Here are some tips on what to include in a letter of condolence.
There is very little any one of us can do for a friend or family member when he/she loses someone close to him or her. Nothing will bring back the deceased, but we can still offer our love and support to the one left behind, knowing that a little compassion can make even the darkest day just the slightest bit brighter.
With that in mind, sometimes a condolence letter is exactly what is needed. It gives some comfort to your friend or family member; it might even give you a little comfort knowing that you've done something, even if that "something" is just writing a letter.
Of course, the idea of writing about something so emotional can be daunting, so here are a few tips to get you started:
Don't procrastinate. Sure, you have no idea what to say. But you're not the one suffering here. So get out a pen or pencil or quill, or fire up your computer, and get to writing as soon as possible. It will be small comfort to the person who receives the letter, but small comfort is better than none at all, and no one wants to wait weeks and weeks to find out that you are thinking of him or her in their time of mourning.
Acknowledge the reason for writing. Someone has died. It is awful and tragic and painful, but it happened. And you're going to be writing to hopefully make someone feel just a little bit better about this, or at least to let that person know that you support him or her. So don't beat around the bush or use euphemisms. You might not know exactly what to say, which leads to the next tip...
Make it personal. People don't want to open an envelope just to find that you wrote a generic "I'm sorry for your loss," or just signed your name to a card that said something similar. You're attempting to show someone that you care about his or her loss, so be certain to include details about the person who passed away. Knowing you took the time to think about the deceased and remember him or her for who he or she was will really go a long toward actually consoling the person left behind.
Be comforting. Sounds simple, right? After all, that's the point of a letter of condolence. But even if you acknowledge the death in a personal letter that you send right away, you're still liable to not get this quite right. So the trick is to conclude the letter by really explaining, specifically, how you're there to help. Be specific. Someone who has just lost his or her husband or wife might not feel like eating or cooking right away, so maybe you can offer to cook a meal. If the person has children, maybe you can volunteer to babysit. Offer to mow the lawn or do the grocery shopping. You might be thinking this sounds like a lot, but remember that someone you know and care about is going to be struggling. The condolence letter will be all the more meaningful if you truly show how you're willing to support the person in his or her time of need.