You’ve bought the sympathy card, now what do you write in it?
Finding the words when someone loses a parent, friend or loved one who has passed away peacefully after a long, healthy and happy life can be difficult; finding the words if someone has miscarried or lost someone before their time - maybe through an accident, injury or long-term illness - can be harder still.
Whilst we don’t think there’s a ‘right’ way to write your message - as it depends on many factors including how well you know/knew them, the situation and circumstances - we’ve been moved by so many of the messages we’ve read as we’ve been packing your Box of Hugs gifts, and the wonderful ways you’ve expressed your love, care, support and condolences through your gifts and your words, that we thought this was a great place to start.
So, here are two ways we’ve noted from your messages to express your sympathy, and some examples of your wording that have particularly touched us:
1. If you don’t know what to say, keep it short and simple, such as;
“Thinking of you and wishing you strength and comfort at this time.”
“We are so so sorry for your loss, we are here when you need us.”
“We were all truly sorry to hear your very sad news. Our thoughts are with you and your family during this very difficult time."
"We wanted to send you a little something to show we are here, thinking of you and wishing you moments of peace and comfort during this challenging time."
“Sending you all the hugs in the world, all of our love and thoughts are with you.”
"With our most heartfelt condolences, love from…"
2: If you want to add a bit extra, maybe consider including some words that summarise how you feel or that will mean something to the person/people you’re writing to, such as:
- Lyrics from a song
- Lines from a poem
- A saying that means something to you or to them
- Something you love or appreciate about the person who has passed away
- A special shared memory
- A heartfelt message of your own
Some lovely examples we've seen here at Box of Hugs:
“My sincere condolences and deepest sympathy to you & your family as you all remember <<name>>. She/he will be remembered for <<insert memory>>, as well as being a true <<friend/sister etc>> to you."
“We don't really know what to do or say to help at the moment. But we want you to know you are in our thoughts and we are always here for you, day or night. Sending love, strength and hugs from <<place/person>>”
“Little by little we let go of loss…… but never of love”
"When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure."
"When you speak of him/her, speak not with tears, for thoughts of him/her should not be sad. Let memories of the times you shared give you comfort, for his/her life was rich because of you.”
Overall, we think that the most important thing is letting someone know you’re thinking of them and are there for them. So, even when you can’t find the words to express how you’re feeling, a Box of Hugs and a card is a great way to let someone know you care, particularly when you can’t be there in person to give them a hug. This is why we’ve put together some thoughtful ready-made ‘bereavement’ gift boxes for you to choose from, including:
* ‘So sorry for your loss’ - a bereavement box of hugs
* True Friends Hug In A Box
* ‘Sorry for your loss’ - mini hug
* A Box of Comfort Hug
*The Sweetest Hug In A Box
Finding these aren’t quite right? Why not personalise your gift with our ‘build your own’ Box of Hugs and get your hug delivered straight to their door.
Keeping in touch - letting someone know you’re there for them
There may be some more common emotions that your friends or loved ones experience following a bereavement - such as denial, numbness, sadness, confusion, anger, fear, and maybe sometimes even some relief from or following a period of illness or suffering. There may also be some common experiences they have - such as difficulty sleeping, eating, moving on, concentrating or processing what has happened and their loss - particularly if they’ve lost someone in traumatic circumstances, very suddenly or over a long period of time. For most people, the road is likely to be bumpy with significant milestones along the way - from birthdays to anniversaries, significant reminders and special events. However, there is no ‘one way’ or ‘right way’ to grieve or to say how long this process will or should take.
Your friend or loved one may need and want your help more with practical matters to begin with - such as funeral arrangements or the emotional task of sorting through possessions. You just need to ask them. However, sometimes there are so many practical tasks to deal with while someone is ill or when someone dies, that it is only when things quieten down that there is space for a grieving process to begin. It may seem like your friend or loved one is coping well when, actually, they might be starting to feel overwhelmed, lost, alone or a huge range of other emotions but be putting on a ‘brave face’. They might actually be needing and wanting more help, support or simply a hug from you - though they may not know how to ask for it or want to burden you.
This could be a time when your love, friendship and support will be even more valuable to them.
What could you do?
1. Simply ask them what you can do to help
2. Be there to listen and give them your time and a hug when they need it
3. Send them a gift - to acknowledge an important milestone or simply to let them know you’re still thinking about them and are there for them whenever they need you. This might help them feel more supported and give them the go-ahead they need to turn to you or to ask you for help.
You never know how valuable reaching out with a simple gesture might be to them.
Seeking further support: online resources, charities, support groups and GPs
Processing grief or moving forward can be incredibly difficult and painful. There are a large number of resources available on the internet, including information about:
* the cycle of grief
* the range of emotions and symptoms that people might feel or experience when they’re bereaved
* Complex grief or traumatic loss
* Different types of grief and
* Charities, support and informative groups, and specialist counsellors - where you/ they can get additional support if and when you/ they need to: from how to talk to a child or loved one about loss, how to process a traumatic loss or complex grief and ways to process anger, hurt or feelings of guilt or relief following a loss, to how to move forward or fill the huge void left behind when a loved one dies, when to seek help and much much more. (If you’re not sure which one/s to suggest, ask your GP/surgery).
GP’s are also a valuable resource. If you notice that your friend or loved one is struggling to process their grief, to manage daily tasks or their mood, is starting to neglect themselves noticeably or there is anything else that is concerning you, you may want to encourage them to see their GP or to seek further help from the range of charities and services that are available locally. You might feel like you’re intruding or this could seem like a huge and overwhelming (and possibly unwelcome) step to them, but it could be hugely important, and in the longer term they’ll be really glad you were there for them.
Remember: if you yourself are struggling to process a loss this all applies to you too. There is great strength and possibility for healing in admitting to yourself that you need help, in asking your friends or family for help or support and/or seeking additional help. Find what works for you, but know that you can and will get through this.
With love and hugs
Lucy, Anna and Sophie xox
Sisters and Box of Hugs Founders