You just discovered someone close to someone you know has passed away. You don’t want to call as you don’t want to intrude on the family. You want to send a sympathy card, but, what is proper sympathy card etiquette?
Just as a simple, “I am sorry” will do for expressing your sympathy to someone in person, a short, simple message is all that is needed for a sympathy card, i.e., “I am sorry for your loss.” If you knew the deceased, it is appropriate for you to put something like, “We will all miss Aunt Bernice; she had such a big heart.” Beyond that, you’re getting into sticky territory. Even if you haven’t lost someone close to you, we all have experienced loss in some stage or another in our lives. During those times, the phrases of, “It will get better with time” and “It was meant to be” seem empty and heartless. Just let whatever nice poem is on the sympathy card send the message or even get a blank card. If you are not aware of the recipient’s religious beliefs, shy away from the religious cards.
When sending a sympathy card, it is best to sign your first and last name. This is one of the few times where traditionally everyone mails a card through snail mail and they will be receiving lots of sympathy cards. It’s just one less thing for them to stress about it if you make identifying yourself easier for them (etiquette addressing envelopes can be found here).
If someone you know has passed and you are receiving sympathy cards, sympathy card etiquette does not expect that you will respond with thank you notes.
Photo: 123rf/Terry Katz