Ideally it is best to send a sympathy card within the first two weeks after a death. However, it is always appropriate to send a card at anytime, rather than not send a card at all. A card sent weeks or months after the loss will still be beneficial and comforting. Support from others usually diminishes within weeks after the funeral; thus, your card may be even more appreciated at a later date.
A handwritten note composed inside an actual sympathy card is most helpful to the family. A sympathy note can be brief, but heartfelt. The easiest way to express your sympathy is to be open and honest about how you are feeling. Recommended elements to include in your sympathy note are as follows:
1.) Acknowledge the loss, and use the name of the deceased.
2.) Express your sympathy.
3.) Note special qualities or favorite memories about the deceased.
4.) End the note with some encouraging words.
Please note that it is not unusual if the bereaved does not acknowledge your card. The person may be thinking about other things or may not know how to respond to you. Nonetheless, you have accomplished a caring gesture by expressing your sympathy. Remember, it is never too late to send a sympathy card.
Keep in mind that grieving people still need messages of sympathy for years to come after a death, especially on holidays, birthdays and anniversaries. The bereaved do not forget their loss. Thus, you are not reminding them of their loss when you send a card on these days. Instead, you are offering comfort and support that may still be needed. Remember, you can express your support at anytime to the bereaved. It is never too late.