Writing a letter of condolence can be difficult but is usually much appreciated by a person who is struggling with a recent bereavement. Many people find it hard to put their feelings into words and it can raise personal feelings of anxiety as it makes you reflect on your own mortality and dwell on your own sadness at the passing of a person you may have known or loved.
The bereaved always value personal messages and the memories of the people who cared about them at this time are long lasting. It is worth picking up a pen.
Even if you didn’t know the deceased well you may grieve at the sadness of the person you are writing to. It may be that you are unable to verbally express how you feel and writing a letter will allow you to offer support and communicate eloquently.
Letters of condolence do not have to be all sadness; they can be about sharing good memories or expressing what a person really meant to you. This can be a good time to say some of the things you may not have had a chance to say if the death was sudden or unexpected. It may also be a key part of working through your own grieving process.
Some points of advice on writing a letter of condolence:
Take time and space to contemplate what you are going to write; it isn't something to be dashed off. The most difficult times often come weeks after someone has died. This can be the best time to receive a letter.
Try to write from the heart, there isn't a right or wrong way to write a letter of condolence and no one is going to be judging your grammar.
If it helps, say out loud what you want to express and then write it down. In this way you can be more personal and less stilted.
It is always much better to handwrite a letter of condolence.
Make sure you mention the name of the deceased and how you knew them.
It is good to mention positive attributes of the person who has passed or share a funny memory about the two of you; this is especially poignant if the person reading the letter was involved.
If you have experienced a similar situation of losing someone then it may be useful to mention it here and how you began to cope. If you can offer specific or practical help then do so.
Try to end the letter with a sincere thought of sympathy.
When you send the letter don’t expect a response, imagine what the receiver of the letter has to cope with. If you feel it is appropriate then do follow the letter with a phone call, not to check if the letter has been received but to offer your continued support.