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Sympathy Cards: What Do I Say?

Mar 18, 2008
One of the most difficult cards to send to a family or friend is a sympathy card. Why? Because if you are like us, you have many mixed feeling on what is truly appropriate for the situation.

But never underestimate the powerful message you convey by just sending a card at a time of grief. While many ask that donations be given in lieu of flowers, it is always appropriate to send a card to honor the departed one.

If you are reluctant to send a card, just because you don't know what to say, don't give up! Review the following lists of phrases and read each one out loud. Place a checkmark by the ones that sound "natural" and appear to be a fit for your situation. Work with it until it feels right, combine or adapt them to meet the unique situation.

If you are a spiritual person you may want to choose a phrase like:
- You and your family are in our prayers.
- We ask God to send his blessings on your during this difficult time.
- You and your family member will be lifted up in our prayer group this month.
- God is here for you with comfort and peace.
- Our prayers and blessing surround you with peace.

Some people may be intimidated to mention prayer, especially if they are not regular church attendees, so some good choices would be:
- You and your family are in my thoughts.
- With deepest sympathy.
- Our hearts go out to you in this time of loss.
- Our heartfelt condolences go out to you at this time.
- We are thinking of you.
- We loved your (father, mother, sister, brother) very much and share in your loss.
- We were very sorry to hear about the passing of (name of deceased).
- I am here for you when you need to talk, cry or smile about (name of deceased).

This is NOT a time where you need to go into details. One sentence with your signature can be sufficient to let your friend know you care and you are there for them. Send a card as soon as you hear the news. Then follow-up with another card to focus on the survivor and let them know you are there to help them through the grieving process.

If you are sending a card to someone that is of a different religion, and you are unfamiliar with their grieving process, take a few moments to conduct web-based research about what is acceptable and not. They will appreciate you taking the time to send them an appropriate sympathy card.

If you feel inclined, and were close to the deceased person, you may want to send a short heartwarming story about how the deceased made a difference in your life or in the lives of others. This is a time to celebrate the uniqueness of that individual and help establish ways to remember them for the goodness and happiness they brought to others.

This message will become a cherished memory that lives on for many years. Your thoughtfulness to share this special moment with that family member will lift their spirits and help them to focus on the positive.

Another way to share a memory is to put together a collage of pictures and phrases that were meaningful to the survivors and / or the deceased. Perhaps there were special vacation spots, annual family gatherings or traditions that were continued based upon the leadership and participation of that family member.

Having cards that show the person smiling, in good health, hugging and sharing special moments with family are priceless. And adding a short note about how the person was a great bbq chef, or knew how to arrange flowers just the right way or even how just there smile lit up a room can bring joy into the grieving hearts of those that mourn their loss.

If you did not know the deceased personally but are friends or business acquaintances with someone who has suffered a loss, don't try to make up a story. Just focus on letting your friend know that you are there for them. By simply saying " I am here if you need someone to talk to", may be very comforting to that person and just what they need to hear.

And don't be afraid to offer condolences to pet owners. So many folks young and old have pets that are truly members of their families.

My mother recently lost her cat Morris, who lived through all of his nine-lives to the ripe old age of 24. Morris and my mom had been through a lot together and I knew she was very sad to part with him. I found a simple little card and wrote a quick little line to comfort her. The next time we spoke she told me how important that sympathy card was to her, since Morris was "her child".

Finally, what about e-cards in this situation? My advice is to always send a REAL card. Even if the card does not arrive in time for the funeral, it will be appreciated. Many people keep the cards they receive and read them time and time again to help them get closure on their loss.

We hope this article was useful and that you will print it and save it for future reference.
About the Author
Scott and Karen Miller make it a habit to send cards to friends and family everyday. Be a part of the online community that shares thoughts on how to use cards to connect to one another and enrich lives with positive messages.
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