There are plenty of questions and concerns revolving around sympathy cards. In fact, some of those worries about what to say may deter people from sending them altogether. However, sending a sympathy card is important for showing someone you care and that you’re available to help. It’s always a good idea to offer kind words, so don’t let uncertainties about decorum stop you from doing so. Here are the answers to some common sympathy card etiquette questions:
Sympathy card timeline
According to Real Simple, it’s never too late to send a sympathy card. While best practice calls for sending a sympathy card within a week or two of the loss, late is better than never. Just as the grieving process has no time frame, the chance to offer kind words doesn’t have an expiration date. So, even if the loss has happened several months ago, you can still drop a friendly note to someone. Ask the individual how he or she is faring and if there’s anything you can do to help.
The recipient of your sympathy card may not appreciate being told how to cope with their grief. Though you may be giving advice with the best intentions, those experiencing a loss are typically more focused on managing their sorrow than deciphering the meaning of your message. It’s easy for words to get misconstrued.
However, if you have experienced a similar loss and have words of wisdom that you’re sure will help, then it’s OK to include some guidance in the sympathy card. Just be sure to phrase things as suggestions rather than demands. For example, use phrases such as “In my experience, I’ve found that….” instead of “You should…” Additionally, avoid comparing your own situation to that of the grieving individual. Phrases like “I know how you feel,” may trivialize their pain. Remember that everyone grieves differently – your experience may not be the same as theirs.
Acknowledging your own grief
If your friend has recently lost someone close to him or her, such as a spouse or child, you may have also known the deceased individual. Therefore, you too have felt the impact of the loss. Acknowledging your own sorrow shouldn’t take away from their grief. In fact, this may be an essential element if you’re sending a sympathy to card to someone you don’t know. For example, if a co-worker passes away, you may want to send a heartfelt message to his or her spouse. Since you might not know the spouse, it’s important to include the nature of your relationship with the deceased person. Include a thoughtful message about how much he or she will be missed.
You should never include money in a sympathy card. According to SimpleSympathy.com, this gesture could actually offend the recipient. All the money in the world can’t replace the loss of a loved one, and your grieving friend may view the monetary gift as a message that his or her loss can be consoled with cash. While this certainly wouldn’t be your intention, you want to avoid upsetting that person.
If you want to include a gift, consider making meals for your friend. When people are going through the grieving process and making funeral arrangements, they may not have time for daily tasks like making dinner. Everyone has to eat, so you can help by making it easier for them. Baked pasta dishes are a great option for an effortless dinner. They can be stored in the freezer and simply heated in the oven.
When in doubt, send a sympathy card. Kind words are always welcome, and your heartfelt message could help ease the grieving process.