It can be difficult to know what to say when someone you know loses a special person. However, your emotional support is important, especially during this difficult time. Speaking from the heart and offering a memory or two about the lost loved one can be a great comfort.
How to Write a Bereavement Card
When you send a sympathy card to a far-away friend or leave a card at a funeral or visitation, you have a couple of options. You can purchase a bereavement card that you believe speaks to the situation, or you can choose a blank card and write your own message. Either way, you'll need to do more than sign your name.
Make It Personal
In your note, be sure to address the person who will receive the card directly. You can put this salutation above any pre-printed text, or you can add it just above the message that you write. Typically, something like "Dear [person's name]" is perfectly appropriate.
Make It Specific if You Can
If possible, include a memory of the lost loved one. These memories can mean a lot to survivors, giving them a sense of connection to their friend or family member. Your memory doesn't have to be a major event or an involved story. In fact, it's best if you include just a couple of lines about a time the individual did something to help you or made you laugh. You can base your message on one of these examples:
- "I'll never forget the time your mother helped me out after the birth of my baby. I don't know how we would have gotten through that time without her."
- "I remember the day your brother took me fishing. We both nearly ended up in the water, and we laughed so hard."
- "Your father was instrumental in helping me choose my career. Without his advice and guidance, I don't think I'd be where I am today."
If you don't have a specific memory of the person, you can skip directly to expressing your sympathy.
Simply Express Your Sympathy
The most important element of any bereavement message is the expression of sympathy. This should be simple and heartfelt. Ultimately, it needs to tell the person that you are sorry for her loss and that you're thinking about her. Try to include the type of loss your friend has suffered. For instance, "I'm sorry for the loss of your father" is much more meaningful than "I'm sorry for your loss."
Your message should fit the situation, but these examples can help:
- "I was so sorry to hear about the death of your father. You and your family are in my thoughts."
- "We're sorry to hear of your mother's passing. Please know that we are thinking about you."
- "Your uncle was a special man, and he'll be deeply missed by everyone. I am thinking of you and your family."
- "I was saddened to hear about the loss of your sister. I am sending you thoughts of peace and comfort during this time."
Offer Help or Support
If you know the person well or have a connection to the family, it's also kind to offer your support or help in your message. You can do this in one of the following ways:
- "Please let me know if I can help in any way."
- "I am here for you if you need to talk."
- "We'd love to make this difficult time easier for your family. Please let us know what we can do."
Sign Your Name
Finally, sign your name. If you have a common first name, it doesn't hurt to include your surname for clarity. Many people receive a lot of sympathy cards and like to look back through them after the emotion of the loss is a little less sharp.
What Not to Say
There are some messages of sympathy that, while they are well-intentioned, are probably better left unsaid. For example, expressing your religious faith is not a good idea, unless you are sure that the recipient of the message also shares your faith. Avoid any comments dwelling on the details of the death as well.
These are a few other phrases or sayings you should avoid:
- "I know how you feel."
- "Time heals all wounds."
- "Your father is in a better place now."
- "It was his or her time to go."
- "It's all for the best."
- "At least your loved one won't suffer anymore."
Showing You Care
You should send your bereavement card as soon as you hear about the loss; however, if sending a card slips your mind or you don't hear about the loss until well after the fact, it's still appropriate to express your condolences. Ultimately, any message that shows you care about the bereaved person and their loss is one that will be well received. If you speak from the heart and keep it simple, your message may bring some comfort.