Condolence Letters – The Etiquette of Writing Condolence Letters

Writing a condolence letter is not only difficult but also painful. Wrought with grief, you have to gather your thoughts and put it down on paper. Some people never get around to writing a letter because they use the excuse that it was too painful. However, think of the comfort your letter will bring to the bereaved as he or she reads it. You might want to send flowers or a sympathy food basket, write an email, make a post on Facebook or Tweet about it. Still, nothing can replace the lasting gift of a handwritten condolence letter.

What are your choices – You have four ways to write you condolence letter:

1. Write a letter from scratch. You can see good examples of condolence letters online. Be genuine and avoid pretentious language. Express your sympathy and acknowledge the grief of the person you are writing to.

2. Use an existing letter. You can add your personal touch to a letter you already have, putting it in your own style, you might be lucky to find a letter, which reflects your sentiment.

3. Use a quotation, a reading or historical letter. There is nothing wrong with writing this type of condolence letter. In fact, this will reflect how much thought you gave to the importance of saying the right things. This only adds to the lasting effect of your letter.

4. Express your feelings the commercial way. If you do not wish to write a letter, sending a sympathy card by mail, putting a post on Facebook or sending out a Tweet, is also acceptable.

The Etiquette of it all. – Although there isn’t a right or a wrong way to write a condolence letter, there are accepted principles you should observe:

1. What is the relationship? Normally you would write the letter to the bereaved person with whom you have the closest connection. In the case where you knew the deceased very well, but not the family, you should still write a condolence letter. If it is a married person who has lost a parent, you should write to the person who lost the parent. If the spouse had a close relationship with the deceased, you should address the letter to both.

In many cases the surviving children who lost a parent, grandparent or sibling are often forgotten when it comes to condolence letters. Taking the time to mention them specifically in your letter or even addressing the letter to the children is therapeutic to the recipient and considerate on your part.

You can also consider sending a condolence letter to the surviving member of a divorced couple when the former spouse dies, depending on the circumstances. If the couple’s relationship after their divorce was amicable, your letter will be appreciated.

2. How long should you wait to send your condolence letter? It is a good idea to send your letter as soon as you get the news. If you wait until you get over the shock you might never send a letter. You should make every effort to your letter within two weeks. Waiting until after six weeks is a no-no.

3. What kind of stationary should you use? You can find appropriate stationary in specialty stores or online. Soft colors such as mauve, gray, white or cream is customary. Avoid bright colors and bold patterns on your stationary. Writing your letter by hand is appropriate especially if you were close friends with the decease or the surviving family.

4. Is there a standard length for a condolence letter? It should be as long as you think is appropriate to convey your feelings. You may be able to accomplish that in a few sentences or you might need a few pages. It is totally up to you.

Good examples of condolence letters with specific examples for your situation can be found online. If you knew the deceased well, it will be easier to write your letter because you can draw on your memories of the person. If you did not know the person well, you can focus your letter on the family and offer your support during this difficult time. In any case, expressing your sympathy in a condolence letter is always appropriate and appreciated.

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