The loss of a loved one knows no boundaries and there are no exceptions. That’s why is so important to show an expression of sympathy for fellow employees when we learn that someone they cherish has died.
I know how difficult it can be to find the right words to let someone know you are feeling their pain, without being intrusive. Especially if it’s someone you don’t know very well. However, news such as this travels quickly through the workplace so usually everyone hears it even if they aren’t particularly close to the person who has suffered the loss.
It’s just as difficult for the person coming to work to deal with co-workers as it is for the co-workers to deal with the person who is grieving. And everyone deals with grief in their own way. Just a card to let someone know they are not alone is often appreciated more than anyone knows. Sympathy cards these days say so much with just a few words and sometimes that’s enough. You’ve opened the door and are available.
I know when my dad died several years ago I dreaded my first day back to work. I was going to be seeing people who knew what happened but who I had not seen since the day I left to go to the hospital. I was comforted by warm smiles and hugs, but what I remember and cherish to this day are the cards that were left on my desk. People weren’t sure how I would feel after such a devastating event in my lift, but they cared and that meant the world to me.
We can’t really ask for much more than that – kindness from people who are really your extended family. Some heart felt words of sympathy from people who want you to know they are there for you.
When a co-worker loses a loved one, even the most confident among us sometimes find it a challenge to know the right thing to say. The obvious and most practical thing to do when dealing with a death in the office is to send thoughtful sympathy cards with a personal note included. But who among us has not stared at a card, pen in hand, wondering what would be appropriate? It is admirable to want to comfort someone, but the co-worker relationship has to be considered. It is appropriate to express your feelings to your co-worker by recognizing that the person is suffering. Statements like “I’m sorry for your loss” or “My thoughts are with you and your family at this time” show them that you care.
Don’t avoid a colleague who is grieving simply because you don’t know what to say. Honesty is the best policy in this situation. You can simply say, “I just don’t know what to say, but I am sorry for your loss.” Again, a tasteful sympathy card can come to your rescue if speaking directly to someone about this topic has you stumped. Conversely, offering too much info or advice can overwhelm a co-worker who is coping with a difficult situation. For example, relating about how your grandfather suffered in his final days would not be helpful. In short, an honest, simple response is often the best approach.
As my parents have grown older, so have their friends. It seems like my Mother was making many monthly trips to express her condolences at our nearby funeral home. The family who loses a loved one has so many arrangements to make within several days and life becomes surreal. The chaos of a funeral viewing and the verbal expression and sympathies coming from so many friends within a short time period erases the faces of those who came to remember. It’s so important to send sympathy cards to let the families of lost loved ones know you stopped by to pay your respects.
Every so often, someone in the work place loses a family member, another reality of our lives. Business sympathy cards are a special way of providing continued comfort to a co-worker and their family. We may not know this person personally, but we become connected through the work place. Giving or receiving a sympathy card from a work acquaintance can build a special bond between friends in the office. Verbal expressions of sorrow are caring, but a sympathy card brings thoughts of compassion that can’t be erased. Your thoughtfulness will always remain with your family or friends.
It was a really nice day out, and it was a Friday. Everyone in the office was anxious and excited. Finally, the end of a long work week! But just as everyone was settling down, we noticed our co-worker wasn’t at her desk. Then we got the horrible news. Her mother had sadly passed away the night before, suddenly and without warning. It seems like right in that instant, all our hearts broke for our beloved co-worker. I couldn’t help but want to run to her and give her a big hug. Then I realized that maybe she didn’t want to be around people at this moment and that maybe she needed some time to collect herself and bring herself together. We would of course respect her space during this difficult time, but we certainly wanted to let her know that we were all thinking of her and her family. That’s where sympathy cards come in. With a sympathy card, you can hand it to the person without getting emotional face to face, which some people are uncomfortable about. Naturally not everyone likes getting teary eyed in front of others. This way the person going through this hard time can keep the sentiment, read it in their own comfort and on their own time, and feel free to get emotional without the worry that someone may be looking. I like writing a paragraph of support and ending it with a good quote fitting for the situation. The one I chose for my co-workers sympathy card was: “For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity.” – William Penn.
Everyone in our office had something nice to say, and wanted to reach out to our friend, so it’s very convenient and smart that our company has business sympathy cards on hand all year round. We got one of our cards and all signed it, including our boss, who was equally devastated that our friend was going through this loss. It was a while before our co-worker was able to come back to the normal routine of life but when she did she expressed how much the card we sent meant to her. She said that even though she needed her space, our sympathy card made her feel like she wasn’t alone at all. And that’s the most important message we wanted to convey.
We all love good old American boy scouts, right? And why is that? Because they are prepared. “Be prepared” is their actual motto. Everyone likes to be prepared. Does anyone ever say, oh I’d prefer to be unprepared for that meeting, no! So if you like to be prepared, why would it be any different when it comes to sympathy cards.
