Condolences / Sympathy / Obituary

A. Letter of Condolence / Consolation

Some people may find it difficult or awkward in writing a sympathy message to console people who lost their loved ones. It is however more genuine to send a message instead of a standard sympathy card in lending sympathy and support. A consolation message should be personal and contain the following elements:

1.  it should be a message expressing sorrow with dignity and respect;

2. it should briefly refer to the situation and not describe the death in detail; and

3. it should offer help or provide a gesture of goodwill where appropriate.

B. How to write a Letter of Condolence / Consolation

1. Have it Handwritten

It is always good to write a letter of condolence than buy a sympathy card from a store. Writing a letter is more private, personal, and sincere. It is even better if the letter of condolence is handwritten on paper instead of by e-mail or printed from a printer. It signifies the extra importance and the deep respect you have for the deceased. The fact that you spent time thinking about the deceased and writing the letter or note will be more comforting than any general “With Deepest Sympathy” message you can find on a greeting card.

Obviously, there is nothing to stop you from preparing a draft on a computer first and then copying the final version by hand.  If you are still more comfortable with a card, you can still put in a personal note of sympathy on the blank space of the card where it permits. The difference between a letter of condolence and a note of sympathy is purely the length of the message. A consolation note is generally a few sentences whereas a condolence letter is more like a few paragraphs.

2. Keep it Concise

You don't have to write a long letter, as long as it is sincere. We all worry that speaking the wrong words will make the person who lost the loved one even sadder, but it is better to express your concern in a few words than to say nothing.

Think about what the recipient who is in mourning would like to hear in the situation. Although you can't alleviate the person's pain, they will be comforted and know that you are thinking of him/her at such a difficult time.

3. Express your Condolence

Don't focus on the fact that the deceased has passed away. Instead, you should acknowledge the loss and express your condolence in a sincere and heartfelt way. Try expressing your sympathy in your own words, just as you would normally speak to this person. There is no need to use fancy words, but words that describe how you feel and how much you care.

4. Shared memory

Writing a letter of condolence allows you to share special memories you may have with the deceased.  You can note one or more personal strengths and special qualities of the deceased. You can include your favourite memories of the deceased. Sharing nice memories of the deceased may bring moments of happiness to those who have lost their loved ones. They may find consolation in hearing new stories about the person they love that has positively influenced the lives of others.

5. Providing Help and Support

If you are capable and willing to provide help and support to the grieving family, you should mention this in your letter. It is best to mention a specific help rather than a general offer “let me know if you need help in any way”. This person is more likely to accept the specific help you offer, such as shopping or gardening; but try not to make promises that you cannot fulfil.

6. End this letter with some thoughtful words

At the end of the letter, try to think of some words that show your love and support for those who have lost loved ones. You may want to describe how you would continue to participate in the recipient’s life even with the passing of the deceased. Remember that your letter is for the living and not the dead. Close your letter with a compassionate well wish of hope.

C. How to write an Obituary

Preparing an obituary for the one you love is a task that requires careful thought. Just like the funeral itself, obituaries acknowledge the passing of our loved ones, expressing the pain they have lost and the joy they bring to us. An obituary confirms the death of the person we love and conveys this message to the community, while also publishing information about visits, services, burials, and mourning. In the obituary, it is good to include the major events in the life and characteristics of the deceased and to record the impact of the deceased on his / her family and the world around them. 

Below are 6 easy steps to follow in writing an Obituary:

1. Start with the full name of the deceased, his or her date and place of birth, the date and place of death, and the age at the time of his death. In addition, you may want to include where the deceased lived, as well as the cause of death.

2. Provide a brief summary of the life of the deceased, beginning with birth and work. You don't need to include all the details; it just helps the obituary reader learn more about the key facts/information of the deceased and determine if he or she has a personal connection with the deceased. 

3. List living and deceased relatives. Don't forget to include grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and stepfather or stepmother family members. Decide who can be expressed by name and which can only be expressed by relationship. Generally, obituaries include the full names of the deceased's parents, siblings, children and their spouse/partner, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

4. If applicable, please provide details of the funeral or memorial service and reception. Include the name and address (and website address and/or phone number, if any) of the funeral service provider who handled the details, and where (if applicable) they will be buried or cremated.

5. At the end of the obituary, a special message is sometimes found, such as a short prayer or a poem, or that people can honour the deceased by giving to certain charities instead of flowers. This section is optional, but it can be used as a way to convey content that is not appropriate for the body of the obituary.

6. It is also optional to include a photo. A photo has the effect of reminding the people we miss and allowing readers to recognise the deceased. Include a more recent photo for identification purposes.

The purpose of the obituary is to acknowledge the death of the deceased, celebrate the gift that this person's life brings to us, share the parts of life that we may not have realised, and express our sadness for the loss. Thus it is important for an obituary to be informative, expressive, and easy to read.


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