Does sending a sympathy care really matter?

Does Sending a Sympathy Card Really Matter?

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 died. 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 from metastatic breast cancer, 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 dies, 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. And that’s too bad.

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 for and sending the perfect card with the perfect message. It doesn’t exist anyway.

If you 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 more meaningful by making your comments very specific.

For example, share a memory or something you will miss about the person who has died. 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 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 died from metastatic breast cancer on March 6, 2008.

Does sending a sympathy card really matter? #grief #bereavement

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.

I’m remembering.

And yes, sending a sympathy card does matter. Sometimes more than we might ever realize.

What’s something meaningful you received or that was done for you at a time of loss?

Do you send sympathy cards?

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Does sending a sympathy card really matter? #grief #loss #sympathy #family

72 thoughts to “Does Sending a Sympathy Card Really Matter?”

  1. Nancy, what a lovely post. I agree that sympathy cards and a personal note are so meaningful, and continue to be years afterwards. I still read the cards I received after my father died back in 1999. And it’s not a morose thing, it’s just a way of remembering, and it feels comforting.
    Best to you and sending you gentle thoughts as you are remembering your mother.

      1. I wish that I could make the people in my life understand what you are saying. I am still grieving the loss of my mother who died unexpectedly three weeks ago. Whereas my sister has received over fifty cards and numerous baskets and plants from her office, I have yet to receive the first card or casserole. I have been with the same employer for twenty years. No friends or family sent cards. Why does God treat me this way? Where do I find people who will give me emotional support? Thanks.

        1. Tina, I am so sorry about your mother death. I’m sure it does add to your grief when you see your sister receiving all those cards, baskets and such. I’m sorry your employer and co-workers haven’t come through. Perhaps they still will. There are grief support groups, some in-person ones and some online ones. I hope you’re able to connect with others who understand. Have you shared your feelings with your sister? Or anyone else? You might want to read this post about the holidays. Thank you for sharing. I’ll keep you in my thoughts. I care about you and what you have to say.

        2. Dear Tina,
          I am so sorry that you are experiencing this. I too lost my Dad suddenly, and whilst it’s like a enormous kick in the stomach, I was expecting that. What I was not expecting was the hurt, at receiving no cards, not one from friends or family. I cannot believe 5hat not one person has written to me to offer comfort.

        3. Tina and Celeste, I am having the same experience as you both. My mother passed away last week and I have yet to receive a card or flowers from anyone. I own a business and none of our employees, customers or suppliers have sent anything. Nor friends nor my husbands family. It is pretty hurtful, not going to lie 🙁 I’ve gotten some texts though, woowho, gotta love this digital age.

        4. Oh my gosh, I could’ve written this myself! My mother died one week ago and I am so shocked that no one has done anything for me! I have worked in the same office for 21 years. Our custom is when someone has a death in the family, we pass around a card and people sign and add some money, if they see fit. I have not received a card. I came back to work after only 1 day off so they wouldn’t be in a bind and I feel a bit resentful. Not that I want or need their money, but a card would have been appreciated. And i am on good terms with everyone, so it’s not a personal thing. Same with my husband’s family. I am very close to several of them and nothing but texts. It’s shocking and hurtful. Even my good friends have done nothing but text! When my dad died in 2004, I remember cards, flowers, plants, and food. Do people think it’s ok to just send a text? It definitely made me realize the importance of sending something and I will make sure I do it from now on! It helped to read what you all experienced so I know I’m not alone out here.

  2. I just received the most lovely sympathy card from a family friend regarding the death of my brother. He took the time to write a long note about how I was loved and called me a champion. He also acknowledged how much it sucks to lose a sibling. It meant a lot to me.

    1. Tami, I’m so sorry you lost your brother recently. Losing a sibling is a whole different kind of loss isn’t it? I’m glad you find special meaning in words of comfort others have written for you. My best to you as you continue grieving and healing. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I had a boyfriend years ago that I almost married, so was very close to his family. Several years after we broke up, his father died suddenly. I was in such shock, and as a way to help myself process the death I wrote a letter to his mother, his sister and to my ex, expressing my sorrow but also sharing my favorite memories. His sister later told me it was one of the greatest gifts they received, and that she often re-read my letter to comfort herself.

    Now I always make sure to write not just my sympathies, but my memories of the departed when I am sending a condolence note.

