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Author: Nicolas Braun
Writing a Condolence Letter: How to Choose the Right Words
Sometimes such a simple gesture as a note of sympathy can become a great source of comfort and support for grieving people. The letter shows that you know about their loss and they are in your thoughts. Of course, it is easy to pick some of the mass-produced cards with the warmest and most sincere words of condolence but it would never have such an effect as a card written on your own. Finding the right words to say when someone loses a loved one can be hard but there are some tips that can help you express your care.
Peculiarities of Writing
Taking time to handwrite a letter instead of putting a few words on a card lets you share a special memory you have about the deceased. You can also offer your help in cooking or just talking to the grieving person which makes your message more personal. Before you start, you can make a reminder to reach the person in a month or two after: people are surrounded by support in days after their loss but often feel lonely and forgotten in months after.
An important note: condolence letters are usually written for people close to you or your loved ones, so if you just barely know the person you are writing to, it may not be the best option. Instead, write a sympathy note which is shorter so you can add it to your card making it more personal. Also, letters written by a nurse or a doctor may have an opposite effect and make the grieving relatives angry, especially if the person had been sick for a long time before death. If this is not such a situation, then your letter will be gratefully welcomed.
6 Main Components
A standard condolence letter consists of the following components:
- acknowledge the loss. Do not try to find some special words, do not dance around trying to avoid the fact that somebody died or use euphemisms to hide it – just accept this fact and refer to people by their names;
- express your care, support, and sympathy;
- try to remember a couple of best qualities you like about the deceased;
- do you have a special memory of the deceased you keep in your heart? Share it;
- offer your help at the funeral and after if needed;
- and your letter with some sympathy expression letting them know you are always here for them. It should show that this is not the end of your involvement.
Things to Remember
It is important to send the letter as quickly as possible: the best will be the first two weeks that follow the loss. If you missed this moment, send it anyway, but the earlier the better. During the funeral, you can put your letter in a special box in case you do not want to mail it (if you do, use a nice paper). When writing, use your own words and do not try to be creative: be sincere and express your thoughts in a way you feel. Think about what you would want to hear in their situation or help yourself to find the right words reading a few samples of condolence letters.