How to write a sympathy note is a popular topic. As one friend explains, it’s very difficult figuring out what to say to someone dealing with such sorrow. The bereaved do appreciate the caring sentiment these notes convey and they play an essential role in communicating our condolences. While I agree that it’s important to craft a sympathy message that’s comforting, it feels as if there is too much emphasis placed on a written sympathy note rather than the personal extension of condolences and support via a physical connection to the bereaved.
Many bereaved have shared how touched they are by notes and personal remembrances from friends, loved ones, neighbors, and colleagues. These messages are often savored, read and re-read during the period of mourning. But the bereaved also share that the most meaningful expressions of sympathy are often verbal and face to face communications in the weeks and months following a death. This is a sad and often lonely period when physical presence is often scarce.
So instead of placing so much importance on a sympathy note, let’s focus our attention on being present in the life of the bereaved, well past the early weeks following a loved one’s death. Do write a meaningful note, sign an online guest book, and post on a Facebook page, sharing your stories and old photos that make the deceased present once again to those who loved and cherished them. But don’t stop there. Send a “thinking of you” card, a personal note, an email message, or a Facebook poke. Phone to check in and see how they are doing. Make a date for a walk, coffee, a visit, or a meal. Invite them to join you for a movie, religious services, shopping, dinner at your home, or some time out. Offer to pick them up if you feel they are too housebound or they seem to be having difficulty moving forward.
Caring condolence notes are great, but once they’re mailed, your job isn’t done. Let your thoughtfulness extend beyond the written word and your kindness will make a profound difference.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in e-book and print for "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage" and e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store. Click here to order.
Image via Flickr Creative Commons / atsamom