    Thanks for bringing up this topic, Nancy! Sending notes and cards is a tender, touching and important expression of our caring.

    1. Renn, Thank you for sharing about this. It must be very heartwarming to know your compassionate note meant so much to your ex’s family. We just never know how important our acts of caring and kindness might be to others do we?

  4. Oh yes, it really does matter. I was incredibly touched by the cards I got after my Mom died. For someone to go to the trouble of going to the store and choosing just the right card for you and then writing something special and meaningful in this digital quick fix age really meant a lot to me.

    1. Marie, There is something extra special about someone taking the time to find the right card and/or write a thoughtful message isn’t there? You raise a good point about this digital age we live in. Even now, it’s the thoughtful gestures we make time to do for others that have the most meaning. There’s a good lesson in that. I’m glad you found comfort in those cards you received, Marie. Thank you for commenting.

  5. I always send out a sympathy card. I do buy the blank cards as some of the sayings are just plain silly. It is an acknowledgement that you remember the person. It’s funny because my late ex husband was an Officer in the CDN Forces When he died he was accorded a full military funeral Even though we had divorced we remained on great terms. I was very surprised at the number of sympathy cards I received from the other Officers & Wives and others in General. Remembering me as his wife. I was very touched by the gestures.I have my mothers cards and my grandparents, Just something to look back on.. Love Alli XX

    1. Alli, How lovely that you received those cards when your ex passed away. I’m sure you were very touched indeed. I agree, it is nice to save the cards so one can look back at them from time to time. It’s a way to remember and reminisce. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Absolutely. My mother and brother died when I was seven, and many years later I found the box of condolence notes my grandmother had saved in her attic. It was so consoling to read what people, many of whom I knew as an adult, had written to our family decades before.

    When my son died three years ago, the cards and notes we received meant the world to me — most especially those in which people shared specific memories of our son.

    Not only do I wrote condolence notes — in some cases, particularly where young people have died, I try to write again. Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries of special occasions, haphazard dates — they are all hell for the grieving, who learn to keep silent and endure, and few people acknowledge them. Even a Hallmark card, with the sentence “I haven’t forgotten” written in, means a great deal.

    1. Robin, I’m very sorry for all of your losses. My goodness, you have had to deal with so many. I’m glad your grandmother saved those cards and that you found reading through them to be comforting all those years later. And the cards and notes you received when your son passed away must be simply priceless and a wonderful way to remember him. It sounds like you are very thoughtful about condolences you send, but then you have had so much heartache… you understand so well. Still, you are a very thoughtful person. Thank you so much for sharing.

  7. I received so many cards after James died, and the ones with the personalized note, no matter what they said, meant a lot. Standing in the receiving line after his memorial service was special as well. Some people stood in line for two hours to share stories and remembrances of James. I wouldn’t have missed those for anything.


    1. Brenda, I’m sure those cards and messages are very comforting to you. It must be wonderful to read those words, hear those stories and know how James was loved by so many others. It sounds like he made quite an impact on the lives of others. Thanks for sharing.

  8. The poem you quoted is by Gittelsohn, R. B. (1975). Gates of Prayer. London: Central Conference of American Rabbis

    and Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues, p. 552.

    Thank you for sharing it again.

    1. Lois, Thank you so much for sharing that information. It’s nice to know the origins of that poem/prayer. I really appreciate it.

    1. Kathi, You’re right and as Marie also mentioned, in this digital age knowing people took time is extra special. Thanks for commenting.

  9. Nancy,

    You bring up some really excellent points here. I agree that any gesture, any way of acknowledging the grief is most of the time a good thing. I think that there’s always a flurry of sympathy cards right around the death, it’s nice to get cards or a handwritten note even months later.

    1. Beth, You make a wonderful point about that flurry that suddenly disappears. That’s why I don’t hesitate to send a card even when I know it’s late. In grief there is no late. Telling someone you care is always timely. Thanks for commenting, Beth.

  10. Hi Nancy, this is a great topic. I often wonder how people feel about sympathy cards. As you, the ones that mattered most to me were definitely those that shared something personal, although I remember one printed card that stood out, something about a new star in the night sky and I liked that image. I still have those cards, do you?

