If someone you know has died, it's important to send a card to the family, to commemorate the loss and express your sympathy. Writing a card for a funeral, however, is a difficult thing to do. It's complicated to decide what is taboo, what is respectful and what details of the loss are polite to mention. It's also difficult to find words other than "sorry." There is an art to writing a lovely note honoring the deceased, and it's a skill that will last you through many difficult times.
Arrange Your Thoughts
Before writing the card, organize your thoughts. Think about how you truly feel and how the death will affect you. Make some notes about the deceased person's life, what you remember about him and how he made you feel. Put some effort into what you will say and make it personal, instead of dashing off a card that could have come from anyone. The family of the deceased with appreciate your efforts.
Share a Memory
Include a special memory in your condolences -- one that will show how you felt about the deceased. Recount a special time that will make the deceased's family smile or nod. Tell your childhood friend that you remember his dad teaching you how to fish or how to parallel park. Tell the wife of your boss how much he helped you when you were new at the job. A personal anecdote says so much more than a generic, overused saying.
Stress the Positives
Remind family members that there are positives forces around them. Write about the strength that the remaining family members have, and how that strength will get them through this trying time. Offer your time, and stress that you are available for anything they need -- even trivial chores such as picking up the dry-cleaning, running a carpool for the kids or just being there as a shoulder to cry on.
If you are truly stumped about what to write, be truthful. It's far better for the family to receive a card expressing your inability to come up with a profound sentiment than it is for them to receive nothing. At the very least, tell them that you are thinking of them, and, if you and they are spiritual people, that they are in your prayers.
Avoid Minimizing the Loss
Avoid using sentiments such as "He's in a better place," or "It's wonderful that he's out of pain." No one wants to hear that it's a positive that their loved one is gone. Respect the other's religious beliefs and don't try to press your own beliefs on him. This is not the time. Don't ask the person to look on the bright side, or try to minimize the loss. Don't compare his grief to yours, and don't say, "I know exactly how you feel." This is not an appropriate time to talk about yourself or your losses.
- For the Love of Letters; Samara O'Shea
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