Old painting of Women Writing a Letter sitting at a table

One of our most popular and revisited blogs was written over a year ago and focused on “How to Write a Sympathy Letter.” This page offers a range of heartfelt sympathy messages to include on the tree planting certificate when one struggles to find just the right words. There is a good reason why folks search out help when writing a condolence card, because it is not a simple task.

Unfortunately, this task has gotten even more difficult with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic as we have  all experienced dramatic changes to our daily lives and regular routines. Helping those mourn has become complicated as we can’t gather to say goodbye, we can’t embrace the bereaved family and we can’t join as a community to celebrate a life well lived. Not only is it a difficult time and a difficult task, but it seems that just about everyone knows someone who has passed. After reading a recent article in The New York Times by Katherine Rosman, it got me thinking that perhaps it was a good time to revisit the subject of how to write a sympathy card, especially in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 pandemic virus cells

Even at a time of perpetual Zoom gatherings and virtual hugs, the grieving process landscape has dramatically been altered. One of the sad effects of the coronavirus is social distance, which has kept  us from physically comforting others during the times they are most desperate for a compassionate touch. It has made it that even more important to reach out and connect with someone close to you. Here at The Gifted Tree, we can help provide  that support by planting memorial trees (and especially during these times, trees make a great alternative to funeral flowers.) The planting of the tree brings great comfort at a time of grieving and the ability to include a personal message on the certificate, as well as the optional accompanying card, is an ideal way to express your sentiments. Keep in mind that by sending a physical card, as opposed to text, not only does the tree planting certificates provide immediate comfort, but it is a wonderful keepsake to look back on at anniversaries and other times of reflections.

So, if you are struggling as you try to construct a sympathy message, realize this is a tough task. Man struggling to find the right words for a sympathy card

Sympathy Message Writing Tips

Here are some suggestions (whether communicated on the tree certificate itself or via the separate card enclosure) for expressing sympathy clearly and supportively to the bereaved. As Ms. Rosman states in her article:

  • Keep in mind that it is important to consider the tone of your message and it is okay to convey an air of solemnity, even as you express personal warmth. You want to keep in mind the seriousness of the situation.
  • Be direct and do not meander. Start with the reason you are writing, such as I was so sorry to hear about the loss of your brother.
  • Be gentle and instead of using the word “death” you might want to substitute the word “loss” or “passing.”
  • If appropriate, explain how you knew the person, how well you knew the person and the role that the person played in your life. You might want to include a short memory of the deceased. The reader will cherish that memory.
  • Acknowledge unfamiliarity. Some of the most comforting condolence notes are sent not because we knew and loved the deceased, but because we care about the survivor(s). In this case, reflect on your affection for the person you are writing to as it relates to the death of their loved one.
  • Acknowledge current circumstances. Given the extraordinary ways that COVID-19 is interfering with end-of-life interactions and mourning rituals, it is appropriate to recognize this if you’re moved to do so.
  • Don’t stress about writing a long message. Short messages are just as powerful and, in most cases, better received.
  • Offer a wish for the future and conclude with a caring sign-off that is appropriate to your relationship with the recipient.

Mother and Daughter embracing and comforting each other

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has forced  people to forgo human-to-human interaction, which runs counter to all our instincts. While it may be challenging to write a condolence message, sometimes just getting started is the most difficult part. Using some of the above suggestions can hopefully be the jump start you need, and remember that you don’t have to be Shakespeare. Your memorable and simply presented message to honor a life well-lived will stand out and have a lasting impact, especially when it is accompanied by the planting of a tree. As one customer stated: “The tree planting and card message comforted me in a way I never expected they would.”

Get Started with the Gifted Tree

Send an everlasting tribute with the Gifted Tree. Show that you care by planting a beautiful tree in a U.S. National Forest or another location in one of 30 countries on six continents. A memorial tree is the most meaningful tribute to a life well-lived.

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