When You're at a Loss for What to Say

When You're at a Loss for What to Say

By Suzanne Robitaille

For those experiencing the loss fo someone they love, such as a parent, the pain is often acute and long lasting. This is one of those times when sending a text or Facebook message can come off as lazy or uncaring. It's good to take the extra step and write a condolence note to your friend. The time it takes you to write and send a card will not be lost on families, and they will truly appreciate the gesture.

Though you might want to say so much to your friend, this isn’t the time to do so. People experiencing a death in the immediate family often have little time. Keep your expression of grief, well, brief.

Sending a condolence card

The loss of someone close, like a parent, is the kind of event that really deserves a handwritten condolence card, picked just for them. Some ideas for what to say in the card, which, of course, can be personalized:

  • "Know that you and your family are in our hearts and our thoughts during this time."
  • "I'll never forget your mom's kindness and grace. She was an extraordinary woman and will be missed by all of us."
  • “Your dad always knew how to light up a room. He will be very missed."

Gifting for a sympathy event

Depending on your relationship with your friend or family member, you may also want to send a gift. This isn’t the time to be witty or cheerful, so you’ll want to choose a gift wisely.

Too many people will send generic gifts like flowers because they think that’s what a mourner wants, and that’s not always the case. I’ve seen homes filled with vases and vases of flowers that families literally step over on the way to the kitchen and left to wilt.

Some ideas that are comforting to both men and women who have lost their mother:

  • A food basket filled with their favorite treats
  • Start a meal train or collect money for a food delivery gift card like Uber Eats
  • Purchase a memorial glass rock for their ashes
  • Sew a pillow out of their mom’s shirt or dress
  • Make a charity donation in their name
  • Create a memory book
  • Have a portrait commissioned
  • Send a succulent plant or olive tree sapling
  • Get their house cleaned by a professional

Emailing your sympathy message

I don't recommend sending an email or text unless you plan to follow up with a sympathy card, note or phone call if you can't get to the store. In times of COVID, your friend will understand your limitations. You might say something actionable like:

  • "I know you have so much going on right now. If you need help with anything or would like some moral support, let me know."
  • "I'd love to bring over a casserole or send some takeout your way. Please let me know what you're in the mood for and when you'd like a meal on me?"
  • "Do you need a break from being polite and dealing with people? If so, I'm ready when you are. Come over for wine, food, and anything else you need."

Few events in life prove more difficult than losing someone close. The best way to support your friend through this challenging time is to let them know you care. When it's all said and done, they probably won't remember the words you say or write. But they will remember that you showed up for them. 

Suzanne Robitaille is the founder of Wishbar.

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