If you need to write a condolence letter, rest assured. It’s not as hard as you might think. Read these important tips to get a good start and to stay on the right track. Soon you will have a comforting letter that you can be sure will mean a lot to the recipient.
3 Important Tips for Writing a Condolence Letter
A condolence letter should be sent as soon as possible, ideally within the first two weeks following the death.
Ideally, a sympathy letter should be hand-written. However, if you are writing a formal condolence letter for say a co-worker or business partner it should be typed with a hand-written signature.
1. Be personal. Use the name of the deceased and describe your relationship with them. You can share and how you felt toward them (if positive) and what you will miss about them. Mention character qualities, talents and achievements of the deceased. This may be difficult if you did not know the deceased very well, but usually you can offer a more general statement. Sharing your perspective can bring comfort to the bereaved, and allow them to dwell in their cherished memories. As the years pass, when they read through your words of sympathy again, it will bring peace and healing.
2. Use the correct phrase for death. It is best to not use the phrases: passed on, passed away, departed, left this life, or gone to a better life. Instead simply use death or died. I know it seems like a small issue, but the correct terminology is important. People try to soften the blow of death by using fluffy phrases like, “passed away.” However, many mourners find in unhelpful.
3. Offer to do something small to help. If there is some way you can be of assistance please offer your help and support. It is best to make of specific offer that you can follow through with. A general offer of, “let know if there’s anything I can do” just feels like you don’t really mean it. But if you offer a small gesture such as, “I’d like to help by picking up your mail, would that be okay?” it will communicate that you really do care and have thought about how you can help. If you need some ideas? See this list of wonderful ways to comfort the bereaved.
Is it Okay to Send a Typed Letter?
Most experts agree that it is best to send hand-written condolence letters, however there are some instances in which it is more appropriate to send a typed letter.
When sending a formal letter of condolence you should use business letterhead or stationery. A condolence letter can be inserted inside of a condolence card.
In addition to sending a condolence here are some other ways to comfort somebody you know who has suffered the death of a loved one.
How Long Should a Condolence Letter Be?
A short letter is best. It’s not a good time to add in your own stories or make comparisons. Five or six sentences is really all you need to express your sympathy and offer a few works of comfort. Sometimes you can offer to help in some way. If you do, try to offer something specific rather than a general, “let me know if you need anything.”
Expressing Sympathy in the Workplace
According to Peggy Post and Peter Post of the Etiquette Advantage in Business, the following advice will help you support a bereaved co-worker.
- Attend funeral services
- Send flowers to the home or to the service
- Collect money from other co-workers for sending flowers as a group
- Send a card or letter to the house, even if you sent flowers
- Offer practical help. It can be somethings as simple as, “I will check you phone messages for you.”
- Send a gift basket to the home or consider asking co-workers to commit to a week long schedule of delivery dinners to the family.