Yesterday I wrote a sympathy card to a man who once lived across the street from our family when I was growing up.
Sadly, his wife died last week after suffering for about a year. He could no longer take care of his wife by himself but she lived nearby and I understand that he visited her almost every day. I haven't seen either one of them in years but they still are significant to me.
I babysat for their three children and so did one of my sisters. We would always wave to them if they were in their yard and sometimes we would walk across the street for short conversations. My mother and his wife talked a lot because our families had children who were the same ages and they would all be outside playing at the same times.
As I sat down to express my sympathy, I realized that even though I lost my spouse a number of years ago and I have a pretty good idea how much pain this man is feeling, it is still difficult to write a sympathy card.
But as difficult as it is, I still remember how comforting those sympathy cards and letters were to me after my husband died and I would never let my awkwardness stop me from helping another person in the throes of grief and vulnerability.
Writing heartfelt condolences is a tricky area and you're never quite sure if you are saying the right thing that will bring comfort to a person newly bereaved.
I think the most honest and touching thing anyone can write to the grieving person is about how you knew the person that died; what they meant to you, how you met them and a special memory you may have of them. Maybe they said something to you that always has stayed with you and helped inspire you.
In the end, everyone always wants to hear lots of stories about the person they loved and lost.