Do’s and don’ts of sympathy cards

When someone passes away, you usually want to comfort friends and family of the deceased. However, it can be difficult to know what to say when a friend or loved one has experienced a loss. You don’t want to cause that person any more pain, but you want to help in some way. Well, sending a sympathy card is one way you can successfully reach out to that person. You need to know the proper etiquette and wordage you should use in the message, though, so your note is effective. So, here are a few do’s and don’ts of sending a sympathy card:

Do express compassion
It’s perfectly fine to tell the person you’re writing how sorry you are for his or her loss. Include a little note about how you knew the deceased with a happy memory. The recipient will appreciate your support and enjoy reading a story involving the loved one.

Don’t mention circumstances
Leave the sympathy statement at, “I’m sorry to hear June passed away.” Don’t allude to any of the circumstances surrounding the death. This will only remind the reader of how the person died and bring more sorrow.

Do offer to help
You don’t understand how much goes into a funeral until you’ve helped organize one. The time after a loved one has passed can be extremely stressful and hectic, so offering to help with various tasks is extremely thoughtful. For instance, include a statement that says you’d be happy to babysit or cook a meal for the family. Make sure you’re specific about the kind of help you can offer. Leaving the statement too vague can lead to uncertainty when asking for help on the reader’s part.

Don’t go overboard
The sympathy note should be short, sweet and to the point. You don’t need to ramble on and express all of your feelings about the dearly departed. At most, the message should be around five sentences – one to express your condolences, two or three to tell a brief story and a final sentence to offer assistance.

Do write by hand
Take a little time out of your day to sit down and write your sympathy card by hand. It’s more personal this way and will be appreciated a lot more. You should also leave a note that no reply is necessary. Often times, people who receive condolence cards will send out thank you’s afterward. If you’re a close friend or don’t feel like a thank you is necessary, simply end your note saying so.

Don’t send an email or plain card
Email is impersonal and should be avoided unless you’re sending a sympathy note to someone overseas, in which case you could email for timeliness. Electronic communication can come off as insincere, so just stick to a traditional card. Speaking of cards, make sure you compose an original, brief note for the inside of the card. It’s okay to use one that writing inside already, but don’t let that speak for you. Show the person you really care through your own words.

Keep these handy do’s and don’ts in mind the next time someone you know passes away. The recipient of your card will appreciate your thoughtful gesture and be given a fond memory of the deceased.