One of our most popular and revisited blogs was written over a year ago and focused on “How to Write a Sympathy Letter.” One of the most visited pages on our website 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 are all experiencing 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 live well lived. Not only is it a difficult time and a difficult task, but it seems that just about everyone knows someone who has died. 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 .
Even at a time of perpetual Zoom gatherings and virtual hugs, the grieving process landscape has dramatically been altered. One of sad effects of the coronavirus is it’s keeping us from physically comforting others during the times they are most desperate for a compassionate touch. It has made it even that more important to reach out and connect with someone close to you. Here at The Gifted Tree, we do that 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. 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.
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is forcing people to forgo human-to-human interaction which runs counter to all our instincts. While difficult 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 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.”