When a Sympathy Note Is Belated – and You Never Met the Deceased

Oh dear – the days and weeks have passed, and you never wrote the sympathy note. You meant to do it, but it was too hard. You don’t know the bereaved well, and you never met the deceased; nor do you know anything about the relationship between the bereaved and the deceased. How can you possibly think of anything that might bring comfort?

The business of grief is a lonely one. It’s something you do all by yourself. You feel so much pain and wonder if you will ever feel “normal” again. While the note writing task might seem daunting, one of the kindest things you can say and do for someone who is grieving a loss is to acknowledge the pain and difficulty in losing someone who was so very dear.

A handwritten note lets the bereaved know you care. It will lessen their sense of isolation. Acknowledging their grief makes them feel their pain is an appropriate response to their loss. And it does not matter if the note arrives one week or thirty after the death. Here are some guidelines:

  1. Begin by communicating your sympathy or sadness at their loss.
  2. Acknowledge the difficulty in losing a beloved friend or family member.
  3. Share that you care and have been thinking of them.
  4. Include any common experience that demonstrates that you have an understanding of their loss. Avoid comparisons such as divorce or death of a pet.

The following is an example of how I recently handled a belated sympathy note to someone I knew, but never met the deceased:

Dear Jacob,

I was sorry to hear that your dad had died. It is so difficult to lose a parent. I remember how lonely I felt after my mother’s death. I gravitated to others who had faced a similar loss. Their understanding gave me comfort during the long grieving and healing process.

I just wanted to let you know that you have been in my thoughts. I hope that the memories you have of your dad will bring comfort in the weeks and months ahead.                                                                                                                                                                                                           

My deepest condolences,



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 at a reduced price for e-books for "Illness & Death," "Suicide," "Miscarriage," "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.

Photo via www.simplesympathy.com

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