    Thanks for including the poem. So very true. I was touched by it. Love the photo of your mom. She looks so sweet. I’m sure she’s left a huge void. Hugs to you, my friend. xoxo

  11. I think they make a big difference. I only got a few sympathy cards when Grandma died, and they mattered a lot to me. I still have them. I try to send out cards to others. Sometimes it’s easy to think that our one card won’t really matter, but sometimes it just might be the only card someone receives. It can really make that person feel a bit better to know that someone cares.

    1. Lindsay, I didn’t even really know you received any. I’m glad you did. You’ll have to show them to me sometime. Thank you for sharing.

  12. They are VERY comforting, I agree! AND, there really is no “time limit” either….. I didn’t see this post until now. I DID see you wrote the post about your mom and chemobrained it…. I can’t imagine your sadness. I DO recall being a young mom in 1987 when MY mom was diagnosed and being in the grips of terror. My mom was fortunate. How poignant between friends that I just celebrated my mom’s b’day as you are celebrating the memory of your beautiful mom who was stolen from you by breast cancer. I send you my love as you mark such sadness— this doesn’t get easier. I think we just learn to cope a bit better. Sometimes. And sometimes, I still cry like a baby when I think about my dad.


    1. Ann Marie, What a lovely, lovely comment. Thank you so much. I’m glad your mom is still with you and that you celebrated her birthday recently. Sorry about your dad. You’re right, we learn to cope better. We have to. Thanks again.

  13. Nancy, I have nothing to add here that hasn’t already been said – but I just want to thank you for this post. You know how I feel about greeting cards (in fact will be posting a blog about some of my faves soon) – and people need to hear your message!
    Big hug,

  14. What a difficult day, Nancy. I’m sorry for the loss of your Mother and hope that in time, more happy memories return along with those of her death.

    I know what you mean about sending a note of condolence. I think a lot before I write them but remember how much they meant to me when my own mother died.

    Love never fails.


    1. Jody, I’m not surprised to hear you put a lot of thought into the words you write even on a condolence card. That’s the kind of person/writer you are. Thanks for understanding and thanks for commenting. Love never fails. Nice.

  15. The anniversaries of our moms’ deaths are just so hard. I’m so glad you included the photo of your mom–and the poem is simply beautiful. I do send sympathy cards, because I know how much it meant to receive them when my mom died. The ones that contained handwritten notes and remembrances are so precious to me. I don’t re-read them often because it’s so painful, but I like knowing they are there. My kids in my son’s 3rd grade class each made a card for him when my mom died, and those scribbly illustrations and carefully printed letters are so sweet. Thanks for providing such great advice.

    1. Nancy, Thanks so much for sharing and for your kind words. I’m glad you have all those cards to look at when you want to. I can just picture all those wonderful hand-made third grade condolence cards. As an elementary teacher, I’ve had students make cards like that and it’s amazing the love and care that goes into them. Thanks for saying you enjoyed the poem and photo. Thanks for understanding.

  16. Nancy this is a lovely thoughtful piece, and one that resonated with me. I too have often felt wondered about the value of sympathy cards, but when my mother died last year we received hundreds of cards and letters from her friends, enough to fill three large scrapbooks. Reading and re-reading the words written with such love by people who we often didn’t even know who were also mourning her death made us realise how her life had touched so many others, and we learned so much about her through the memories and anecdotes that were written about.
    We had these books on display at her memorial service, and people there were touched to see their letters and cards as part of a collection that mum’s family will treasure always.
    Never underestimate the effect that taking a few minutes to write to a friend will have – it is a gossamer thread connecting you to them at a time when they may feel totally alone.

    Thank you for sharing this in tribute to your own mum – I hope yesterday was not too hard for you.

    1. Fran, Thank you so much for your beautiful comment. I’m really sorry about your loss. It sounds like your mother touched a lot of lives. How comforting that must continue to be. As you said, we shouldn’t underestimate the power of kind gestures such as sending a card or writing a few words. Something to remember for sure.

  17. Absolutely I send sympathy cards. There’s nothing like getting a handwritten note by snail mail. It shows someone lovingly took the time to make a personal touch. The most loving thing I remember is when my son, then only 12, came into my bedroom exactly a year after my mother died and comforted me during this first anniversary. I had no idea he would have the date emblazoned on his mind. Thanks for sharing this beautiful post! XXOO

    1. Jan, Thank you for sharing that touching memory about your son remembering the first anniversary of your mom’s passing. Kids continue to amaze us don’t they? I’m not surprised you send sympathy cards. You’re that kind of person.

