Nobody enjoys composing sympathy cards. It means that someone has died. Someone we care about is hurting. Instead of listing all the ways we could possibly console our dear friend or family member, let’s take a look at what not to say. Sometimes words just pour out of our mouth or pen, that do not diminish the pain someone is feeling. It adds to it. It’s human nature to want to comfort someone, but more often than you think, people make these oversights. Here are a few taboos that we unfortunately have a lapse in our brains and do.
1. Avoid electronic greetings at all costs! You may think it is appropriate to send corporate sympathy cards to say maybe Bob in the cubicle a few rows down, but it is in bad taste. A handwritten card is always the way to go.
2. Do not attempt humor! We instinctively want to cheer people up but maybe save that for a night out with the boys. What you may find to be a funny story may not be the right time for someone who is grieving.
3. Do not rehash the tragedy! Nobody wants to recall all the horrid details about the deceased. Especially if it was tragic and messy. Instead talk about the good memories of that loved one.
4. Don’t compare! “I know someone who”…Enter a tragic story here. This person is in the worst pain imaginable and they don’t want to hear about how someone died worse than your beloved.
5. DO NOT BRING UP DEBTS! Just because Rachael borrowed $100 bucks for that killer outfit does not mean her relatives have to pay for it. Let it go.
A few more sentences you may not want to throw out there are the clichéd “I know how you feel”. You don’t know how they feel. “At least he or she lived a good life”. “He or she is in a better place”. No, to the grieving person they should be here. “It will get easier”, “It was God’s will” and the classic “I know something good will come of this”. Can you predict the future? Many people may question their faith at the loss of a loved one. You will truly never know how someone may interpret these phrases. Give them a break people and keep it simple. Offer a sympathy card with words from the heart, your friendship and time.