Expressing sympathy when a friend or a colleague has lost a loved one seems to be difficult for many people. What should I say? Should I go to the service? If I go to the wake how long should I stay? What is the appropriate time frame to send a sympathy card? It is easy to be caught up in an internal struggle of how we should act on these occasions. We can give advice to others on all these questions but the simplest answer is, do what feels right. The simple fact that you care will be comforting to anyone.
The time frame for sending a sympathy card should be dictated by when you found out about the person’s loss. If you heard right away, say when a colleague at work is out for a death in the family, the appropriate time would be within one to two weeks. Your colleague will be most likely be back to work in that time and you don’t want the card to appear to be an afterthought as if you finally could find the time to write the card out. When you decide to send a card you should send it as close as possible to the time of loss so the person can feel this is a genuine expression of sympathy. It is also appropriate to bring a card if you are attending the wake, however, sending it a few days later is considered a good time frame.
The only time sending a sympathy card after the two week period, would be if you had just found out about the person’s loss. Sometimes we have friends who live a distance away and you may not have found out until several weeks or months later. It is then appropriate to send a sympathy card with a personal note saying you have just heard about their loss.
Many times we just don’t want to do the wrong thing and so we do nothing. It is always better to take a positive step to sincerely express your compassion and concern. People will accept any attempt a friend takes to comfort them with an open heart. Taking the step is what is most appreciated.
I’ve experienced many unusual events as a result of the death of a business coworker, the passing of a friend, or the “going home” of a family member. Deep within there is an earnest desire to convey love and friendship to those closely connected, or a sincere sense of gratitude and respect for the privilege of working with a recently passed, fellow employee. At least there are many comforting business sympathy cards to choose from to express thoughts from the heart, especially when some might feel uncomfortable or awkward around the subject.
There was once the tragic accidental death of an Indian coworker, struck down in the prime of life as a result of a local train accident as she headed to work one morning. The whole company was in shock. The executives did not know how to continue with day-to-day business, how to act, what to say. Her damaged briefcase was recovered from the scene and delivered to the office. A grief counselor was brought in to assist warehouse and office employees. There was a Hindi funeral service that followed where people wore white instead of black, then a cremation ceremony. You see, it’s not all about business, it’s about people.
At another job, a catalog phone rep lost her husband in a matter of hours with what started off as a simple headache after their children’s softball game. Dad was the coach. The profound sadness on her face when she returned to work will forever be etched in my memory. Before her husband’s death her everyday joy of life was so incredibly cheerful and energetic. Her smile radiated beneath a full head of blonde curls. I thought she must have been the luckiest lady in the world with the best husband, family, and marriage. Now her grief was so vast that no one could approach her; no one knew what to say as she sat alone at her workstation. Beautiful company sympathy cards came her way to ease her heart, if only to quietly read how respected and loved her husband was, and that there were people she worked with who cared even though they may not have known how to say it face to face.
The cards were a means of offering her active, conscious support. She knew she was still loved and accepted on the job even though her personal grief would have to take months and years to process.
I have sent many sympathy cards, too many as far as I am concerned, but that is a part of life. Each time I sit down to convey my condolences I get stumped, so I let a nicely imprinted sympathy card help so that my message can be short. When composing your message, keep in mind that less is more. A brief phrase like “Our thoughts and prayers are with you” or “Our deepest sympathies” is enough for now. A few weeks after the funeral, sending thinking of you cards is appropriate. At that time you can write about a fond memory of the deceased or how much they meant to you.
Unfortunately, I have also been the recipient of many sympathy cards so I know first hand that they are welcomed and appreciated. When a loved one is acknowledged in death, the survivors learn how much that person was liked and how well they were thought of during their time with us. Receiving company sympathy cards for the deceased is especially heart warming as most of the deceased’s time was probably spent at work. When sending business sympathy cards to your co-workers Emily Post writes:
There is no set formula as to what to say. Only one rule should guide you in writing letters of condolence: Say what you truly feel. Your clear expression of sympathy and caring for your co-worker is what matters the most. Sit down at your desk as soon as you hear of the death and let your thoughts be with your coworker as you write.