  18. I had always thought cards and food brought over wasn’t even a drop in the bucket when someone was grieving and didn’t really mean much to the family, so often times I didn’t even do either. I also thought “everyone else” was probably firing off cards and bringing casseroles over by the truckload and mine and my presence wouldn’t make much of a difference.

    Then, only having thought I had suffered loss before, my mother died suddenly and unexpectedly. Finally, it dawned on me what TRUE grief was, how a simple thing like making a meal or going to the store was a daunting task, and how grateful I was when people brought food. The cards I received were a great comfort to me as well and the absence of cards from some was quite painful too.

    NEVER again will I NOT at least send a card and drop off a casserole or send a gift card for food if it’s too far to travel. It just means too much for those who are left behind to grieve not to do it and it takes so little time and effort to do just one small thing. I am ashamed I neglected to do these things in the past, but I will be doing these things in the future because I now know how it feels when people ignore a death in the family and WAY too many people do that and it’s hurtful.

    So, YES, by all means send a card and a chicken casserole or a bucket of chicken too would be very welcomed and appreciated.

    1. Kim, I used to wonder if sending the cards mattered too. After my mother died and I read through the ones we received, I finally realized more fully how very comforting doing that was. So yes, sending a sympathy card matters, sometimes much more than we’ll ever know. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  19. “Funny” this was your post today, rather your top grief one on your post. Our family received a card today from a guy that had gone to college with my brother. None of us knew him and were wondering at the time who it was that had sent the donation in his honor. We sent a thank you card and he wrote back a very nice letter which we received today that talked all about their time together in college and told funny stories. It was so fun and nice to hear the stories – I could almost see my brother throwing the laundry out the window (the laundry room was apparently right underneath their window). That and other fun stories that made me smile laugh and cry all at the same time. I have appreciated all the letters and cards from people. I know it is a hard time and people don’t know what to say but I feel not saying anything is worse. I have some friends I have been close with my whole life that still to date have not said a word to me, called or written and they know about my brother and our loss. Just kinda hurts but not about me or them right now. I guess they just don’t know what to say so they just don’t. I have appreciated all the cards and letters from everyone and agree with your comment that a handwritten note has lots of meaning to the family. It has been fun to hear about the stories and other people’s memories of him. It is not like reading them make me sad, I’m already sad. They do make me smile.

    1. Katherine, I’m so glad you commented to let me know your thoughts. It is really nice to share those personal stories isn’t it? I think people do often hesitate to say or do something for fear of causing more grief and more pain after a loss. And yes, sometimes we do experience a wide range of emotions, but there’s nothing wrong with feeling a mixture of happiness and sadness. Smiles mixed in with the grief are a blessing. Thanks again for sharing.

  20. Nancy,
    I read your article and wonder if anyone else has come across the type of behavior I received. My mother recently passed this January. The memorial/funeral was in the state she lived when she moved there with my Father. At the funeral we did receive cards but when I returned home to my mother’s home state, I only received 3 cards. My mother’s family lives in this state and only one sent a card, her god-daughter. I received a couple emails with condolences but I feel that is so impersonal. I am very hurt by this behavior. Only one person stopped by with a card and condolences. No one else has come to visit, offer comfort or send a card. My husband is floored by all this and I am on good terms with everyone. Is this a result of this day and age and manners? I am going through so much with the loss of my mother and would like a little support. I go to the mailbox every day hoping to hear from someone but it is empty of cards. I don’t understand it?

    1. Cheryl, I am sorry your mother died. It’s a painful and emotional transitional time you are in now and it’s natural that you feel hurt by the lack of cards received. I don’t know what the reason for that is. People send fewer cards and hand written notes in general these days. Have you considered a grief support group? Or talking with a friend who’s been through this? Journaling helped me a lot, so I’d recommend giving that try. You need an outlet for your grief. And maybe another card or two will still come. The one you did receive is all that more meaningful. Thank you for sharing and again, I’m sorry.

