You open the card, you stare at the blank space. “What do I say?” goes around in your head. You have to write a condolence card.
I wrote two this week, one for someone who died too young, the other for an ancient grandmother. How to respond to grief – a complicated mix of loss, sadness, sometimes anger, sometimes relief, wistful memories, fun memories?
Here are some thoughts on what to say:
- I’m sorry for your/our loss. It’s okay to acknowledge complicated feelings: it’s okay to feel all these things.
- Share a memory, if you have one, of the person who passed. Or your impression, if you have met them, or your impression of them from your friend. Or you can say, “I am sure s/he was an awesome person, knowing you as I do.”
- If you have experience of grief, share your reality, without making it theirs. I found grief was surreal: I thought I had a big neon sign on my forehead saying, “I just lost my mum,” but I didn’t, and groceries need buying and people need phoning, and it feels surreal. So I share that and everyone so far has found it comforting.
- Offer specific help if you can and want to, to the extent you can: taking the kid(s) for an afternoon; laundry; dog-sitting.
- Don’t include any advice, blame, predictions for feeling better, or discussion of the details of death
- Don’t think it needs to be long.
- Late is much better than never. Cards pour in early, and then people often experience a silence. Sending a card weeks late, affirming any continuing grief, can be a huge support. You can also send a second card, or call.
The best advice I’ve come across is in this blog, which includes ideas for specific losses, ie parents, a child, pets: www.thepencompany.com/blog/write-a-sympathy-card/
Just remember, showing support to loved ones in their times of grief is more appreciated than it might seem.
At Blue Heron Arts we offer a wide range of Art projects and services to connect you and your clients to the places you both love. Suzanne Heron produces her own work of southern Vancouver Island, and partners with artists in other areas, to create calendars, cards and prints that resonate deeply as images of home.