Tips for Expressing Your Condolences in a Helpful Way

It can seem like a simple act—sending a sympathy card. It can mean more, though, than words could possibly express, providing comfort to others in a time of loss and vulnerability. But penning sympathy cards is not something any of us do on a regular basis. Understanding the right tone for such a card can be challenging—how do you communicate a genuine sense of loss in a meaningful and helpful way?

Take Some Time to Find the Right Card

Most of us don’t like to spend a lot time reflecting on things that make us uncomfortable—death is clearly one of them. Choosing a sympathy card can be just that—thinking about the death of another person can cause us to reflect on our own mortality. As a consequence, there can be a tendency to grab the first card we see and run to the register.

Instead, be willing to be uncomfortable. Take the time to look at a number of cards and be willing to ask yourself how they make you feel. Some will resonate with you and some won’t. If you take your time, you’ll know when you’ve found the right card—the one that lets you express your own unique sense of loss.

Express Your Sympathy, but Keep It Brief

You’ll find sympathy cards that already have a message inside and ones that are blank. Even if there’s a message, write a couple words. It creates a personal connection with the bereaved—just signing your name can often make the card feel like an afterthought.

Whether the card is blank or has a message, keep yours brief. The shortest messages are generally the best. Among the ideal words are:

  • Sorry for your loss
  • Our love and thoughts/prayers are with you
  • Please accept our condolences

A short note of appreciation is always a good idea, but avoid telling a long story or providing a laundry list of the person’s positive attributes. Some good examples include:

  • I always loved her smile
  • He made me laugh
  • She was always kind to me

It’s almost always a mistake to try to empathize with the bereaved, even if you have experienced a similar death. Every loss is different and you really can’t know how someone else is coping with his or her loss. When a person is grieving the loss of a loved one, they don’t need to know that you know how they feel, they simply need to know that you care.

If the person receiving the sympathy card wouldn’t know you—you worked with the deceased or were friends when you were younger—a short line to identify yourself is extremely helpful. It may be something like “I really enjoyed working with your mom,” or “Bob and I had great times together in college.”

Offers to Help Are Fine

This can take a couple different forms. You may simply say “let us know if we can do anything.” On the other hand, if you know of a specific need that won’t be met, it can be a significant relief to the bereaved to offer to take care of that. If the deceased had a garden, you might offer to tend the garden through the current season. If you offer, though, you need to be prepared to follow through.

Gutterman’s—There in Your Time of Loss

At Gutterman’s, with funeral chapels in New York and Florida, we have provided comprehensive funeral and burial services to the Jewish community for more than 125 years. We have a thorough understanding of the unique customs and traditions within the Jewish faith, and can answer your questions and ease your mind regarding all details following the death of a loved one, from the order of the memorial service to the choice of a monument, from the preparation of a loving obituary to arrangements for sitting Shiva or the creation of a Yahrzeit calendar.

At Gutterman’s, we recognize the value of the grieving process, and we acknowledge how challenging that has been during the coronavirus pandemic. We’ve worked hard to help our customers pay their respects, honor their customs and stay safe. Our commitment remains the same—to prove compassionate and detail-oriented attention to all your needs while taking all the necessary precautions to minimize the risk to our customers, our employees and ourselves.

For those reasons, we continue to have special health and safety procedures in place. To find out about the current safety guidelines in place at our chapels, go to our website.

For answers to any questions you may have about the funeral or burial process, or for assistance with the funeral and burial of a loved one, contact us online or call us at one of the numbers listed below. We will take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.