“When my mother died, I had no idea how much the condolence cards I received would mean to me.

Some included stories about my mother and others had encouraging words that truly helped me through a difficult time in my life. Now, when I hear that a friend has lost someone they loved, I always send a card with a hand-written note because I know how much I appreciated the support when I needed it most.”

We hear stories like this often here at Sunset View Cemetery & Mortuary as we sit down with our neighbors in El Cerrito, Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, and Pinole to put funeral plans in place. Stories about the support of friends and family make a challenging time a little easier. In a world of texts and emails, a handwritten note can carry extra meaning, as you take the time to express yourself in a personal way. That’s why we want to offer a few tips on writing a sympathy card if you have a loved one who is grieving.

Send or deliver your note promptly, within a week or two after the death. You can also place your card in a collection box at the funeral. If that time period has passed and you’re wondering if your card is too late, still send it. Oftentimes, there is an influx of flowers and cards in the days right after a death. Those left behind will appreciate a kind word in the weeks and even months afterward.

If you want to offer help in your letter, mention something specific you can do. Too often, friends and family will tell their grieving loved one to “call if you need anything.” While the intent is good, this puts the burden of reaching out onto the one who needs support. Instead, include a specific offer like, “I want to bring you lunch next Tuesday.” Or “I’m going grocery shopping on Sunday and will drop a few bags of food on your porch that afternoon.” 

Include the name of the person who died in your note. Talking about death and grief are difficult, and many people aren’t sure how to handle it. Try to write in your own voice, jotting down what you would normally say in person – including the name of the loved one who died.

Share a fond memory with their loved one or a special quality or strength. When it comes to the bulk of your note, we recommend starting with a rough draft (so you don’t make a mistake on the card itself) and mentioning an anecdote to give a personal touch.

Write your friend’s name on your calendar so you’ll remember to contact them in a few months, on their loved one’s birthday, and on the anniversary of the death. If you’ve lost someone close to you, you likely understand the outpouring of support in the days after the death – and how it feels like everyone else has moved on when you’re still mired in grief. Reaching out to your grieving friend or family member in the months that follow and on “big days” will be extra meaningful.

Grief can last a very long time – much longer than anticipated. Our Sunset View staff wants you to know you can count on us for support long after the funeral is over. If you have questions about our services or want to learn more about our interactive grief support, contact us anytime. We’re always available for our community.