how to write a note of condolence

When a friend, co-worker, or relative loses a loved one to death, conversations can be difficult or become emotional. Sometimes the survivors drop out of circulation temporarily as they tend to final arrangements or spend time alone or with family in mourning. Sending a sympathy card is an expected and valued way of offering comfort. While many people simply sign an attractive card with their names, others take the time to thoughtfully add a few lines of a personal message.

Since words are an important way of conveying emotional empathy, give some thought to the ideas that flow through your pen as you prepare to send a message to someone in mourning.

  1. Use a medium point, reliable pen. Pencil is too light and suggests a transitive quality to the message. Avoid bright colors, which tend to contradict a sober sentiment. Stick to dark blue or black in a pen that can be trusted not to skip or give out before the message is complete. You don’t want a serious card to include a messy note. Neither do you want a bulky line or one that is too thin.
  2. Choose a card or note that respects the reader’s spiritual views. This isn’t the time to hammer home the point that a loved one may be snuffed out eternally or boiling in a lake of fire. Decorously offer comfort and sympathy for the reader’s loss, with a gentle reminder that you will be praying for the family, if that is your aim. Keep your words simple and few in keeping with the grave occasion and the dignity of your friend’s emotions.
  3. Write neatly or print in small, careful letters. Don’t try for an extravagant handwriting style. Let your sentences complement, rather than compete with, the card’s printed message. You don’t want to overwhelm the reader at this time of loss.
  4. Accent the positive. Mention pleasant memories or future hopes, along with your offer of support and comfort. The message should convey the idea of empathy and good intentions. You may want to include an invitation for the reader to call anytime for a favor or to vent. If you know the person well, you might even include a restaurant gift certificate for a quiet evening out or the offer of stopping by to chat or help with cleaning or childcare tasks.
  5. Time your card to arrive within one to two weeks of the loved one’s passing. Send it closer to the time if you cannot come to the funeral in person. It can arrive a little later if you will be attending the service. Consider following up with a telephone call the following week to reiterate your offer to help or to see how the person is doing.

Mourning a loss is a difficult but inescapable part of life. It is one of the most important times to demonstrate friendship and affection. Tact, diplomacy, and comforting words mean a great deal to those who have just lost a loved one. Take advantage of this time to provide much needed support.

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