A reader wonders, “Is it too late to send a condolence note six months after a death?” I’m not aware of a statute of limitations when it comes to condolence notes, but how late is too late? Is it appropriate to send a note six months or even one year after a death?
Your first consideration should be the bereaved. How might they feel when they receive your belated note? Will they be comforted that someone remembers them and their loved one? Will they feel better knowing that they haven’t been forgotten? Or is your note, twelve months later, just too late?
I would treat each case individually. Have you known about the death for many months and procrastinated? Or, did you just learn of a death, for example a high school or college friend, and wish to contact the parents or sibling(s)? Evaluate each case on its own merit. You might ask yourself, “What is it I want to say and what makes me want to reach out?”
The following example is a condolence note you might write for a former classmate that died seven months ago:
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Hiller,
Please accept my apology for this delayed note, but I just learned of Paul’s death. I was unaware he was ill and I’m terribly saddened to hear of his untimely death. You both have my deepest sympathy.
Paul was an extraordinarily special person who touched many lives. I was so lucky to have him as a roommate freshman year and he made my transition to college so much easier. We supported each other through so many challenges and I’ll always be grateful for the integral part Paul played in my life.
Despite living on opposite coasts, Paul and I managed to retain our friendship and when we had time to spend together, it was if no time had elapsed between visits. I will miss our conversations and visits, but cherish all my memories.
You were wonderful parents and I always enjoyed your campus visits. You and Paul made a difference in my life and I will continue to keep you in my thoughts and prayers.
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 three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as 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.
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