6 Apr 2021

How to write a condolence card

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:52 pm on 6 April 2021

When writing a message of condolence, the most important thing is to keep at the front of your mind who you're writing to and who you're writing about, says funeral celebrant and podcaster Timothy Giles.

Remember you are acknowledging that person's loss and perhaps offering support but you shouldn't expect anything back, he tells Jesse Mulligan.

bouquet of flowers

Photo: Jez Timms / Unsplash

Related: Timothy Giles on how to write a eulogy

Timothy Giles, funeral celebrant and host of the 'At A Loss' podcast

Timothy Giles, funeral celebrant and host of the 'At A Loss' podcast Photo: GrownUps New Zealand

If you're very close to someone in grief and will be part of their support team, give them a call when you hear of their bereavement, Giles says.

Otherwise, an email, text will allow the person to choose when to give your message their attention. It's good to send a text or email immediately and follow up with a condolence card later, such as on an anniversary or birthday.

If you're unsure of what to say to a bereaved person, start by acknowledging their relationship to the person they've lost, describe an attribute of that person you appreciated, and If you can genuinely help, offer that.

If you don't know the person you're addressing but knew the person they have lost, it's helpful to write something like 'Your sister was a dear friend of mine. I loved her for this and this. Sometime if you would ever like to hear stories about her I'd happily share them with you. Thinking of you in your time of loss'.

If you're close to someone who is mourning a person you didn't know, a message of solidarity to the effect of 'You mean the world to me and if I can be any of help to you I'm here' can do the trick.

Don't hesitate to send a message of condolence to someone even if you've heard about their bereavement a bit down the track as grief is something we learn to live with rather then get over, Giles says.

"If you think 'oh my gosh, I only found out about this and it's so many months later send it. Because that person who is gone, their loss is [still] keenly felt. So the fact it's noticed by someone else helps them feel that grief is normal and helps them go 'yeah I do miss them and thank you for letting me know you miss them too'.

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