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Condolence Letters – What to Write in Your Condolence Letter When It’s the Death of a Spouse

A condolence letter about the death of a spouse is one of the more difficult condolence letters to write. No one truly knows the relationship between two married people. Writing “I understand how you feel” even if you’ve lost a spouse yourself isn’t always true. Without having been in the relationship yourself, you can’t imagine how the death of a spouse makes the survivor feel. When writing a condolence letter, it’s particularly important to understand how to write it and what to write that will offer comfort and support for the loss of a spouse and this profoundly personal relationship.

“Nothing in life is certain, but death and taxes.” We have heard the phrase repeated many times. We laugh about it; we make fun of the circumstances. Yet, how many times do we give those words a second thought? We cringe when someone mentions death and hope for a quick end to the conversation. However, writing a condolence letter, when it’s the death of a spouse, can be crippling.

Think back to your wedding day. You smile and boldly repeat the words, “Until Death Do Us Part.” You say a silent prayer and hope the day never comes. No matter how strong, passionate and comforting your relationship, it is hard to imagine your life with a spouse. But you grow closer and closer until you can’t imagine your life without your spouse. And after their death, it’s even more difficult to imagine living your life without your spouse.

Even in a difficult marriage, losing a spouse is painful. There are feelings of guilt, anger and regret. Guilt for not trying to reconcile before it is too late. Anger that your spouse is gone and regret for the things that were not accomplished.

Understanding What Happens When a Spouse Dies

Your condolence letter does not have to mention any of the following points, as a matter of fact it’s better if it doesn’t. But understanding how someone’s life changes after the death of a spouse can make your condolence letter much more powerful and truly supportive to the surviving spouse.

o The life of the surviving spouse changes forever.

o The bond of marriage is broken.

o The burden of coping with household responsibilities is overwhelming

o The work environment can be a place to seek support and comfort and to conceal grief.

o When the spouse dies of a terminal illness the surviving spouse may have reconciled with the inevitabilities of the loss, long before death

o As couples get older, limited resources and failing health only makes life more terrifying.

o Fear and loneliness can cause the loss of the meaning in life. The thought of coping without your partner is unbearable.

The best condolence letters acknowledge the death and how it affected you and also talks about fond memories you had of the deceased. Great condolence letters include words of strength and offer your help with something that the surviving spouse may have difficulty with after the death of their loved one. Perhaps you or someone you know can help prepare taxes, or you can help by doing some household chores that you know the spouse did, like yard work or cooking.

The following are two excellent examples of what to write in a condolence letter for a spouse. You can find more examples online.

Sample Condolence Letters to use When a Spouse Dies

Letter #1

Dear Ted,

It was with a very sad heart that I heard the news just the other day of the passing of your sweet wife and my dear friend, Ellie. Words fail in telling you how badly I feel. I am sure you were aware that I was very fond of Ellie, both as a friend and as a coworker on our many projects.

Ellie was a delightful person in so many ways. I always anticipated with pleasure our working together. She was creative, hard-working and reliable. A real team player. She was funny, too, and that is a priceless commodity when you’re feeling the stress of a deadline.

Although you and I met only rarely, I feel I know you from all the little stories Ellie use to share over coffee breaks. She never had anything but happy things to say about her life with you and the kids. Last spring, she brought in pictures from a trip to Vermont, and she just lit up as she described you tobogganing with the children. She loves you very much.

My children and I are smoking a couple of hams and will bring one over when it is done just right. In the meantime, my sincere condolences to you and the whole family on your great loss.

Letter #2

Dear Margaret,

This morning, when Susan told me to know about your darling Jim I sat down and wept. While his lost was not unexpected, I still felt a wave of disbelief. I am so sorry.

Jim was such a gifted man: in his profession, his wood carving, in his family and friends and in his readiness to share his thoughts and feelings.

The last time we spoke, just before the reunion, I asked if he felt his illness was affecting the way he looked at life. He didn’t brush me off or avoid the issue in any way – that wasn’t Jim’s style – instead he paused, reflected for a moment, and said, “It seems the world is topsy-turvy; so many of the little things I used to feel were important have just fallen away, while many of the small moments that I once took for granted are incredibly precious.” You came up at just at that moment with a cool drink and a warm smile. As you walked away Jim grinned and said, “See that? That’s one of those precious moments.”

I can only imagine how deeply you feel this loss, Margaret, but you can take solace in all the loving ways you cared for Jim – not just in his illness, but through a long and happy marriage. He could always count on your support as he tackled new challenges, and he respected your opinion immensely. You two were partners in a way it seems few married people are these days. Now it will be your challenge to take the same strength of character and good sense that you shared with your husband and direct it toward your own rich life. Your friends may never “match” you in the way Jim did. But they love you and respect you and are there to help you in any way they can.

Count on me, will you? I’ll drop by in the next couple of days to see if there’s anything I can do to help… I’ll call first. In the meanwhile, take very good care of yourself.

Condolence Letters Online

These are just two examples of condolence letters. Online you’ll find shorter and longer condolence letters with specific examples for your situation. If you knew the spouse well, in some ways it will be more difficult to write your condolences because of your own grief. In other ways it will be easier because you knew the person. If you did not know the spouse, you can still write about how you knew the person and how their death will affect you as well as offer your support and help. In any case, expressing your sympathy in a condolence letter is always appropriate and appreciated.

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