Expressing sympathy can be difficult, even if the bereaved person is a dear friend. One way to show that you care about your friend's loss is to send a sensitive and carefully written sympathy card. A sympathy card gives your friend something to hang on to during his or her saddest times. Just knowing that someone else cares can ease the burden of grief at least a little. What is the best way to write a meaningful sympathy card?
The first step is to choose the card you want to send. Try to match the card to the person who will be receiving it. For instance, if your friend is not religious, avoid cards with Bible verses or cards that talk about receiving comfort from God. You may prefer to find a blank card with a lovely picture and let the words flow from your own heart.
Finding the right words can be a challenge. Start by acknowledging that a loss has occurred. This need only take a sentence or two. For instance, "I was deeply saddened to learn of Bob's death. I'm thinking of you during this painful time." It's also comforting to share a short, positive memory of or statement about the person who has died. Something along the lines of, "I always enjoyed taking Bob's classes because he had such a great sense of humor," or "Bob was so kind to help me shovel my sidewalk each winter."
Another element that it's always nice to add to a sympathy card is a meaningful offer of help and support. Most people say, "Call me if I can help you" or "Let me know if you need anything." These words are meant well, but most bereaved people are too hurt and shocked to reach out. Instead, suggest something more specific. If you know the bereaved person doesn't drive, for instance, you might say, "I'd be glad to pick you up to run errands and have coffee on Saturday afternoons." If the bereaved person is a young parent, you might offer to babysit.
There are a few things that are best avoided in a sympathy note. Don't mention any unpleasantness that might have existed between you and the deceased. Don't use cliches like, "It's all for the best," or "God never gives us more than we can handle." Finally , don't offer any unsolicited advice or ask questions about the specifics of the death. Writing a sympathy note is not a fun task. No one looks forward to having to do it. If you tap into your compassion, though, you will find that you are quite able to write a comforting note in a time of need.