What do I write in a note to a grieving person?

by Caregiving Questions0 comments

Dear Karen:

I know that it is important to write a note to a grieving person.  I want to write a note, but I often procrastinate and don’t write it because I do not know what to say.  Please give me some advice on writing a note to a grieving person.


Dear Loretta:

I do not have an ironclad formula that must be followed when writing a note; however, I will share with you my “3 R’s of Writing a Condolence Note:”

#1 – BE REAL
#3 –  REMIND

#1  BE REAL:  As you reach out, admit your honest feelings.  If the news stunned you, say so.  If you are overwhelmed with pity and compassion, admit it.

So while I am writing my answer to this week’s Featured Question, I am also writing a note to Bill whose wife, Elsie, died last week.  So following the first “R – BE REAL. I  might say:

Dear Bill:

My mind is filled with so many thoughts about and images of Elsie. Like your son Ross said, “How does one condense an entire life into a one hour memorial  service.”  I am thinking how do I condense all my feelings and thoughts about Elsie into one little note.

#2  RECALL some incident which you experienced with the deceased or something funny, thoughtful or profound, or   reminisce about a moment or a day.  Recall a memory, or share one attribute of the deceased which you especially valued.

I smile when I think of Elsie.  Many years ago, with merriment written on her face, she told me how much fun she had on July 4th:  She found a toddler plastic swimming pool and filled it with water and floated little plastic ducks on the top.  It was just like at the fair, each duck had a number, and each grandc hild was  delighted when they caught a duck and got a prize.  As she told me about all the other games she had set up for her grandkids, I couldn’t tell who had the most fun:  Elsie or the grand kids!

#3  REMIND:  Remind the person that he or she is  loved and that he or she is not alone. You might say something like, “I am so sorry about your sorrow.  I would really like to hear some more stories about Elsie.  I am hoping that we can have a cup of coffee and talk soon.  I will call you.”  You could also remind the person that he or she is loved by God by sharing a Bible verse.  Choose a verse which has been meaningful to you during a difficult time.  A good way to share that verse is to preface it with, “The following verse was helpful to me when I went through a difficult time.  Perhaps it will be helpful to you also.”  Or share a verse which keeps coming into your mind when you think of the grieving person.  So to Bill I will say,

Bill, I will always remember in times of celebration and especially in times of  struggle and sadness the letter you and Elsie wrote to family and friends when your son, Larry, committed suicide.  Showing your deep faith, you and Elsie concluded that letter with Psalm 118:34:  “Today is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  So you and Elsie continue to be a blessing to many including me . Sincerely, Karen Mulder

So consider using the “3R’s” when you write a note to a grieving person.  May God bless you as you write a caring note.


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