      1. Thank you Nancy for getting back to me. I am considering a support group and love that idea. I had a hard time when my father passed two years ago but I am having a more difficult time with my mother’s passing. My mother was so sweet and didn’t have a mean bone in her body. Everyone at the nursing home loved her so much and she received extra good treatment. I am thankful for that. I miss her so much. Thank you again for your support and I do hope I receive a card or two. That would make things easier knowing that people do care.

        1. Cheryl, You are very welcome. I hope you do find a support group. It might help. And I hope you receive another card or two, but who knows. Regardless, I’m sure people do care. I care. Be gentle with yourself during this time. Take care and again, I’m sorry.

          1. Thank you Nancy, I did receive a card today from an old friend and it made me feel good. Thank you again for caring and taking time to write me.

  21. I’m sorry for your loss, Nancy. Thank you for sharing that Prayer of Remembrance. I recently loss my sister suddenly and completely unexpectedly of stage 4 lung cancer. She was only 47 and recently remarried. The services were out of state, so I found myself almost an outsider at her memorial service as I watched everyone consoling her husband, her son, and my mother but only one or two people came up to me to express condolences. Having just lost my only sibling, I’d never felt so alone and empty in all my life. The sympathy cards I received from my friends, family and co-workers when I got back home were so comforting and kind that my heart lept and it helped me tremendously to read all the caring words. Conversely, one of my sister’s family members through marriage actually wrote my mother an email saying please ask our side of the family (aunts and cousins) to stop sending them sympathy cards because it was depressing to them. My mom was so shaken and sad to get this email — it was like a slap in the face during the most devastating time of her life.

    1. Jenny, I am very sorry to hear about your dear sister. I appreciate your comments on how receiving sympathy cards were a comfort to you. They were to me as well and I was sort of surprised by this. I always wondered if sending them was helpful. For many they are indeed. Thank you for your kind words and again, I’m sorry.

  22. Nancy, I send cards, always with a brief note, unless I knew the person well and/or a long time. In such cases, I take time, and often more than a few drafts, to recall “a story of the time when” or two, and include those in descriptive detail. I haven’t always been confident that they were well-received, and so reading these posts today provided welcome light on the subject. Let’s all keep up that stream of comfort!

    1. Maggie, It’s lovely you send cards and take the extra time to recall and tell a story or share some descriptive detail. At times of loss, such thoughtful gestures are appreciated a great deal. Thank you for sharing what you do.

  23. My children were 14 and 16 when their dad died. We received so many cards and each one was special. Someone took the time out of their day to think of our family and mention a memory about our loved one. We read and re-read the cards, then tucked them away in a special box. Years later during a move, we came upon the box and went through the cards.
    Downsizing or not, the children wanted to keep the warmth and thoughtfulness still in those cards. No, it wasn’t morbid. It was heartwarming to know how many people thought he was fun and how much they respected him. Never underestimate the power of thoughtfulness.

    Thanks, Nancy for sharing with us.

    1. Debbi, Thank you for sharing about your family’s experience. “Never underestimate the powerful of thoughtfulness.” That is beautiful.

  24. Dear Nancy my sister passed over a month ago my friend called and send her condolences but I felt she should have sent a card which she has and said she will give it to me when I see her really herts my feelings what do you think

    1. Ranae, I am sorry to hear that your sister died. You will undoubtedly be disappointed by friends and relatives that don’t come through quite as you hoped they would during such a time. I’m sorry your feelings were hurt in the case you mentioned. Your comment certainly expresses that yes, sending a sympathy does matter. A lot. Hopefully your friend will come through in other ways. Sometimes you have to tell people what you need from them. Grief is very personal, and yours is still very raw. Take care of yourself. Thank you for sharing and again, I’m sorry.

