When bereavement or loss strikes someone you care about, a message of sympathy is the most natural way to let the person know that you stand by him or her during times of pain. Offering solace does not come naturally to humans. Most of us find it delicate and sometimes embarrassing to express emotions that can offer comfort at such times. But, if personal and social relationships are to be maintained, there is no getting away from the need to learn the art of writing the perfect message of sympathy.
The secret of writing the perfect message of sympathy is quite simple really, when you come to think of it. Consider for a moment what the person receiving it is going through. It is a time of painful loss. It is also a busy time, when friends and relatives pour in or send messages. Then there may be funeral arrangements to make, replies to be posted and visitors to take care of. At such a time, what kind of message would YOU like to receive? Ask yourself that first.
Messages of sympathy - their length and content - vary depending upon your relationship with the person who is being mourned. But there are a few rules or ‘sympathy card etiquettes’ that need to be followed when you are sending a message of sympathy:
• Keep the message short, simple and precise. Long winded messages, flowery language and poetry may seem blasé and even insensitive.
• Messages of sympathy make use of formal language and proper grammar. You cannot start such a message with a ‘Hi’ and end it with a breezy ‘Bye’, ‘Be seeing you’ or worse still ‘Stay happy’. Begin your message by simply addressing the person or persons (the family perhaps) in mourning. End your message in an equally simple manner and be sure to include your full name. Remember the person receiving your message need not identify you by your first name alone.
• Avoid philosophizing loss. Stilted remarks like ‘it was his/her time to go’ or ‘Everything will be alright’ offer little sympathy and can even irritate the person at the receiving end.
Messages of sympathy from a relative or a friend:
A direct relationship with the person in mourning allows you some small freedom when it comes to penning a message of sympathy. Firstly, you do not have to stick to the standard 3-5 lines of text. You can include a heartwarming message, an experience or a memory that will help console the receiver. Even so, your text should not be longer than one page. You may mention some of the qualities that you admired in the person. Be sure to strike a careful balance between the formal tone of the letter and its deeply personal content.
“Last Thursday when I met her at the hospital, she seemed serene and calm. This attitude of acceptance brought tears to my eyes and I am ashamed to say that I broke down in front of her. She took me in her arms and consoled me. She told me that she saw the worth of her life in the tears I was shedding. And she gave me one of the sweetest smiles I have ever seen. I could feel a sense of peace enveloping her. Today, when you miss her as deeply as I do, I thought I'd share this little incident with you. It helped to bring me some peace. I hope it helps you in some way too. ”
Messages of sympathy from co-workers and business associates:
These messages can hold only one or two lines of text. Address the entire family, if possible. End the message in a formal manner and include your full name and address. If you can sincerely do so, offer any help or service. Be sure to include your contact number or other details if you offer help. Terms like ‘With deepest sympathy for your loss’ or ‘Please accept our deepest condolences’ are appropriate in such messages.
A message of sympathy aims to show sensitivity, support and warmth. It is a silent holding of hands, a warm clasp around the shoulders and a gentle brushing away of tears. So, keep it simple, sincere and genuine.