Sympathy Cards – What’s Your Grief?

by Henry L. on May 6, 2013

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.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

LaurenC May 6, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Funny that most people know these rules and have been on the other end when a loved one has died and know they are not comforting, in fact quite the opposite, yet we still fall back on some of those old cliched lines. It’s human nature to try and talk and fill the void in an uncomfortable situation. The KISS principle is key here! A simple “I’m sorry for your loss” is enough.

Kelly May 6, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Sympathy cards are always the toughest to fill out – it is hard to find the right words to attempt to comfort someone in such a difficult time.

Lenore G May 16, 2013 at 11:14 am

I used to always say…He/She is in a better place. It never occurred to me that that wasn’t the “right” thing to say but now I just say how sorry I am and that they are in my thoughts and prayers.

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