughtful gestures you may wish to consider. In lieu of flowers, many grieving families ask that you make a donation to a charity. If this is their desire, honor their request. It means a lot to the families to see that a number of people have donated to a favorite family charity. Even a small donation will often bring comfort to the family. Most charities will send notes to the family, acknowledging your donation, without mentioning the specific amount that you sent.
Flowers are Often a Thoughtful Gesture
If the family has not asked that you make a donation in lieu of flowers, it is perfectly acceptable to send flowers to most funerals. However, it is usually wise to ask your friend first. You will need to know specific information about the location and the time of the funeral. In addition, there may be reasons why they would prefer that you not send flowers, and they may have simply forgotten to mention it earlier.
Whatever you write in your letter of condolence, and no matter what other compassionate actions you choose to take, be sure to do something to acknowledge your friend's loss. It brings so much comfort to people who have lost someone to know that other people care about their suffering. The worst thing you can do is simply ignore their pain. Be sympathetic. Listen to them if they want to talk. In short, continue to be a friend.
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An Example of the Sympathy Cards Available from Amazon
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(price as of Feb 6, 2015)