  25. My brother died in March. Not from cancer, complications from mental illness and drinking. But not one of his friends sent letters, and even worse extended family- not one letter. Its as if he did not die he meant so little to not bother to send me comfort. I disowned the extended family, and long overdue, they knew he was suffering but raised not one finger, and it was cause my dad was a maniac who damaged my brother’s brain and so let him sink or swim and he sunk. The only one who sent a condolence letter was his long ago, mother in law. And a friend who helped me move his possessions and 8 cats from Dallas to Santa Cruz, and a convict I work for, having done prison service for 40 years. But those closest, nothing. Had facebook messages, but does that really count? I had to follow up with someone who knew me since age 5, more then 57 years, no comment so I sent a message if she saw my brother drank himself to death, her response, oh thats sad. Then she posted a Woody Allen nothing quote and I wrote and furthermore you know he is a child molester and she said oh yes I know. So I dumped her. Do not care more then oh how sad and child molesters are quotable with ease to a survivor of sexual abuse. So I unloaded a bunch of useless humans to the waste basket of the world. I send condolence letters to strangers even, like if a radio host, like click and clack, when one of the car hosts died I sent a card, anyone who I appreciated, its just common sense and decency to send thoughts and love, to let the family know they were loved and honored, and will be remembered and their legacy will live on in ones heart. And that they MATTERED. Not many honored my brother, but I walk on my path lighter now with less humans, because if one cannot take the time to get a sheet of paper or card, a envelope and a stamp, those humans are not worth my time. When my parents died, I had a few tears and grief, but the tortured me and my brother suffered in life bonded us and I looked after him and had hoped to make enough money to get him out of the situation he was in; to buy him a house and a caretaker, and I had thought, we had survived our childhoods, but the hand of the past took him to his grave. So I have cried without failure each day, I wake up screaming for him. That he did not survive, which means I doubt I will either. The death of him broke me, but the hospital staff mocked and laughed and imitated his rotting gangrene leg, so he hobbled home to die, then the cop who took interest in this odd man in Dallas liked to shoot at him, then the real estate agent taking a bribe from the buyer, then the neighbors who did not care how he was dying, and his caretaker who lied to get her hands on his land, then kicking down his door and, the looting of his house, and the taking of one of his cats even before he was cremated, it was a oncoming horror movie which I plan to write about, I have to live to write about what happens to those who have been severely damaged by parents and then the oncoming mental illness and how we are shunned, ostracized, banished, discarded and exiled into loneliness. This is all worth documenting for normal people who look down in contempt for those who have survived hell. I weep for my dear brother, my only sibling but I also weep at what society has become, where the decency of sending a letter when a being passes on to the spirit world is a fanciful thing of the past. Only extraordinary people with a conscience, gumption and a beating heart can reach to another and say I am sorry you lost your only life line and now you plunge into darkness on a solo path till ones own death. We are living in sorry times. But for all who do send letters, may the Great Spirit bless your compassion and thoughtfulness, its like a salve on a wounded soul, so be kind to those who are lost in sorrow and desolation.

  26. Yes sympathy cards matter. I just experienced the pain of my dad dying ten days ago. The cards I received were very thoughtfully worded by people who really took the time to think about his life and how it had touched theirs. I only received three, but I valued each of them

    1. Rachel, I am very sorry to hear about your dad’s death. Reading those special cards in which people took extra time to write those thoughtful words must’ve been very comforting indeed. I remember feeling the same way when I read cards with handwritten messages too after the death of my mother and more recently, my dad. It’s sad you only received three, which makes those three all the more meaningful. Thank you for sharing and again, I’m sorry.

  27. Thanks so much Nancy for reposting this article so I could find it today. YES, it matters when people in your life take the time to send a sympathy card. And the most thoughtful of sympathy gestures is to actually receive a card. In the mail. The kind with a stamp on the envelope, a card that somebody has actually taken the time to purchase (or make), sign, add a personal note, and then walk it to a real mailbox. But I often fear those days are at death’s door themselves.

    When my lovely daughter-in-law’s Dad died several years ago, she told me how “thoughtful” it was to have 100+ messages of condolence on her Facebook page.

    PEOPLE! This is NOT “thoughtful”. This is merely typing “Sorry for your loss” and hitting a ‘send’ button. It takes zero thoughtfulness or time or effort or caring to do this perfunctory task.

    We live in a time when texting is considered adequate communication even for life’s most emotional or traumatic experiences, when adding a little emoticon is considered even DEEPER communication, when the common courtesies and gestures of kindness that we grew up with have been dismissed and ignored because it takes TIME to do these things compared to just pulling out one’s phone – as if our parents and grandparents didn’t have just as many (or more!) time constraints as we do now.

    Personally, I mourn the loss of humanity and consideration in an age when going through a little trouble when somebody we care about has suffered a loss is just too MUCH trouble to go through.


