It's difficult to know what to say when our friends or acquaintances lose someone dear to them. Even with the privacy and time to craft a message in a sympathy card, it can be a challenge. We know that our friends are suffering great emotional stress. We want to comfort them, without inadvertently invoking more pain. There are a number of tips that can help you acknowledge your empathy and compassion on funeral cards.
Come Out and Say It
You're not doing anything wrong by actually repeating that someone has died and mentioning his or her name. In fact, doing so personalises your message. Tell the recipient of your card that you're sorry the to hear of the death of her loved one. Address the bereaved by name, and address the deceased by name: "Jane, I'm so sorry to hear of Donald's death."
Mention How You Learned
Help the bereaved understand the process by which you understand. They may be very overwhelmed and having a hard time understanding the reality of the loss. It may seem very unreal. Telling how you heard helps provide context for the bereaved and it personalises your message: "Sally told us yesterday and I wanted to reach out right away."
Offer Your Support
If possible, think of specific things you can do, and offer your help in concrete terms. The bereaved may find that daily tasks -- from laundry to cooking or picking up the car from the shop -- to be incredibly difficult for a time. You can ask if there's anything you can do, but don't give advice. Tell them they have your support and suggest something you can do. "I'd like to bring dinner over on Thursday." If you can, offer to do a task with them, not just for them. That will help keep them going. And it will give them an opportunity to talk if they want to and a task to focus on if they don't.
Say Something Kind About the Deceased
Keep it very brief. Don't be overly sentimental or tell a long story. You can share a story later, if you like. On the card, once you've expressed your sorrow about their loss, tell them, if appropriate, something special about the deceased: "I always looked up to him."