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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): I Have To Write a Sympathy Card Today

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I Have To Write a Sympathy Card Today

At one time or another in your life, you’re going to have to console someone who has lost a loved one. I have to write another one today. I don't want to do it, but as a friend or relative, it is something that is expected of you...and writing a card will bring about goodness and healing in those who need it most.

I typically go shopping for a nice card that seems to stand out from the rest. I’m sure you know most of the sympathy cards are grouped together. I just read thru a few of them until one kind of “grabs me”. I think you’ll know what I mean. I like the cards that talk about remembering a person after they’re gone and cards that talk about comfort. No, you’re not done yet! You don’t want to just send a card with just your signature. To me, you might as well not even send a card…it is a bit heartless. When my mom died, we did get a huge stack of cards, and almost ten years later, I can think of some of the things that were written about my mom, but the cards that had just signatures….I don’t remember a thing about them or even who wrote them.

Here are some tips in filling out your card:

  • Write how you feel. Say something like “We were so shocked to hear” or “I cannot believe that he’s gone”, something that shows you are empathizing with them.
  • It’s okay to talk about the person who died. I like to share a story of my interaction with that person…something the person did that helped me or made an impression on me. I know when my mother died, I eagerly opened each card, hoping someone would talk about how they remembered my mother or something my mother said or did.
  • Be sure to show sympathy. Simply say something like, “we will be thinking of you in this difficult time” or “I am so sorry for your lose, and I will be praying for you and your family” would be good.
  • NEVER assume you know how they feel. Even if you lost someone you love, you should never say, “I know exactly how you feel”. Unless you are that person, you can’t really know how they feel. Plus, it just comes across as belittling and self-centered. Don’t ever say it was “for the best” or a “blessing” either. My mom died of cancer, and she suffered horribly her last few months...I didn't want to hear that crap, and it just made me feel worse than I already did. You are NOT helping if you say these things.
  • Don’t write a long drawn-out letter. Chances are, the person will be receiving a lot of mail and will have a lot to do. They just won’t have time to read it…and may skip over it completely and miss some of the more beautiful things you have to say. Go ahead and say a few thoughts about missing the deceased or how you feel about them being gone. If you didn’t know the person who died, but know the person you are writing, talk about how special that person must’ve been to them.
  • Never go into morbid details or the circumstances of the death. That’s just plain wrong! Put yourself in their shoes...is this something you would want to hear?
  • Say what you mean and don’t make empty promises. Don’t say “call me at anytime” and not truly mean it. If you want to make a meal or do something for the family, if you write it, please stand behind it and take the initiative. Don't wait for the family to ask something of you. Say something like, "Is it okay if I bring over some food on such or such day?" or call them right before you go out and say "I am on my way out the door. I can swing by the store (or wherever) and pick up some things for you. What do you need?". Be very direct about it but not overbearing.
How do you respond when someone you know is going through a loss? What do you send? What do you say?

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

ugh, I absolutely HATE writing sympathy cards! I've bookmarked your site so I know what to write next time. This is why I procrastinate and them sometimes I don't even get around to it for that reason!

February 19, 2008 at 7:39 PM  
Anonymous Megan @ Disorder2Order said...

This is so great. I don't like doing these cards either, but having been someone who has received quite a few in my past, I have always appreciated it when people make the attempt to express their condolences. I love how you outlined the details. This should be included with every card!

February 20, 2008 at 6:51 AM  
Anonymous JHS said...

Thank you for sharing this post with the readers of this week's Carnival of Family Life! This week the Spring is Just Around the Corner Edition is hosted at home at Colloquium! Hope you will drop by and read some of the many other wonderful entries received this week!

Excellent advice. In the case of both of my parents' deaths, I got a fair number of cards in which people tried to console me by saying that it was best they were released from physical suffering or commenting on what nice long lives they lead. NOT helpful. I know those things. Didn't make losing them any easier.

Short, sincere statements of sympathy are always best.

February 24, 2008 at 11:46 PM  

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