How to Express Sympathy | How to Offer Condolences | Phaneuf
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How to offer condolences during a pandemic

Offering your condolences in person after a friend or family member dies may not be possible—or recommended—as the pandemic continues nationwide. This leaves people wondering how to express sympathy when we’re socially distanced.

Your physical presence may not be part of someone’s farewell, but that does not mean you can’t offer support. These options for expressing sympathy offer a variety of ways to offer solace and comfort to loved ones.

Handwritten condolence letters are increasingly rare in the age of digital messaging, but this traditional form of expressing sympathy would almost certainly be appreciated by the recipient(s). Taking the time to gather your thoughts, put pen to paper and mail a letter  shows someone how deeply you care.

A handwritten letter truly conveys your feelings to a friend or family member who has experienced a loss. Use this note to acknowledge grief and offer comfort in a heartfelt way. A personal sympathy note pays tribute to the deceased and provides long-remembered treasured words of comfort to the bereaved.

Guidance for condolence letters

  • Writing from the heart is the most important thing. How you say it is more important than what you say.
  • Send the letter within two weeks following the loss.
  • Use your own voice to express simple, genuine sympathy.
  • Don’t dwell on an illness or circumstances of death, and don’t suggest the death is a blessing or was “for the best.” That could read as offensive.
  • Acknowledge the deceased by name.
  • Share a favorite memory or amusing story.
  • Conclude with a thoughtful message, like, “You and your family are in my thoughts.”

Guidance for condolence emails or social messaging

If the deceased was an acquaintance, an email or message via social media may be your choice for offering condolences. Consider sending a private message instead of posting something publicly.

  • Use a simple subject line, such as “With Sympathy” or “Heartfelt Condolences.”
  • Again, be sincere,speak from the heart and genuinely mean what you’re saying.
  • Offer support where it makes sense. Ask, is there anything I can do for you?
  • Share a story or anecdote involving the deceased.

Other ways to offer condolences

Memorial gifts and donations to local organizations are also effective ways of ensuring the bereaved feels supported by others. Online tributes are a way to preserve and share memories. By posting your sympathy message and memories to an online tribute, you are not only sending a message for the bereaved to read at this time, but your message will be there to console family and friends through difficult times in the future.

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