One of the hard facts of life is that, at best, parents grow old and eventually die. At worst, accident or illness takes a parent too soon and the children don't have a lot of time to mentally and emotionally prepare for the loss. But even when there is anticipation of a loss, the reality can be difficult to bear. When your friend loses her mother, a letter of sympathy can remind her that she still has emotional connections and someone who cares. A sympathy letter can be a great comfort, as it can be read and reread in your friend's own time.
Acknowledge your friend's loss. Keep your focus on your friend and her mother. Your acknowledgment can address the circumstances of the death, if appropriate, and it should definitely include your heartfelt concern for what your friend has experienced.
Share a fond memory of your friend's mother. If you knew your friend's mother, speak personally of her positive and outstanding qualities. If you only knew of your friend's mother from conversations with your friend, remind your friend of a favorite memory or story she shared with you about her mother.
Make yourself available. Extend your welcome to your friend to text, call, email or cry on your shoulder when she needs to talk to someone or feel the presence of an understanding body. Talking is one way of processing emotions and getting through a negative experience.
Offer to run errands or do favors for your friend to help her take time for herself. Time for self-nurturing is important to the healing process. Be specific in your offers to help. Offers such as "I'm going to the store, can I pick up some groceries for you? Do you need anything from town? Could I come over and clean your bathrooms or do your laundry? Can I bring your children to my house to play with my children for the afternoon? or Can I bring you dinner?" are often easier to accept because you have stated what you are willing to do and your friend doesn't have to guess if she is asking too much.
Avoid giving advice or minimizing what your friend is going through by telling her she'll get over it. Additionally, expressions such as "She's in a better place" or "It was God's will" can be hurtful for some people. You can agree with your friend if she makes a remark such as this, but it is best not to offer platitudes because no two individuals experience an event in the same way. Your friend will gain emotional support from the knowledge of the stability of her relationship with you. Let your friend know that you are emotionally available and willing to listen when she needs to talk.
Close your letter with a statement of your friend's value to you, such as "You are in my thoughts," or "I look forward to seeing you" or other words appropriate to your relationship. The greatest sympathy letters are sincere, written expressly to let your friend know you care and you're hurting for her.
- SAMHSA: How to Deal with Grief
- On Grief and Grieving; Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler
- Grief is a natural reaction to loss. Individuals experience grief in different ways and for different lengths of time, but the stages of grief are typically the same. Initially your friend may feel numb, empty or confused as the fact of the loss of her mother sinks in. Sometimes a person shows very little emotion at first, and the business and final preparations keeps the impact of the loss at bay. But over time your friend will experience the five stages of grief, in no particular order -- denial, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance. Your friendship and understanding of the process of grief can provide great support to your friend as she finds peace with her mother's loss.
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