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How to Express Sympathy

How to Express Sympathy

How to Console a Loved One

Expressing sympathy is something that naturally comes to mind when a dear friend has lost a dear friend or loved one. But many people have plenty of questions for what is appropriate for this special act of caring a kindness. A man recently posted on a social media site the news about the sudden untimely death of a well-known musicians. Though the man mentioned in his posting that he had met the musician once, very briefly, some 20 years ago, many who read the tribute – including the poster - thought it strange that several of the man's friends would reply in the comment section with the words “We are very sorry for your loss.” The man himself added a comment addressing the strange words of sympathy: “I don't understand why some of my dear friends are directing their words of condolence to me directly. This was a loss for the entire world, not just me. I have deleted the strange words from my friends, but I do not intend for anyone to take offense at that. I am simply concerned for decorum and for what is appropriate and in good taste in regard to expressions of condolence for a loss.”

So just what is appropriate and in good taste in regard to expressions of condolence for a loss? To that important question, which cannot often be summed up with ease, we offer these answers below in this guide to expressing sympathy with the most effectiveness possible.

Expressing Sympathy with a Card

The need to express sympathy is natural, but the action may not come as easily.A surprising problem arises for many people who wish to express sympathy with a card, perhaps, the most meaningful and respectful way possible in cases in which a distant relative or mild acquaintance has lost a loved one or dear friend. That problem is simply this: where to send the card. Though most stores that sell pre-printed greeting cards (grocery stores, drug stores, and even specialty card chains) will typically have a huge selection of cards with plenty of options available for expressing sympathy in the perfect manner, few who operate these stores are able to offer great advice for what to do – in this age of digital, internet-based communication – if you do not happen to have a street address (also known as an old-fashioned “snail mail” address) for the person who would be receiving your words of sympathy and comfort. This problem arises more often than one might expect, and it is a reason many people in our modern, fast-paced world still make it a disciplined habit to keep street addresses at their disposal. Most telephone contacts programs today offer the option of entering a street address into the file that contains a person's telephone number, and a surprising number of people actually use those blanks that one might assume are going out of style. And that habit comes in handy in the many times when a text message or emailed note of condolence might come across as too impersonal, but a quest to discover a person's street address may end up being uncovered by the sender. To be sure, that's not the worst thing that can happen, but it can also lead to a bit of awkwardness that is often best simply avoided if possible.

Once armed with a person's street address, a few brief, simply stated, hand written notes on a card purchased from a store that sells professionally designed and written cards is almost always a very safe bet for expressing strong condolences in a way that is as emotionally helpful and as productive as can be. There may be a temptation to add more, as a way to personalize the card to address the deceased's life directly. But experts often advise against that, noting instead, that it's always safe and helpful to just trust the professionals who have designed the card (and these days are charging exorbitant amounts for many models, often as much as $10 for a standard sized card).

Expressing Sympathy with Another Gift

Gifts are yet another idea (often accompanied with a card, of course) that can be of value when it comes to offering sympathy to a friend who is in the midst of grief over losing a dear friend or loved one. Flowers are the usual top choice for such gifts, but many other options are available for those who may wish to be more daring (or even helpful). One example written about – often in a humorous manner - on more than one blog is the use of gift certificates. One blogger in California, for example, writes that she often has been known to give her girlfriends gift certificates to massage therapists or day spas when she discovers that they have lost a loved one. While such ideas should be used with caution – many might find a well-intended gift like this to be a bit too frivolous for an occasion such as a death – when done with the correct consideration of one's relationship with a friend experiencing the stress of grief – the thought can be one of the most helpful and memorable gifts that can be given. No one can deny, of course, that a person who has finished arranging a memorial service – which usually involves plenty of coordinating, entertaining and discussing with wide variety of people who may not always agree on everything that's done – might well be ready for a day of pampering under the skilled direction of a day spa or professional message therapist.

How to comfort a friend after the loss of a loved one is perplexing, so often the more simple the gesture, the better.For best results, experts say, the simple is usually better in regard to gifts of sympathy or condolence, but, in many cases, some of the many new products available from a memorial product retailer may also be quite welcomes. Cremation jewelry, or even a cremation urn, are sometimes great gifts. But, again, caution is often the best policy. For best results, those who are familiar with funeral and memorial service etiquette often advise, a person considering any gift make a polite, caring inquiry of the person who would receive the gift: “Would it help if I bought some keepsake cremation urn?” one might ask. “There are a number of beautiful ones available online. You could even pick one out if you'd like,” might be among the most comforting words that a person who is in the midst of shock and grief over the loss of a loved one can hear. It also, of course, could very well be a request that is denied, and gift-givers are warned by experts to never question such a denial. Just go with plan b instead – send a simple, beautiful, arrangement of flowers.

