Today, we know a lot of people through affiliations of activities, employment, volunteering, social media, chance-but-meaningful encounters and numerous other connections. BUT WE DO NOT KNOW THEIR MAILING ADDRESSES. In fact, in so many affiliations it would seem intrusive to even ask for a mailing address. I have encountered that 'awkward moment' in asking, and better realized that someone felt my request was crossing a line---too personal. So let's respect that, and move on.
There is a very good chance that your affiliation does include an email address. Never use email addresses for solicitation unless it is clearly a networking affiliation such as LinkedIn, Meetup, Facebook or another social media forum with the key purpose of information exchange.
Condolence by email does allow sharing and re-reading. I have done both with emailed condolences and appreciate the quick access to archived email. Most importantly, the caring gesture, the sympathy and compassionate outreach is appreciated by someone facing a loss.
Will there be a later cup of coffee and more sharing? You could mention it if both of you are local. But it is okay to maintain the electronic line and even elevate the 'meeting of hearts and minds', over the meeting of eyes over lattes.
With this established, what does your e-condolence say?
- Who are you writing to? Are you writing to a relative, a coworker, a client? Are you the manager or owner of a company with a grieving employee? Need a cross-section of situational sensitivity?
E-cards: It's not necessary, but if you subscribe to an e-card app this is a good start. There are themes for sympathy and you can select the right imagery and vibe. Most cards are animated and have a soundtrack, so exercise the patience to preview the card to determine if it is suited to the recipient and the nature of the loss.
- Your words: There is only one mission to a condolence: COMFORT. Never express a personal
agenda or judgment in condolence! I have actually been told or overhead these ill-suited comments: "Now that your cat is gone you can babysit my cat when I travel." "Being single has its benefits." "You can take your mind off it with the new project." "You still have the other kids." "Well, she was very old." "My memorial donation to ____ is eligible for the extra charitable deduction." Readers, you get my point!
- Sorry. Gratitude. Good Memories. Admiration. Connect with your heart before you start typing, and certainly before you hit SEND. This note does not have to be particularly lengthy, just focus on caring. Re-read your sympathy expression: does it warm your heart? If so, you have written a lovely e-condolence.