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Tips for Picking & Writing Sympathy Cards

Writing out sympathy cards is usually not a pleasant undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. You can express your condolences in a personal way through both choice of card and a handwritten note to go along with the sentiment and any preprinted personalization on the inside of the card.

Your choice of sympathy card is the first step in making your message personal and sincere. There are many different designs that you can choose from. A floral card is a lovely and gentle gesture which is appropriate for anyone that you would need to send your sympathies to. Cards that feature stylized script and deep embossing are a beautiful way to express your sentiments; personal relations and business associates would appreciate the gesture.

You can't go wrong if you just follow your heart when writing your sympathy message. Generally, you should keep it short and simple. However, if you knew the deceased well, feel free to write a memory or story about them. If you can be specific, that is preferable to a generalized sentiment. Of course, that always depends upon your knowledge of the person.

If you are truly at a loss as to what you should write, you can always incorporate a quote to your message. A sympathy quote can express your thoughts in a way that you may not be able to yourself. Quotes such as these add an elegant touch to your cards.

Unable are the loved to die. For love is immortality.
- Emily Dickinson

To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.
- Thomas Campbell, Scottish poet

We all have the best of intentions when sending condolence cards and no one means to be inappropriate, but many times knowing what to say means knowing what not to say. Try to avoid using phrases like “I know how you feel” or “It was their time.” While it may have been “their time,” it's still not very comforting for the person grieving a loss to hear that. Also, remember to make sure you have spelled the name of the deceased correctly. If you are not sure, check with someone who knows the deceased before writing it in your card.

Another fairly commonly used phrase is “call me if you need anything.” Again, we say this with the best of intentions, but it is too general of a statement. If you really do want to help, try to be specific about it. For instance, if the person has children you could say “I would be happy to watch your children if there is any business you need to take care of in the next few weeks.” If you can't be specific with your offer, it is best not to use that phrase.

These simple tips for both choosing and writing your sympathy cards can make this challenging time a little easier. Feel free to express your thoughts and make a lasting memory for the bereaved.