In this day of ever increasing costs of funeral expenses, it is often the case that friends who wish to be of great service to someone who has lost a loved one will simply pick up the tab (perhaps even anonymously) for at least a portion of the service. In one such case, written about in more than one blog about memorializing a loved one, a man tells the story of his friends from church anonymously contacting the funeral home where his father's body was being readied for the memorial service and inquired about the cost of embalming. The next thing the man knew, he was receiving a call from the funeral home saying that portion of the bill would be deducted from the final total, since it had already been paid.

Expressing Sympathy at A Memorial Service

It is often the case that people who have lost a loved one report – often after the fact – that they are rather uncomfortable with the common phrases being repeated to them over and over in the days and hours before a funeral service. “I'm sorry for your loss” and “Please accept my condolences” are sometimes filled with a shallowness that just make them, well, awkward for a lot of people. Instead, many who are familiar with ideas for expressing sympathy at a memorial offer this advice: “just give a hug. There's no need to say anything, really, just a look in the eye, a hug, or even just a handshake will do.” As we've seen with the other methods discussed so far in regard to expressing sympathy to a friend or family member, simplicity is often the very best policy that one can follow.

Expressing Sympathy in Public

There are many ways to comfort a loved one after the passing of a friend or family member of theirs.Another popular way of expressing sympathy is simply by telling a story or two in public as part of a funeral ceremony. In many cases, the family member who is in charge of organizing a service will ask a friend or fellow family member to prepare a few remarks about the deceased, but, other times, the offer will be made to anyone at the service who happens to want to talk. More than one family of a deceased loved one have publicly written (usually on blogs and such) that the comments heard from people who knew the deceased throughout his life helped to make their grieving process a much more comfortable experience. As with all of other methods of expressing sympathy in public that we discuss in this article, remaining simple and concise is always a good thing to do. Experts in the craft of writing eulogies (which just a fancy word used to describe the comforting words that person says about the deceased at a funeral) say that, in most cases, the remarks should be prepared to require no more than about 5 minutes to deliver, and they should include inspiring up-beat stories of the deceased's life. Even if you are invited to deliver a eulogy at a funeral, you should be prepared to stick to these general guidelines. If you intend to deviate from them, then your ideas may, indeed, be helpful to the family organizing the funeral, but in the interest of expressing your sympathy in as comforting a manner as possible, you should consider allowing the family to preview – and even change – the remarks you intend to give. Speaking at a funeral about the deceased's life and his or her legacy is about as personal and as meaningful a gift of sympathy that a friend can provide – especially if the event is being video taped so that your remarks will be able to be viewed for many years to come.

Expressing Sympathy at a Cemetery

And a final common way that people tend to express sympathy is at a cemetery. Flowers installed upon a grave are always a welcomed addition that can keep the loving mood of sympathy alive for family members and friends to experience for ages. An important thing to keep in mind about this method of expressing sympathy is the cemetery's rules. The last thing that a gift giver wants to do is create unnecessary hassles, or even expense, for a family. Before you place anything on a grave site, it is always a great policy to ask a cemetery staff person if your gift to the grave site is in keeping with the cemetery's regulations. Most cemeteries in today's modern world allow for anyone to contribute plastic flowers – that will not need to be removed once they have withered – to any grave site that has a bronze vase installed on its grave marker. Most cemetery mausoleums, likewise, have similar vases installed on the name plaques of some of their niches and artificial flowers are allowed there, too.

A truly special gift of sympathy that a family will likely appreciate a great deal may be the contribution of a headstone itself. Many families face financial difficulties in the months following a death and do not have the financial resources to easily raise the $2,000 - $4,000 price that even a simple headstone can cost. So consequentially, a grave can languish unmarked for years after a death – often putting a family in conflict with the very cemetery, which can sometimes be quite picky about assuring that its grave sites are all properly marked within a reasonable amount of time. In such cases, many friends and distant family members have learned that a quiet fund raising effort to help defray the expenses of such a financial burden can be as welcome a bit o

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