It’s About Sending Condolences… Not Cards!: What to Say in a Sympathy Card
Most of us have been in the unfortunate situation of having to offer our condolences to someone who has lost a loved one. Personally, it’s never easy for me to find the right words when offering those condolences because it quickly becomes obvious there are no words to describe what I feel… and certainly no words to describe what the person to whom I am speaking is feeling.
For that reason, I usually send a sympathy card after I have spent time with the person (or in the unfortunate situation that I cannot do so) to express my feelings more effectively. Of course, it’s still not easy, so here are some tips for writing something that best meets your needs.
The first thing to think about (and it might go without saying) is that you need to be timely with this. Especially if you cannot make it to the wake, funeral, or memorial ceremony, the day you learn of the loss, stop at the store and pick up a sympathy card. Even the best words within a sympathy card will not overcome the fact that the loss happened a month ago.
Find a Pen… Even if your Handwriting Isn’t Great
The main goal of the sympathy card is to express the idea that you personally are thinking of that person, that you care and are saddened at their loss. That’s tough to do with a computer. Using a computer to express your sympathy can come off as cold, which defeats the entire purpose.
Many of us use computers every day for nearly all of our daily communication. There’s a reason the USPS has started cutting costs. Snail mail is a thing of the past, but while it’s still here, take advantage of it and write your thoughts in pen. Take the time… it might be a minor inconvenience for you, but it will mean a lot to the person receiving the card.
Let Me Tell You a Story…
If you can remember a particular story about the recently deceased, now is the time to tell it. We don’t always have the opportunity at a wake or memorial ceremony, so take the time in the card to relay the story.
It doesn’t have to be sad… in fact… it probably shouldn’t be. If you remember that one thing the recently deceased did that inspired you to be a better person, send your condolences by sharing that memory. Remember something funny? Tell the card recipient. Trust me. They could probably use a laugh.
If Possible, Send Something with the Card
Finally, while it is not always possible, try to send something with the card. A card is enough, for sure, especially if you take some of the advice above, but what’s wrong with adding a little extra. You can add the card to a flower delivery (if you can… deliver them yourself) or bring some food and give the card then. Maybe include a gift certificate to the person’s favorite restaurant, telling him or her to go out when he or she is ready and have a good meal on you.
The most important thing to remember is to be personal. This is an extremely personal event… don’t cheapen it with some boilerplate saying.
It’s about sending condolences… not sending a card!