Proper etiquette is to give a sympathy card immediately following a loss or after a week or so when support tends to die down. It's never the wrong time to reach out and encourage someone. There are reasons it might make sense to delay sending a card.
Also consider doing something nice or sending a card on the anniversary of the loss if you think it would be helpful for the person. This requires a good memory or marking a calendar.
The type of sympathy message you write in a card can be partially determined by the timing.
Immediately after loss: Acknowledgement, encouragement, and support
More than a week afterward: Offer of support and encouragement
On the anniversary: Acknowledgement and kind words
A card is a nice gesture that means much more when accompanied by some other type of tangible support. Offering to get a meal or watch children can be a much needed relief in a stressful time. People find out how much people care when they experience difficult times. A loss is a wonderful opportunity to express importance. Loss of life is not the only occasion that calls for a sympathy card. There are many types of loss for which a sympathy card is appropriate. These are loss events for which one could send a sympathy note:
Who you send sympathy messages to depends on a couple factors. If the deceased person was your acquaintance, send your messages to the closest relative and address the entire family. If the deceased person is a friend or family member of your acquaintance, then send your sympathy message to your acquaintance.
How Should you Send Sympathy Messages?
You have a variety of ways to send a sympathy message:
Mail or hand deliver a card
Notes and letters
With flowers or another gift
How do you End a Sympathy Message?
This is a list of ways to close a sympathy note.
With warm thoughts,
With my deepest sympathy,
Many thoughts to your family,
With a heavy heart,
With many prayers for your family,
When signing a sympathy note, use your first and last name. This is important because there may be others with the same first name who will give a card. If the card or letter is from a group of people, name each person in the closing. For example, "Kathy Simpson, George Eaton, Lindsay Purdue, and Steven Johnson" is better than "Your Work Friends."
To Whom do you Address a Sympathy Card?
When addressing a sympathy note, use the name of the family instead of singling out one person. This is the proper etiquette even if you only know one member of the family. Use the last name. For example, write "The Johnson Family" instead of "Jane Johnson."
What can you Give Instead of Flowers with a Sympathy Message?
You have many options for giving a gift along with a sympathy card. These are some ideas:
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