|[Source: Kruno Kartus]|
- We see each other a lot.
- I just saw them at the service.
- We call, text, or Facebook each other.
- Writing seems so formal.
- I'd rather give a hug than a letter.
- They'll find out I'm not a writer.
When Grandma died in the airport
|[Source: Adrian van Leen]|
Yes, I wrote a note to my mother! It's in the book. For losses spanning human, pet, job and other difficult life circumstance, I have written condolences to my father, siblings, sisters-and-mother-in-law, aunts, uncles and cousins.
Relatives are people, too
The reasons for writing a condolence are universal. You are striving to lend support and a few moments of comfort. You have many advantages in being a relative: you likely have one or several special memories--including photos, to share; in fact, your relationship and likely interactions with the deceased are unique, increasing the likelihood of a unique memory! Did your uncle recognize an interest or talent and give you a nurturing gift? Did you pet-sit for your sister's cat and discover something special in its golden-eyed gaze? Did your brother-in-law help you move after a divorce? These memories can be shared, thanks and appreciation can be expressed. Did you watch your aging mother-in-law make--and lose--friend after friend?
|[Source: Adrian van Leen]|
6 Tips for writing to a relativeLet me caution you: if you think that buying a lovely card and writing "so sorry for your loss, she will be missed" is adequate, please click on the links peppered throughout this post for a quick, comprehensive review of condolence writing. You don't need to use all 6 tips at once. Think about the deceased and the recipient, then listen to your heart.
- Acknowledge the loss and express sympathy: "I am so sorry this day has come; Terry's death leaves an empty space."
- Acknowledge the relationship: "Your sister, Mary, knew she could count on you."
- Share a classic, well known memory: "Bailey's greeting at the door always made me smile."
- Share a personal/unique memory: "Uncle Rick saw my creative side and gave me a set of pastel crayons." (Never break a confidence, or share cruel or embarrassing memories.)
- Offer encouragement and/or help: "I know you're facing a big job to ready the house for sale, so remember: my truck and my time are at your service."
- Express gratitude for the recipient or deceased: "You were so supportive to Elsa, especially when she couldn't feed herself; it taught me a lot about compassion."
Which relative should I write to?Who is the next-of-kin? Who do you have a connection to? If you are closer to your cousin than to your aunt who just lost her husband, it's okay to write to your cousin; he or she will probably share the note.
Should I write to more than one relative?You certainly can, but don't feel pressured to blow through a 12-pack of note cards. While considering which relative to write to, your heart will put checkmarks by those you want to express sympathy to. Attending a visitation or service allows you to touch base with many people, which can 'winnow' the roster of notes. Review your memories and your emotional, heartfelt responses; if you feel the impulse, writing two or three simple and caring notes is lovely.
When should I write?We write condolence notes even when we attend services. If you can be present for gatherings, consider delaying your note until after; you will return to your desk ready to share feelings and observations with enriched awareness of:
- the scope of a family and community's shared affection
- life details you did not know such as quiet achievements and talents, branch of military service, significant dates
- qualities of your note's recipient
Thank you for caring!