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Illness & Death
Illness & Death

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“Life presents us with challenging situations and when a friend, colleague, student--indeed, even a stranger--is forced to deal with grief, it’s important to say the right thing and feel confident your words bring comfort and solace. Kaplan reminds us that we're touched by grief every day and the first step to recovery is positive communication. We love the series. Thanks again. “

Karen Marsh, Librarian, Glenforest Secondary School, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Sympathy Notes
Ten ways to close a sympathy note
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While it’s a challenge to write a heartfelt condolence note that conveys your sympathy, it can be even tougher trying to figure out a meaningful close. Here are ten ideas:

How to Write a Sympathy Note When You Never Met the Deceased
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It happens all the time. Someone we know has a death in the family. A friend’s mother dies or a colleague’s son is killed in a car accident. The loss touches you, but you have never met the deceased. You know it’s important to reach out to the bereaved and extend comfort, but how do you write a condolence note for someone you don’t know?

When someone dies, all the bereaved have left are their memories. Sympathy notes that express your condolences bring needed comfort to the bereaved. The most meaningful ones include your thoughts, personal memories, and if possible, a treasured story. Photographs are especially appreciated.

You do need to dig a little deeper to write a meaningful note of sympathy for someone you don’t know. Here is an example of a condolence letter you might write to a friend on the death of a parent you have never met.

Dear Peter,

I was so sorry to hear about the death of your father. I’m sure your dad had a hand in modeling behaviors that shaped the special person you are – your wonderful medical skills, compassion, and patience. And your keen sense of humor. You have shared lots of stories about your family and I’m hoping that the good memories will be a comfort to you while you grieve this loss. Know that I’m keeping you in my thoughts and prayers.

Much love to you and Melissa.


Let Your Sympathy Note Tell a Story
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Content ImageEveryone has a story. The friend that brought you soup when you had the flu, the co-worker who tried to help dry your shoes by putting them in the microwave, or the neighbor that attempted to push your car when it was stuck in the snow and got his car stuck too. We all know funny, charming, and caring tales about friends and loved ones and when it is time to write a sympathy note, it's these stories that are most appreciated.

Before you write a sympathy card, take the time to reflect on your memories and jot down some stories that illustrate the unique qualities of the deceased. You can begin your note by expressing your sadness. Then follow with your remembrances, sharing your favorite stories.

While it’s caring to express your condolences, it’s the memories of a loved one that bring solace to the bereaved. When someone dies, all we have left are memories and it's these shared experiences that are sure to bring some warmth during a difficult time.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons/BiblioArchives - Library Archives

New thoughts on Facebook and condolences
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My dearest friend died last week. Even though she had a Facebook page, she did not use it; her husband did. After her death her husband posted a memorial for her and several friends followed. I read their posts and they were comforting, especially those with photos from different eras.

If you're a reader of my blog, you already know that I am not a fan of Facebook condolences. And so I faced a dilemma. Many of my friends and family members knew my dear friend and I wanted to share the news of her death and yet I was not up to phone calls. So I did what everyone does when they want to spread the word; I wrote a Facebook post.

I took the time to write and edit my tribute in Word and then I posted it with a wonderful photo of my friend and myself. It did the trick in getting the word out and amazingly, it comforted me. I must have read the post numerous times as I was processing the news of her sudden and unexpected death. And I hope that it will comfort my friend's beloved spouse and precious daughters.

Have I changed my mind on Facebook and death? Yes and no; I doubt I will stop writing sympathy notes and condolence messages on Facebook will never be a substitute for written condolence messages. But, I will participate in paying tribute on Facebook to those we love and lose.

Facebook condolences versus sympathy notes
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A friend and I had many discussions on the appropriateness of condolence messages on Facebook, and yet I wasn't surprised when he announced the death of his father on Facebook. In this day and age, social media is the most expedient way to communicate personal news.

But what a dilemma; do you post a condolence message on Facebook or write a traditional note of sympathy?

The decision was not too hard for me; I always write a sympathy note. Having been bereaved myself, I know the healing power of written condolences and I like to think sympathy notes will be re-read during the period of mourning.

Facebook communication is so tempting because it is immediate. Had I written on his wall, my friend would have known instantly that I cared. Instead, he had to wait a few days until the sympathy note arrived.

Was it worth the wait? I believe so. My friend wrote an email to thank me and we have been emailing each other since. While Facebook is immediate, the posts are often short and quickly written. Notes of condolence take time and are usually well thought out. I believe they are meaningful; well worth the time it takes to write and deliver.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons/John-Morgan

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