Actually, if you think about it for a moment, different than with birthdays and anniversaries which you know the date of ahead of time, it is extremely rare to know when someone will meet the end of their lifetime. It also is a part of life and inevitable that we will have to express our sympathy to our friends and family as their loved ones pass whether suddenly or of natural causes, at times even while grieving ourselves. So it makes even more sense to make sure that you have sympathy cards on hand so you can use them or mail them out when needed. It is suggested that business sympathy cards especially should be sent within a few days of learning of a person’s passing so that too much time does not go by before you express your condolences. Remember to keep it simple especially if you didn’t know the person too well. You just want to be able to acknowledge their mourning and let the recipient know you are thinking about them.
It is a natural reaction to avoid anything to do with death or funerals. The unfortunate result is that we are often unprepared and overwhelmed with the proper approach to take when a colleague, business associate or co-worker has a sudden loss in their family. The first step should be to send a sympathy card. Sympathy cards offer an appropriate sign that you are sensitive to the person’s loss.
When we think about a loss of a loved one, we remember the people we received sympathy cards from. Business associates will certainly feel the same way. It seems a prudent practice to be prepared for the possibility that business sympathy cards would be needed at any given time. The world is becoming a smaller place and businesses are no longer behaving in a cold and detached manner. The trend toward a warmer approach has shown that people respond better when the businesses they deal with care about them.
There is no reason to limit your involvement to a sympathy card. When my father-in-law passed away, there were many people who came to the wake that were business associates. I cannot tell you how that impressed and comforted my mother-in-law. The capacity to show sympathy is not something to be underestimated.
When we are vulnerable all kindness is appreciated. Many times we ask ourselves what should we do. What are the proper words to say? Should we send a card or send flowers or visit. Ask yourself what would you like if you lost a loved one and you will have your answer. A flower, a card or a visit encourages us to remember we are not alone in our grief. Who among us would not rather do business with people who are caring and thoughtful? Keeping a supply of business sympathy cards will help prepare you to express that caring to others.
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.
For obvious reasons, no one likes to send sympathy cards. But they are needed, as they help bring comfort to the bereaved and also enable you to express and share your grief. Knowing the right things to say and do can be difficult. Here are some tips for sending sympathy cards.
Writing the Sympathy Cards
• Opt for a black or blue pen. Do not use colorful pens.
• If you’re not sure what to say, keep it simple. Messages such as “I am sorry for your loss.” and “My thoughts and prayers are with you.” are always appropriate.
• Avoid saying things like “He is in a better place.” or “Time heals all wounds.” Hearing trite clichés like this might be painful for the family.
• Be heartfelt and respectful.
• If you knew the deceased well, you can include a memory or acknowledge how much the person meant to you.
• Be sure to include your last name when signing the card.
When and How to Give the Sympathy Cards
• If you are attending the wake or funeral, you can give the card to the family at that time. The funeral home usually has a dedicated holder for everyone to place their cards.
• If sending the card via mail, write the mailing and return addresses by hand to make the envelope more personal.
• Some people are able to visit the bereaved in person and like to bring flowers or food to help the family during this difficult time. Sympathy cards can accompany these gifts.
• The sooner the better, so your card reaches the person grieving when needed most. However, it is never too late to share your condolences.
Types of Sympathy Cards and Thinking of You Cards
• A nice touch would be to select a design that honors the deceased. For example, if she loved going to the beach, an elegant card with seashells or peaceful ocean scene would be appropriate.
• If the deceased or the family is religious, a card with that theme would be well-received.
• “Thinking of You” cards can be considered instead of traditional sympathy cards. These designs and sentiments are just as appropriate.
Sending sympathy cards is not the most pleasant task, as we all know. It is however, a part of life. Our logical minds tell us that but our hearts aren’t as easily convinced. Just conveying condolences can be stressful. We are never quite sure what to say. We don’t want to upset anyone. If you are like me, just the thought can bring on the waterworks. What if we send the wrong type of card or say the wrong thing? Sometimes this means we may do nothing at all.
As one that has been on both ends as a sender and a receiver, way too many times I might add, I can vouch for the value of sympathy cards. After losing my daughter several years ago I received many, many sympathy cards. Every single one was so greatly appreciated. I placed all of them in a plastic container. Once in awhile, I would pull them out and read them. It was so comforting to read all of the kind words. Some were just simply signed, while others had handwritten notes. It didn’t matter. Each one was a great source of comfort. I still have that little plastic container with the cards.
At work corporate sympathy cards come into play. Over the last few years I have lost a few more family members. Each time I was sent a sympathy card be my employer, as well as my co-workers. These too were treasured more than words could ever say.
Whether you’re a business or sending out personally, consider keeping a supply of sympathy cards on hand. Choose a couple or order an assortment box of cards. Include a few words if you like or just sign your name. It doesn’t matter if it is simply signed or includes words of remembrance. The receiver will be eternally grateful.