The Keys to Writing a Meaningful Condolence Message

By: Batchelor Brothers Funeral Services
Sunday, December 15, 2019

If you’re at a loss for words when composing condolence letters, you’re not alone. Many people have a difficult time putting their heartfelt sympathies into words.

Whether you’re posting to a funeral home’s online sympathy board or sending your condolences by mail, knowing what to say and how to say it can be a real challenge. If you’re stuck between wanting to be original and not wanting to say the wrong thing, the tips below can help.

Accept that it’s likely awkward for both of you.

Your mourning friend of family member likely feels just as uneasy as you do. This situation is new for him or her, too. Opening with “I don’t know what to say” or “I’m at a loss for words” is perfectly fine and may put you both at ease. The act of reaching out is what’s important. Don’t let a little awkwardness keep you from showing your support in their time of sorrow.

Keep the focus on the bereaved. 

It can be tempting to want to connect with the bereaved by mentioning a similar loss that you experienced. Avoid writing “I know how you feel.” Even though your heart is in the right place, grief is a unique experience. You can never know exactly how they feel. Try instead to say, “I can’t imagine what you’re going through.”

Remember the deceased. 

Stories about our loved ones become even more significant once that person is no longer with us. If you have any loving memories of the deceased, share one or two of them in your condolence letter or sympathy card. You might also recall a special quality that you remember about them. If you didn’t know the person well, you can always write, “While I never got to know [name] as well as I would have liked, I can tell that she meant the world to you. I will always cherish the stories that you told me about her travels.” Doing so lets the grieving person know that their loved one’s life was unique, special, and significant.

Keep it positive. 

Brief can be better when it comes to sympathy letters. Relationships aren’t always simple and straight-forward. You may have had conflicted past with the bereaved or the deceased. If any part of what you plan to write gives you pause, don’t include it. The sympathy card is not always the best place to air out all of your feelings. Keeping your message simple will help you to avoid any missteps that you might be worried about taking.

Grant the grieving permission to feel. 

Some try to hold in their hurt, anger, and sadness. If your loved one needs a little encouragement to let go, give it to them. Writing “It’s okay to cry” sends them the thoughtful message that they don’t have to put on a brave face around you. This can be a truly wonderful gift.

Offer specific help, then follow through.

Asking for and accepting help is hard for most people. You may feel like you want to help but aren’t sure how. “Let me know if you need anything,” is likely to end in the bereaved never reaching out. If you really want to help, be specific. Try offering something specific along with a date, such as, “You had mentioned that you aren’t sure how to write an obituary notice. I can come by on Wednesday to help you out.”

Include a handwritten note. 

Sympathy cards do most of the heavy-lifting when it comes to conveying a thoughtful message. If you are sending a card, personalize it with a note. You can keep it brief. Some examples include: “Please accept my heartfelt condolences,” “My heart and prayers are with you during this difficult time,” or “Wishing you peace.”

Aim for connection rather than perfection. 

When you pressure yourself to get the messaging ‘just right’ you risk putting off writing or sending your condolence letter altogether. Rather than focusing on the “what,” try instead to focus on the “why.” Ask questions if you aren’t sure what to say. “How are you doing?” is a great opener that lets your friend or family member know that they can share their thoughts and feelings with you. 

Send it. 

The act of acknowledging the loss is equally if not more important than what you say or exactly how you say it. Although funeral etiquette recommends sending condolences within two weeks, it is never too late to reach out. Your hurting friend or loved one will be grateful for periodic cards send throughout the first year and on anniversaries. 

We hope these guidelines are helpful to you. If you need additional pointers on how to express your condolences, write an obituary, or compose a memorial speech, please reach out to us anytime. 

About Batchelor Brothers Funeral Services: As a leading African American-owned and operated funeral and cremation organization serving three states, Batchelor Brothers Funeral Services has provided a ministry of care to thousands of grieving families. We promise to provide our highest level of distinguished service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved one. In all aspects of the funeral process, we strive to be the absolute best and are honored to help preserve our clients’ legacies for future generations. With three convenient locations serving both North and West Philadelphia, as well as Trenton and Drexel Hill, it is always our pleasure to be of service. Please visit our website for more information. 

Leave a comment
Name*:
Email:
Comment*:
Please enter the numbers and letters you see in the image. Note that the case of the letters entered matters.

Comments

Please wait

Previous Posts

Seven Things You Should Know About Live Stream Funeral Etiquette

Losing a loved one during the era of COVID-19 is especially challenging. While the pandemic forced the world to remain apart, virtual funeral services have allowed family members, loved ones, and...

Helpful Advice for Common Funeral Planning Challenges

Losing a loved one is among life’s most difficult experiences. Being prepared for this eventuality can relieve some of the initial anxiety and despair. But even with plenty of planning and foreth...

The Guilt of Grief: How to Stop Blaming Yourself

Are you experiencing intense guilt following the loss of a loved one? If so, you aren’t alone. Guilt is a common emotion in the wake of loss. While it isn’t unusual to the grieving process, holdi...

Keeping the Peace: Six Good Ideas for Dividing Your Loved One’s Possessions

Combining grief, stress, and treasured heirlooms can be a challenge for families. That’s why the loss of a loved one sometimes tests the bonds of even the closest families. People do unusual thin...

Dealing with Loss: Avoid Making Major Decisions While You’re Grieving

When a loss occurs, many decisions must be made. There are choices about funerals, memorial services, burial, cremation, logistics relating to funeral services, and many others. While we may be abl...

Essential Tips for Helping Your Child Deal with Loss

Children, like adults, need time to grieve the loss of a loved one. One of the most important things you can do during this time is to let them know you're available to listen and provide reassuran...

How Aging Life Care Professionals™ Help Families Navigate Eldercare Challenges

Dealing with the needs of elderly parents can be challenging at best. In addition to the stress and emotion involved, tending to the many facets of their lives is often complicated and frustra...

Understanding the Symbolism of the Most Popular Funeral Flowers

Before you tell the florist to “put something nice together” for a sympathy arrangement, give some thought to the message it’s sending. Ideally, the arrangement should reflect the life of the perso...

Dealing with a COVID-19 Loss: What Not to Say to the Bereaved

Even in the best of times, it is difficult to know how to help someone grieve. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, consoling a friend who has lost a loved one to the virus requires extra care and...

Follow These Tips to Safely Express Your Sympathy During COVID-19

When someone passes away, we are accustomed to gathering with family and friends to share our sympathies with the bereaved. This traditional, supportive gesture represents an important part of the ...