CaringBridge Staff | 03.11.19
Comforting someone who has lost a loved one is never easy. Knowing what to say in general is a challenge, and finding the best words to write can be just difficult. We reached out to families like yours, who use CaringBridge, and you came through with some good messages.
Here are 5 ideas on what to write in a sympathy card to express support and love:
1. Get Personal
Those experiencing loss know how special their loved one was and your message should reflect your appreciation for that. If their loved one was passionate about music, mention what great taste they had. If they were into gardening, a card with flowers and a relevant quote might mean a lot.
“When my Dad, died a friend from childhood sent a sympathy card she had made personally with a picture of my dad’s house lit up for Christmas. It was his true passion and he had over 100,000 lights on it. It’s the one we all treasured and still love today. That is truly a great way to show you care.”
2. ‘I’m bringing over your favorite meals.’
Sympathy messages don’t always have to be emotional – they can be practical, too! In such an overwhelming time, a message like this can be a breath of fresh air. Plus, offering meals and other supplies to those in crisis takes a huge weight off their shoulders.
“I often bring paper plates, napkins, tissues and even toilet paper. The other food items I bring are canned beef, turkey, chicken, frozen vegetables, pizzas, casseroles that I have frozen, that way they don’t have to go out for groceries right away.”
3. Remember When…
Reminiscing on happy memories is one of the best ways to cope with grief. Memories help people hold onto the bond they had with their loved one. Thinking about all the good times instead of what was lost can be helpful during a very sad time.
“Recall a story that they were not a part of but that you cherish. It provides another insight into who their loved one was, sometimes a side of the person they never knew. It also lets them know that their loved one is a part of someone else’s memory and not forgotten.”
Karen Anne C.
“A special memory of their loved one will more than likely touch their hearts. ❤️”
Mary K A.
“Happy memories can come later, when some healing has happened. In a note: Talking about one’s sorrow that they are gone, what that person meant to you, and that you are ‘keeping them (i.e. the bereaved) in your thoughts and prayers’. If you are physically present, just saying ‘May I give you a hug.’ can mean a lot, when words never seem to be enough. Offers of help: asking ‘How’s it going?’ giving them a chance to talk, and finishing with ‘I will check in on you in a few days time, (after the family has left).’
4. ‘I’ll be by your side every step of the way.’
Hard times can feel very isolating; remind your loved one that they don’t have to go through this alone and you’ll be there with them for support.
5. Your Favorite Quote
When you’ve experienced challenging times, what was a quote or saying that gave you comfort? Share this in the card. Your favorite saying will feel more personal and your loved one will appreciate you sharing. Who knows? It might become one of their favorite quotes as well.
If you’re struggling to think of a saying, these 22 quotes for hope and healing are a good place to start.
Messages to Avoid
Sympathy cards, though well-intentioned, can be unhelpful with the wrong message inside. Here are some common messages to stay away from:
- “I know how you feel.” People experience hardship in their own way, at their own pace. While empathy is a good thing, this card is about them and their loved one, not you.
- “Just let me know how I can help.” Offering help is great, but leaving it up to your loved one can feel overwhelming. Instead, simply let them know that you are there for them. Next time you see them, offer a specific way that you can be of assistance.
- “Everything happens for a reason.” This implies there is a good reason for your loved one’s pain. Don’t shrug off their hardship; recognize it with a gentle, “we’ll get through this together.”
For more info on what not to say, check out these 7 things to never say to a patient or caregiver (plus tips on better words to share).
No Matter What, Send the Card
Even when you don’t know what to say, saying something is more comforting than silence. When in doubt, “I love you” never fails
“Just send the card, they can look at it when they need to feel loved. Too many times we don’t send the cards, but they are a link to others.”
I have experienced that if you don’t get to send a card within a couple of weeks of their loved ones passing, send a card at a later time, my thought is that a loving note is never wasted, you can look at them anytime.”
We’d like to hear it from you! What messages have you given or received in a card that have provided you the most comfort during a difficult time?
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