Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sympathy Cards

Yesterday, when we went to visit Mom and Dad, Mom had a big box full of sympathy cards from relatives, friends, church members, members of her various organizations. All of them are deeply appreciated; all of them are going into a "Memory Book" for Barbara's children to cherish.

I've rarely sent sympathy cards; I try to comfort my friends in person, mostly because I don't know what to say in a card. But having now read close to a hundred of them, I've learned a thing or two about that. If you care for any tips, here are mine.

* "My heart goes out to you," will do very nicely. It's the main thing we want to know. It doesn't need embroidering.

* "You are in my thoughts and prayers" is also just right, providing the assurance we need. It's enough.

* If you want to add, "May God comfort you in this difficult time," those are very welcome words, as well (unless, of course, you intend to refer the bereaved to God for comfort instead of comforting him yourself).

* If you, too, are grieving the loss of our family member (as distinct from sharing our grief), by all means, say that, too; that's enormously comforting.

* Sentimentality won't add anything.

* Well-intended, loving advice on how to take care of myself or work through my grief just isn't my concern right now.

* Kindly-meant preaching may even backfire.

* The best cards are those that share a good memory of the deceased:

"I was a classmate of hers at Virginia Tech and she helped and supported all of us struggling through vet school."

"I never got to meet her, but I felt she was a good friend over the Internet and telephone, because we both had the same disease."

The very best card of all was from a friend of my sister Wendy's since they were both nine years old. She had telephoned recently and when my mother answered, Kathy said, "Mom?"

"I think you have the wrong 'Mom'," our Mom said.

"No, I haven't!" was her reply. "It's Kathy!"

And Kathy's card, telling of her own memories and sharing her own tears, was addressed, "Mom".

Thanks, everybody!



Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

I always struggle to know what to write on sympathy cards, and generally go with the "my thoughts and prayers are with you, much love from ......."

unless the grieving relatives are also people I know extremely well.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Elizabeth, if it IS people you know extremely well, then what?