Does sending a card of sympathy to someone who’s grieving really matter?
There was a time when I hesitated to send a sympathy card when I heard someone’s loved one or friend had passed away. Or maybe I should say it’s not so much that I hesitated to send one, it was more that I wondered if it would be helpful in any meaningful way. I tended to think such cards were completely inadequate and too trivial to make much of a difference during time of loss.
Even the words ‘sympathy card’ seemed ill-chosen to me. People who are grieving want compassion, understanding and empathy. I don’t think they’re really looking for sympathy.
After my mother’s death four years ago, naturally my family received a fair number of sympathy cards. Much to my surprise, I discovered looking at them and reading the words, especially the hand-written words, was very comforting. It really helped to know others acknowledged my loss, empathized with it and even shared in the loss with me.
Death is another one of those topics people struggle to deal with, so unfortunately the topic is often avoided altogether. When a loved one passes away, other people struggle with what to say and what to do. Awkwardness and fear of saying or doing the wrong thing too often keeps them from saying or doing anything at all.
One of the simplest things you can do for someone who is grieving is to send them a card or hand-written note. Don’t worry about searching and sending the perfect card with the perfect message. It doesn’t exist anyway.
If you do decide to go the Hallmark route, be sure to add at least a few of your own words. Take your condolences a step further and make them far more meaningful by making your comments very specific. For example, share a memory or something you will miss about the person who has passed away. Stating something you remember or admired about the person is a wonderful gesture. The more specific you can be the better. If you didn’t personally know the person, acknowledge how you empathize with the magnitude of the loss in some way. Simply stating that you care will always be enough.
Inside one particular sympathy card my family received four years ago was a tiny piece of paper with a prayer printed on it. For some reason that prayer meant a great deal to me and I found it to be wonderfully comforting. So don’t underestimate the power of poetry, a favorite quote, favorite photo, prayer or anything you find meaningful to include.
I don’t know exactly where this prayer came from or who wrote it, but it seems fitting to share it today as I remember my mom who passed away from metastatic breast cancer on March 6, 2008.
Prayer of Remembrance
In the rising of the sun and its going down, we remember them. In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter; In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring; In the blueness of the sky and in the warmth of summer; In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn; In the beginning of the year and when it ends: When we are weary and in the need of strength; When we are lost and sick at heart; When we have joys we yearn to share, we remember them. So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.