Monday, August 25, 2008

Writing Condolence Letters

A letter of condolence should do three things:
  1. Acknowledge what a terrible loss the death is for the bereaved and that you sympathize with his or her suffering to some degree
  2. Convey a sincere desire to help in some way during this time of grief
  3. Praise the accomplishments, character, and devotion of the deceased Remember that many people may read this letter, and it may be saved as part of the family archives. Therefore, although it will be personal, the style should be at least somewhat formal.

In a condolence letter, avoid stressing how much you feel bereaved. The purpose of the letter is to comfort others, not to have them feel sorry for you. Writing after you have heard some bad news about a friend or acquaintance is a different matter. In this letter, you want to convey not only support but also a bit of optimism.

Dear Mrs. Thompson:
Please accept my deepest sympathy on the terrible loss of your fine husband, George, even though I know no words of mine can ease your grief.
I met George on my first day of work at MicroTech, and I will never forget his kindness to me, a confused newcomer. He helped me to get settled and to understand how things worked there—all out of the goodness of his heart. George had that rare combination of kindness, good humor, and competence.
I think you know that we live just a few blocks away, and if there is anything I or my family can do to help during the days ahead, we would consider it a privilege if you would call upon us.

Dear Margaret:
We just heard that Tom was among those laid off at MicroTech. I know it must be a shock for you and your family. Joe and I will be home all weekend in case you and Tom want to stop by for a drink or dinner or just to chat.

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