Condolences and Sympathy Cards, from Life in the USA: The Complete Guide for Immigrants and Americans

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Life in the USA
Death in America
Condolences and Sympathy Cards

Condolences and Sympathy Cards
Americans generally believe in consoling people who have lost loved ones. Many Americans write sympathy letters or use purchased pre-printed sympathy cards, especially if they are separated by distance from the bereaved person and are unable to attend a funeral or make a personal visit during the mourning period. The sympathy card becomes a formal acknowledgement of the sender's support during difficult times; it may be collected, archived, put into an album, and referred to years later as a memento of the deceased.

The use of a sympathy card with a pre-printed sentiment can also allow the sender to make a statement even though he or she may not know exactly what to say during the difficult time following the death. These cards have ample space for adding remarks, of course.

A carefully written condolence letter, beyond a simple card, can be wonderfully comforting to someone who has experienced a loss. Some guidelines:

  • Don't put it off. Try to send the card or letter within a week of learning about the death.
  • Hand-write the message (despite the ease of word processing and email).
  • Work on a draft of the letter first so you create wording with which you are comfortable before you write on the sympathy card or fine note paper.
  • Mention the name of the person who has died, and the fact that you are specifically expressing sympathy.
  • If possible, mention a few qualities of the person, some enjoyable moments you spent with them, or stories the recipient has related to you about the deceased.
  • End the letter with a note of sympathy such as “We are thinking of you.”

Because death and the need to express sympathy can come suddenly, it is a good idea to have some sympathy cards on hand so as to be able to send condolences without delay when necessary. High quality, tasteful art note cards are also good multi-taskers for this purpose.
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