It is often difficult to know what to say to someone who has lost a loved one. It feels like anything you come up with will fall terribly short in addressing the grief, but keep in mind that sympathy cards bring a measure of comfort to those who are grieving. They are a vital part of their healing process, so it is important to understand how to write a sympathy card.
How to Write a Sympathy Card
Mention the decedent’s first name in the opening sentence, as this provides immediate acknowledgement of their loved one, and it makes your card personal from the outset. It’s also a good idea to mention the deceased’s name in other places throughout the card, as long as it doesn’t seem forced. The family will appreciate your efforts in maintaining a personal touch.
The difficulty in writing something like a sympathy card tends to have us falling back on clichés. These are neither personal nor comforting, so avoid them, if possible. When you write things such as “she’s in a better place” or “it was part of God’s plan”, you are showing that you have put little thought into the contents of the card. Keep your statements personal and specific to the relationship between the grieving family member and the decedent.
The exception to this would be to say something like “I cannot find the words to express…” since that is more than likely true. It’s okay to add that bit, because the family, too, feels that way.
This can be tricky, but it is an important part that shouldn’t be left out. The family needs to know that your support does not end after the committal service. However, the trick is to be specific. Do not write a general “let me know if I can help” statement. Instead, write something like “I know Steve used to take you grocery shopping. I would be happy to help you with that.” But, of course, don’t write it if you can’t commit to it.
Being there for someone in their time of mourning can make all the difference in the world to them. When you provide help with day-to-day tasks, you are giving the survivor the gift of time, because they can focus on grieving instead of the burdens of everyday life.
Keep it Personal
If you had any type of personal relationship with the deceased, add a funny or poignant memory of the two of you. There is comfort in shared grief, and the family will appreciate that you have acknowledged your relationship, as well as your loss.
Address the person’s positive characteristics in the card, too. Mention how funny, creative, or intelligent he or she was, and this will show the family that you valued their deceased family member.
End your message on a positive note with a statement like “May God bless your family”, if it is written in sincerity. Otherwise, use a non-religious closing, such as “I wish you peace in your grief”. These words can feel inspirational to the family of the decedent, and will most certainly be appreciated.
The grief associated with the loss of a loved one doesn’t end simply because the service has completed. In fact, the reality of the loss often doesn’t settle in until afterwards. That is when the family needs the words of comfort and action of support more than ever. A simple sympathy card can go a long way in letting the family know they are not alone in their grief.
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