Of all the cards I send out, sympathy cards are made with the most love and prayers. Sometimes I struggle with knowing how to encourage someone walking through a dark chapter in their lives. My hope with this guide is not only to give you some card inspiration, but to give you ideas of things to say as well as ideas for other ways to encourage your grieving friend or family member.
Making the Card
In many ways sympathy cards are like any other card. You can create something beautiful like flowers or lovely patterns. You can also create something personal to the recipient – things that remind them of the loved one they have just lost. For example, my grandmother loved birds, and when she passed away, sympathy cards with birds were especially meaningful.
What to Write
Sometimes it can feel like creating a card is easy compared to trying to figure out what to write on the inside. Sometimes you can find stamp sets with the perfect sentiment already worded, but even then it can be meaningful to add at least a small personal message.
Write from the heart. Even a simple message from the heart means a lot. Here are a few examples of simple messages:
- “I’m thinking about you as you go through this challenging time.”
- “You and your family are in our prayers as you grieve your loss.”
When possible, share memories. Sharing good memories of a loved one is simple and meaningful. If you had positive interactions with the person who has died or even stories you have been told again and again, mentioning these in your card can go a long way. Here are some examples:
- “I will never forget how he made everyone he talked to feel special.”
- “I know you’ll miss your Friday evening phone calls.”
- “I remember when she took us all to the theater and we had so much ice cream we thought we were going to burst. I’m amazed how she handled our sugar rush with such patience. I know you’ll miss her.”
Include a Bible verse or inspirational quote. If you have a verse or quote that is especially meaningful to you, include it in your card. Here are some of my favorites:
- “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:17-18
- “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” Psalm 46:1-3
- “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
- “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
- “Those we love and lose are always connected by heartstrings into infinity.” – Terri Guillemets
“Like a bird singing in the rain, let grateful memories survive in time of sorrow” –Robert Louis Stevenson
“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.” –From a headstone in Ireland
Continuing to Walk in Greif
When someone loses a loved one, the pain and grief can come and go and last a lifetime. I’m not always able to do this, but when I can I try to write down a few key dates to send cards out in the future. Sometimes I’ll even make some of these cards ahead. Some key dates I like to remember are:
- The date the loved one died. This date is forever etched on the minds of those going through a loss.
- The birthdate of the deceased. This can be especially hard and lonely for those mourning the loss of a loved one.
- Holidays or special occasions that might be difficult. Some of these might be personal to the one grieving, others may be more general like Thanksgiving or Christmas.
- Every two to three months after the first sympathy card sent for a year. This might seem like a lot, but again, when someone passes away the grieving process goes on for a long time. With subsequent cards, a simple “thinking of you” along with a memory or note that you remember the deceased can truly brighten someone’s day.
Moving Beyond a Card
Sometimes a card doesn’t seem like enough. Here are a few other ideas of things you can do to help someone going through a loss. For more ideas, check out this fantastic article by Help Guide, a website dedicated to mental health and wellness.
- Offer to be there. You can go get something to eat, be with them in their home, and just be. Don’t feel like you need to say anything, but be prepared to listen and let all the emotions flow. Don’t feel like you need to make it better. Loss hurts, but sometimes having someone to just be there when you cry, or to hear endless stories, or to simply keep you from being alone goes a really long way.
- Provide food. Even remembering to eat can be challenging when one is grieving. Offer to bring food, go out to eat, or cook with your grieving loved one. Even better, eat with them too. It’s so important to eat, even if it’s hard.
- Think Practically. There are many practical things that need to be done day-to-day from child care to pet care, housework to paying the bills. Offer to help in these practical ways.
Can you think of anything to add to the list? Have you gone through a time of grieving? What was most helpful to you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.