Did you know that "sympathy cards" used to be sent by the decedent's family?
According to Hallmark archivist and historian Sharman Roberts, in the 19th century flat, engraved cards were sent as announcements of a person's death. Somber, edged in black, and often with an image of the deceased or their headstone, recipients would immediately know its purpose.
|Bathing suits at the Wasington bathing beach must not be over six inches above the knee|
Sympathy cards to the bereaved were first offered in the 1920’s
Yes, during those Roaring 20's when many Victorian traditions were shrugged off, Hallmark dipped a toe in the water to flip the script on the sympathy card. Today, friends of the bereaved want their sympathy cards to express comfort and hope, with sincerity not syrup. Off the rack (I prefer you use their e-cards for occasions other than sympathy,) Hallmark’s hundreds of styles range from general to specific.
- loss of a baby or miscarriage,
- military death,
- death of a mutual friend,
- loss of a spouse,
- sudden and unexpected death including death by accidents,
- loss of a family member, and
- in 1984, sympathy cards for pet loss, were added.
I think using a situation-specific card is fine
But consider its inscription as your ‘opening lines.’ Then proceed to handwrite your own feelings and thoughts. I used to tell writers, “that’s what the blank left panel is for,” but many cards now contain text on both inner panels. Find a way to fit your message in the margins…enclose a sheet of paper…or find another card!
I like to encourage condolence note writers to relax about timing
You do not need to rush to write and send a note--because grief is like a winding river. Your message will be a gift whenever it arrives.
At a 2012 conference of the Association for Death Education and Counseling® (ADEC), the oldest interdisciplinary organization in the field of bereavement, the dynamics of extended grief were discussed. When someone suffers a significant loss, their grief can last for months or even years after the loss. Hallmark offers cards with an encouraging tone for ongoing grief support. [Hallmark source]
Many people like to bring their card to the funeral home. If you can gather your thoughts and compose a caring, sensitive note in a short window of time, do so. Otherwise, remember that, even if you do not have the home (or business) address of the individual you wish to write to, you can mail the card to the funeral home, which will be happy to forward it.
To read more on the topic, see my post, Sympathy Cards, of 2/8/2014