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When Everyone Has Moved On
A person may be overwhelmed by the dozens and dozens of sympathy notes that come flooding in after their spouse or loved one has passed on. It may take him or her weeks to go through them all. Then suddenly, silence; no more phone calls, no more flowers, no more casseroles, and no more sympathy.
This is a critical point in time when that person needs some reassurance that he or she has not been forgotten. The sympathy note you sent before was one of many. The one you send now will be one of few, if any.
Obviously, a second, third or fourth sympathy note will be different from the first. You don’t need to start with “I’m so sorry to hear about…” You could say something more like:
I saw a funny little red and brown bird today, and remembered how much Uncle Charlie liked bird watching. I wonder if he was watching it with me. I hope you’re hanging in there and spending time with your friends. I know Uncle Charlie wouldn’t want you to be alone.
The point is to let the person know that you haven’t forgotten them, or their loved one, and that you’re thinking about them. You might think you’re keeping the pain alive for the person, but really what you are doing is gently getting them used to talking about their loved one in the past tense. By bringing up a fond memory now and again, you’re helping them transition from grieving to remembering.
The most important attribute of a sympathy note, or any other form of communication, is that it be sincere, from the heart, in your own words, in your own handwriting, and that you use it to bridge the communication gap between those who have lost, and those who have not.