Too personal to follow a formula, intimate letters of condolence must come from the heart. Here are some tips to consider when writing them.
Step 1: Send a handwritten letter
Follow up any earlier e-mail or telephone expressions of sympathy with handwritten correspondence.
Step 2: Address the letter appropriately
Address the letter to the closest relative if you knew the deceased or to the relative to whom you are closest if you did not.
Step 3: Express your feelings
Put your feelings on paper. Be sincere. Flowery language in itself is of little value.
Step 4: Share a memory
Share a fond memory of the deceased when you begin the letter. Rather than saying you know how the surviving relative feels, simply say that you are thinking of that person.
Be honest. Don’t try to make the deceased sound like a better person than they actually were.
Step 5: Express your sorrow
Express your sorrow at the person’s loss rather than saying that the deceased is now in a better place. Avoid cliche phrases such as "time will heal all wounds."
Step 6: Avoid the cause of death
Avoid dwelling on the details of the illness or cause of death.
Offer assistance only if you were close to the deceased and you know the deceased’s close family needs help.
Step 7: Send the letter promptly
Send the letter within one week of the death. And remember, the worst condolence letter is the one that is never written.