Saturday, 23 January 2016

Postmarking Sympathy Cards

In Letters to Jackie: Condolences from a Grieving Nation, (Ellen Fitzpatrick) a friend wrote, “Finding the right words of comfort at a time like this is always difficult because all the words in the world won’t bring a loved one back. His laugh will never again be heard, his smile, seen or his hand, felt..."

It’s always difficult to know what to write on a sympathy card. The ones that mean the most to me are the ones in which the sender writes a memory or an encouraging Scripture verse instead of simply signing the card.

We lived in Bedford when our daughter Sarah died, so the funeral was held there; however, we buried her in Pennsylvania, very near my homestead. During the long trip back to Indiana, we stopped at a Bob Evans restaurant. Upon entering the ladies room, my eyes fell on a little tract lying on the counter. The message was about God’s presence in our heartaches. Afterwards I wished I had taken it, as I’m sure whoever had placed it there planned for it to be taken. Several days after returning to Bedford, I opened a card from our friends, Karl and Becky (incidentally, Becky is counting postmarks with us). I don’t remember what the card looked like, but I do remember the tract she included – yes, the very same tract that had brought comfort to my grieving heart in a Bob Evans restroom!

My friend, Beth, couldn’t come to Sarah’s funeral, but when she heard about Sarah’s death, she sat down at the piano and played, Day by day and with each passing moment, strength I find to meet my trials here… She tucked the lyrics in a card. The words still comfort me each time I hear them.

Daddy told me when he’d ask Mom to send a card to a family experiencing a death, she would say, “I will, but not for a couple weeks.” I understood how important that was after my mother died. My friend Susann sent me a card with this note, “By now your cards are getting few. I just want you to know I still remember and I care.”

Hallmark gives these suggestions for writing in a sympathy card:

  • Your mother blessed so many people with her faith and kindness. Praying that you’ll find comfort in your memories of her and in the knowledge that others are missing her, too.
  • What a good and generous man your father was. I thought his funeral service was a wonderful tribute to him and all he has done for our community. He will be missed.
  • I’m going to miss her, too.
  • I hope you feel surrounded by much love.
  • Sharing in your sadness as you remember Dan.
  • Sending healing prayers and comforting hugs. I am so sorry for your loss.
  • Thinking of your family with love and wanting to help out in any way I can. I’ll call to see when would be a good night to bring over a meal.
  • You’ve got so much on your mind and on your heart right now. We hope it will make one less worry to know that Kevin and I will be taking care of the yard for as long as you need.

I’ve formed the habit of praying before I write, asking God to give me words that will comfort. His words are healing oil, words that will bless each time the card is re-read.


  1. What a timely post! I've heard (both first and second hand) some not-so-comforting things said to grieving/hurting people. At times it would have been better for the "comforter" to say nothing than to blurt out their thoughtless words that ended up hurting more than helping.

    I like your suggestions -- especially praying before you write!!!

  2. Great advice! After we lost my brother, people said things without thinking and sometimes their words cause more pain than healing. I always pray before writing because I don't want to hurt someone the way we were hurt.

  3. Finding the right words to comfort someone mourning the loss of a loved is difficult. I found the suggestions in this post highly helpful. Such a thoughtful post.

  4. I think praying before you write is vital. I think spending some time thinking about how I would feel, what would actually make me feel better, and making it personal is important. I just read a really fantastic book. I hate to link drop, but I think you would really appreciate the wisdom in the book about how to be a friend in the hard places of life.

  5. I love these ideas for what to write in a sympathy card! Sometimes its' so hard to know what to say! THanks for this!

  6. Theses are such great ideas. I especially like the suggestion of waiting a couple of weeks, and sending the card after some of the thoughts and attention have diminished. Loosing a loved one is a big loss, and more than a few weeks of healing is needed. I love how your mom strategically planned to be a blessing, by waiting--what compassion!

  7. Waiting a couple of weeks to send a card is a wonderful idea indeed. I love to send out handmade cards, but I find sympathy cards are the hardest, because I want to encourage them. You are right in that a scripture or simple thought is the best. Your mother sounds like a precious soul, and I know you must miss her so. What a joy to be doing this ministry in her memory though!

  8. I'm so sorry for the loss of your daughter. I think it's good to wait before sending a card or letter. An email just seems too impersonal. That said, it's a great idea to focus on a positive memory or how the person impacted you. I also love the idea of praying through it before even starting. God cares about all these things in life from the big ones to the small. He is the ultimate Comforter! I pray God's richest blessings on your family!

  9. It is hard to find the right words in such heartbreaking times - and I agree, praying first brings the exact right words.

  10. First, my condolences on your daughter thank you for sharing your perspective. I personally find prayer so powerful in so many ways. It gives me clarity, wisdom and peace. Again, thank you for sharing this.

  11. Thank you for this post. I just sent one off last week and felt a struggle. This is very helpful!

    Nice to have you share at the Art of Home-Making Mondays Pamela!

  12. This is a new insightful idea. I never thought of this.
    Thank you for sharing and sorry about your daughter.
    God Bless

  13. Pamela, what a beautiful, insightful, and thoughtful post. This will be a help to so many people. And I don't know when you lost your daughter, but I am so very sorry. Your blog is beautiful, and I love the idea of encouragement, as 'Shelter'. I'll visit more often. Love, Mimi xxx

  14. Good morning! Just a little note to let you know we have *featured* this post today on the Art of Home-Making Mondays at Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth :) Thank you for linking up with us!

  15. Nicely put and very helpful. Thank you so much for sharing!

  16. Pamela, what a helpful post! My grandmother past just a few days ago, and I got the lovliest Hallmark card from a friend that said: "Honoring of life of kindness and warmth..." on the front, and on the inside it read, "...and all the memories that will now mean more than ever."

    It was lovely! :)

  17. Hi Pamela,
    I want to let you know that I’ve included this post among my riveting reads from the last two months ( I benefited from it and I think my readers will, too!