When someone we care about loses a loved one, it’s often difficult to know how to respond. We want to let our dear friend or relative know how much we care about them, and that we share in their grief, yet it’s often difficult to know how to communicate those feelings, and do so while remaining within the societal norms and expectations that we adhere to.
Writing a sympathy card often feels awkward, at best. The usual words can seem empty and facetious. We want to say something meaningful; something that will convey our true feelings without sounding corny, but we are not all blessed with the gift of being able to produce truly inspirational written expression.
The situation becomes even more awkward when the person who is grieving is a coworker, or even one’s employer. Or perhaps it’s someone we didn’t really know that well, maybe a distant relative; what do we say then? What about if we had no acquaintance whatsoever with the person who passed away, yet we want to console the one suffering the loss all the same?
As early as the 1860s, companies such as Goodall, Marcus Ward & Co. and Charles Bennett got into the business of mass-produced greeting cards with pre-printed sentiments for all occasions, in order to assist those who had trouble finding just the right words to convey their emotions. Today Hallmark, American Greetings and others continue the tradition, producing and selling more than 6 billion greeting cards every year.
Purchasing a pre-printed sympathy card can be very helpful; you can browse through many different choices until you find one that expresses your feelings to at least a close approximation, but it’s still polite as well as expected that you will add a hand-printed note inside. That’s where this book comes in.
In this blog, you will find information about sympathy note etiquette; when you are expected to send a sympathy note and how you should send it, along with what types of flowers and other symbolic gestures may be appropriate for the occasion. You will also find a number of sample condolence messages appropriate for different categories of sympathy notes, from close friends and family members to distant relatives and more.
Finally, you’ll find a host of thoughtful and inspirational quotations from famous people – and one or two anonymous ones – centered on the subjects of life and death, grieving and loss, as well as lifelong achievements and celebrations of life. Sometimes just the right quotation, especially one that comes from a well-admired famous persona, can add a personal touch to your card that illustrates your respect and admiration for the one who has passed on, and will provide your friend or loved one a memorable thought to cheer them in their time of sorrow.
Death is part of life, yet those who remain behind are often left with many questions, feelings of loss and sorrow, and wounds that take a long time to heal, especially if the one who has died did not get the opportunity to fully live out their life. They may feel alone in the world; they need their friends now more than ever to help them heal, yet now is often when their friends may tend to feel awkward and don’t know how to approach them.
A well-written sympathy note is a small yet meaningful gesture that can serve as a salve on the wound to the grieving person’s psyche.
Similarly, a poorly written or impersonal sympathy note can add salt to the wound instead, and make that person feel as though you don’t really care about them at all; certainly not enough to take the time to write down something personal and thoughtful.
Because grieving and loss are such painful subjects, it’s natural to want to avoid them. Often when a friend or associate loses a loved one, we dutifully send off the required sympathy note or flowers or both, and then change the subject, literally. We don’t truly understand what the person is going through, nor do we want to. In truth, the whole subject of death and dying forces us to consider our own mortality, and this makes us extremely uncomfortable.
In our logical mind, we know we’re going to die, but in our heart of hearts we’re somehow convinced that we’re going to live forever. This is natural; otherwise we might be too frightened to leave the house every morning. We take our mortality for granted and refuse to give it a second thought, until we are suddenly confronted with it, in someone else’s mirror.
So we treat our friend with kid gloves, tiptoe around him or her, ignoring the elephant in the room, so to speak. We mean well, but in truth this sort of behavior is hurtful.
Your friend or loved one who is grieving needs for you to share their pain, and give them an outlet.
The point is this: Rather than looking at a sympathy note as an obligation you must fulfill and then move on, you should realize that it is just the beginning in a process of reaching out to someone who is grieving. There is no rule that says you can only send one sympathy note.
Use this blog to make sure your sympathy note provides a measure of comfort to your friend or loved one, and lets them know that you truly care about them and are ready to help them through their time of loss.