    PS I have to add that the sympathy cards I loved the most after my Mum’s death were those that contained a little message with a favourite memory or funny story about my mother. I even received a card in the mail from somebody I’d never met, who explained in her card that she’d been a regular customer at my parent’s roadside fruit market every summer for decades, and had always loved chatting with my Mum over the strawberries and peaches. I’ll never forget how much that small and totally unexpected note meant to our family!

    1. Carolyn, Thank you so much for reading and taking time to comment on this older, but still relevant post. Can I just say, I love how you don’t mince words. “PEOPLE! This is NOT “thoughtful”. This is merely typing “Sorry for your loss” and hitting a ‘send’ button. It takes zero thoughtfulness or time or effort or caring to do this perfunctory task.” Love that. And I agree. Your story about the sympathy card you received following your mum’s death is just lovely. Thank you for sharing that too. More proof that a little time taken to write a few words yourself just might mean the world to the person reading them. x

  28. Amazing that something you wrote in 2012 can still be found and is relevant today in 2019! Having lost my mother in 2011 I can say that I did draw comfort from the sympathy cards that were sent. My beloved brother-in-law died recently and I found peace in your posting of the prayer, so much so that I looked it up. It’s titled “We Remember Them” and it’s written by Sylvan Kamens & Rabbi Jack Riemer.
    Here’s the original version.
    We Remember Them
    At the rising sun and at its going down; We remember them.
    At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter; We remember them.
    At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring; We remember them.
    At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer; We remember them.
    At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of the autumn; We remember them.
    At the beginning of the year and when it ends; We remember them.
    As long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as We remember them.

    When we are weary and in need of strength; We remember them.
    When we are lost and sick at heart; We remember them.
    When we have decisions that are difficult to make; We remember them.
    When we have joy we crave to share; We remember them.
    When we have achievements that are based on theirs; We remember them.
    For as long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as, We remember them

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and this beautiful Jewish poem.

    1. Barbara, When my mother and later when my father died, I found reading sympathy cards to be quite comforting, and I was surprised by that. Why I was surprised, I do not know. I’m sorry to hear your brother-in-law recently died, and I’m so glad you found the prayer I shared comforting. Thank you for providing more details about it and for sharing about two of your dear ones.

  29. Having lost my mother when I was young and my dad just a few years ago, I’ve seen the impact of all expressions of condolence – and of the failure to acknowledge the event as well.

    When my father died I received many cards but found that opening them was painful – it seemed to make his death real in some way. However, just seeing them arrive and seeing that expression of support and love was very consoling. As the weeks went by, I opened a few at a time and read them with deep appreciation and found ongoing comfort in them.

    I always write, even if it is delayed. And I write again, maybe to the family on the anniversary of the death, or on a wedding anniversary or birthday, even just to let someone know they are being thought of. Finding the right words is sometimes challenging but well worthwhile and the time involved is far less than most people spend in a single day on social media once you sit down and do it. But then, I’m old fashioned; I still send written thank you notes and birthday cards. We have to do our bit to keep the USPS in business, right?

    1. Julia, I know what you mean about opening those cards being painful. Having others acknowledge the death does make it more real. At the same time, reading them can be so comforting, especially when a few extra moments were taken to write something personal. That is so kind of you to write and then write again. I’m sure your written notes are treasures for those receiving them. And yes, we gotta keep the USPS going! Great to hear from you. Thank you for taking time to comment. Hope you’re safe and well.

  30. I love sending – and receiving – cards. Two years ago no one sent me a card on Mother’s Day. We were all reeling from my Stage 4 diagnosis, so I sort of forgave my kids and my husband – and then I exploded. My daughter tells me that no one in her generation likes or sends cards. Glad I’m not in that generation! Send me a card for anything and I’m in love! My mother kept ALL her cards for years. We had to throw them away when she died, but it told me that cards are comforting, important for the soul. Any little excuse and I send them. I hope you are well.

    1. Linda, I remember you commenting earlier about how much you love cards. I think they are somewhat of a generational thing, although my daughter sends them sometimes. My kids don’t generally leave voice mails either. The thing I’ve noticed about cards is that it seems it’s harder to find ones I like. And what’s up with so many cards having that loose paper insert thing that’s not glued down on one side? And it’s harder to find ones that say what I want too. But I enjoy getting them and sending them too, when I can find ones I like. I do not keep mine though. I keep too much other stuff!

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