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

Grief Support Groups: Get to Know the Positives and the Pitfalls

Are you considering joining a grief support group? Maybe it’s something that you’ve thought about but are just now considering seriously. Or perhaps finding a bereavement group was suggested to you...

Creative Ways to Use Cremated Ashes to Honor Your Loved One

Over the last decade, cremation has become the preferred funeral option in the United States. By 2040, it’s expected that cremation will represent an astonishing 80% of all end-of-life dispositions...

Batchelor Brothers Funeral Services is Prepared to Safely Care for Our Families During the COVID-19 Health Emergency

While our nation continues to develop its response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Batchelor Brothers Funeral Services remains committed to providing the highest quality of care to families in...

The Protocol for Funeral Processions: Ten Things You Should Know

A key part of good funeral etiquette involves following the protocols for the procession. Even if you’ve never participated in one, chances are that you’ve seen a funeral procession—also known as a...

Six Important Things to Consider When Choosing an Urn

When you’re searching for a cremation urn for your loved one’s remains, it’s important to get it right. You may be surprised by the endless array of options available. From modest wooden boxes to...

Six Ways You Can Help a Loved One Cope with Hearing Loss

When someone you love experiences hearing loss, your interactions with them may begin to change. Conversations that once felt easy may now be rife with frustration and misunderstanding. The ...

Have You Ever Wondered Why Cremation is Surging in Popularity?

In 1958, less than 4 percent of Americans were cremated. By 2035, that number is expected to approach 80 percent. What’s behind this massive shift?  As more ...

Telling Your Parents They Need to Stop Driving Isn’t Easy: These Tips Can Help

At first, you notice that mom or dad doesn’t seem comfortable behind the wheel anymore. They may hesitate a little too often, drive at inappropriate speeds, or frequently j...

Understanding the Fog of Grief: No, You Aren’t Losing Your Mind

Experiencing brain fog after the death of a loved one? You’re not alone. A significant loss or death can trigger a host of reactions in your body and mind. While you may know to expect t...

The Best Strategies for Coping with Grief in the New Year

“Little by little, we let go of loss…but never of love.”  When you lose someone special, the world seems to lack its celebratory qualities. Whether your loved one die...