Sympathy Card Messages: How to Do it Right
Trying to comfort someone when they are going through the loss of a family member or friend can be incredibly difficult. In truth, there is nothing you can say or do that can totally alleviate the pain or grief someone is experiencing, but there is plenty that you can do to help them cope. Being there for a friend or family member and offering your support and comfort during a difficult time is oftentimes the only thing you can do, but that will mean the world to the person who is grieving.
The best way to show your support is by sending a sympathy card. Everyone handles grief differently, and sometimes it can be hard to know how a certain person is feeling. Some people prefer to be surrounded by loved ones, while others prefer space and privacy to process what has happened. Sending a card is a way to show someone you are thinking of them but are respecting their right to privacy. If in fact, they do want you around, the card is your signal that you are willing to be there and they will understand that.
If you are unsure of what to send in your sympathy card, that is totally understandable. Is saying ‘I am sorry for your loss’ too general? Is it wrong to write something longer and more detailed? How do you strike the right balance? Those are all valid questions and we are going to help you understand the general guidelines when it comes to writing a sympathy card. Here are some key points to keep in mind that will help you write the perfect card.
Hand Write Your Card
While we are fully living in the digital age, there is still a time and a place for hand writing a card, and a sympathy card is one such occasion. Taking the time to write out a message makes the message itself that much more personal and makes it feel more heartfelt. Even if you feel you don’t have good handwriting, it is still better to take the time to write out your message. This will be much more comforting to the person on the receiving end of it.
Also, perhaps this goes without saying, but do not send a sympathy card via email. Take the time to write out an actual card and place it in the mail. Again, we realize that sending letters via mail feels very outdated, but this is a very specific situation that really calls for a handwritten physical letter.
Include a Fond Memory (if Possible)
If you are writing a sympathy card about someone who you also knew personally, a nice touch to add to your card is a memory you have of the person who has passed away. You might think that a sympathy card is not the place to share a memory, but in fact, it is a great time to place a sweet story in order to put a smile on the face of the person who is grieving. Do not be overly long with the story, keep it short, but do take the time to jot down a memory if you have one.
If you do not have a memory to share (perhaps you did not know the person at all or not very well) do not feel pressured to include one. It is always best with sympathy cards to be heartfelt and if you have to force yourself to think of a memory, it will not come across as genuine or heartfelt.
Be Respectful of Their Preferences
This is a big one. For example, most people think to send flowers when someone has passed away. However, if the family has requested no flowers, it is your job to respect their wishes. This also goes for the message you include in your sympathy card. For example, you may wish to include a religious note – perhaps a Bible verse, or a line telling the person you are praying for them. If the person you are sending the card to is also religious, that is a great message to include.
However, if they are not, it is best to keep out any mention of religión that may make them feel uncomfortable. You may be keeping the person in your prayers, but if they are known to not be religious, respect their own beliefs and keep it to yourself. At this moment, the card is all about the other person and making them feel comforted, and isn’t about what would make you feel comforted.
Offer to Help
Remember what we said earlier about not knowing what a person wants? This is the part in the card where you let them know that you are there for them and are willing to help. This may mean cooking or sending over a meal, helping with funeral preparations, or simply spending time with the person and comforting them during this difficult time.
They may not choose to take you up on the offer, but the gesture itself will be comforting to them so they know they are not going through this on their own. Of course, if they do ask for help, be sure you follow through, so do not offer up something that you are not willing or not able to actually do.
Be Empathetic, not Sympathetic
Even though you are writing a sympathy card, be sure to always practice empathy. Without realizing it, you can come across as insensitive if you write in your card that you understand what the person is going through or know how hard it is. Now, if you have experienced a similar loss, it is much more appropriate to include a message like that. However, if you have not, it is best to not include a line like that.
Practice being empathetic, meaning that you can express how sorry you are for the person even though you do not personally know how it feels. This is a kind gesture and is fine to include in a card to express how sorry you are for their loss. Always practice caution when writing your card so as to avoid anything that may come across as uncaring or insensitive. Even though that is not your intention, it can sometimes come across that way in a card without context.