Sympathy cards are an important part of etiquette, but writing them can be difficult. It’s a heavy task; nothing you write will relieve their pain, but it's important to acknowledge their grief and support people during rough times with memorable condolences.
How to Write a Sympathy Card
Don’t write your first draft directly on the card. This is an occasion where you might find yourself ripping up several sheets of notepaper or wadding them up and tossing them to the trash where they pile up into a mountain because you realized that nothing would work. Scribble your condolences onto scratch paper or a notepad until you’ve found the perfect sentiment.
When to Send a Sympathy Card
Sympathy cards should be sent immediately upon hearing the news of the death. They should be hand-delivered, or mailed but never emailed or sent via text message. If you hear news of the death long after it’s happened, it’s okay to send a card then, indicating that you only just heard the news.
Things to Include in a Sympathy Card
If the grieving person is religious, it’s acceptable to remind them to call upon their spirituality for support. Statements like “We’re praying for you” and “He’s with God” can bring comfort to some people. However, if the deceased or the grieving person does not have a religious faith that comforts them, such statements can be seen as antagonistic and even dehumanizing. The card isn’t a place to push your religious beliefs, so “You’re in our hearts” and “We think of you every day” are more acceptable condolences.
Should You Include Details?
Some people are inclined to use the sympathy card as a forum to share their fondest memories of the deceased. That’s acceptable and often welcomed. Make sure the story you share paints the deceased in a positive light (their mother does not want to hear about the night you and her son visited every bar in Daytona Beach). Stories that tell how the deceased has impacted your life can be helpful. Did he once inspire you to start a business, encourage you when you were feeling down, or offer words of wisdom that you’ll never forget? Share that. Grieving people are often grasping at straws trying to keep their loved one close, and stories like this can be helpful.
What if You Didn’t Know the Deceased
Your friend has lost her parent, and while you didn’t know them personally, you want her to know that you love her and care for her in her time of grief. “I know how special your relationship was and I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this right now. I am sure your father appreciated all of your visits, and I know he will be missed.”
Other Things to Include in a Sympathy Card
Photos of the deceased are often welcomed and may find their home in a makeshift shrine or on a fireplace mantle. Thoughtful quotes, but before you choose one, put yourself in the shoes of the grieving person before you include it. Nobody is perfect, and over-glorified sentiments can be discouraging. The person receiving the card probably knew the uglier sides of the deceased, and quotes that disavow their humanity by over-glorifying them can heighten the sense of loss.
At Northside Chapel Funeral Directors and Crematory, we're here to help. Call us today for more information or check out our Sympathy Store for greeting cards, flowers, gift baskets and more.