How do I write a good condolence note? I have received plenty of them but most just feel empty and say the same things…. “I’m so sorry”, “I know how you feel”, “his suffering is over”, “we’re praying for you”, “call if you need anything”. I did not find myself comforted by people writing those things and some of them even made me angry because I don’t believe them. – Jaqi
Jaci, condolence letters are rare these days so I acknowledge those friend and family of yours that took the time and interest to write to you. Communication seems to have been delegated to Hallmark and American Greetings or worse, email. First, there is no such thing as ‘too late’ to send a letter of condolence. Often the ones that arrive months after the initial wave are the sweetest as they stand out from the rest of the routine mail….and the bereaved may very well be feeling the loss even more. Second, a meaningful note or letter is personal, using the name of the deceased and some connection to them. A specific remembrance is of great comfort to most family members as it acknowledges the LIFE of their loved one.
Humor and personal stories are often the most appreciated as are ways the deceased impacted the lives of others. Remember, everyone knows others in a unique way….and everyone has their own memories and experiences to share.
People use trite expressions including “I know how you feel”. Sometimes we can’t even figure that out how we feel ourselves so another person knowing that is impossible.
I do not like email condolence notes. That said, we live in an age of technology and web based postings on Facebook, Legacy.com and other memorial sites which are common and convenient, particularly for younger people. A more personal tribute could still be sent in addition to the web based postings which often fall from view after one month.
In short, the ideal condolence note is personal, positive and compassionate without comparisons or advice. The paper is inconsequential….the message can be a great comfort and may be read over and over again for a long, long time.