Sympathy Notes: What to say when you don't know what to say

Sympathy notes can be one of the hardest to write. Everything feels cliche and insignificant compared to what your loved one is going through. The truth is, you don't need to overthink it. When someone is going through a tough time, just knowing that you are thinking of them can make the most significant impact.



Sympathy notes can be one of the hardest to write. Everything feels cliche and insignificant compared to what your loved one is going through. The truth is, you don't need to overthink it. When someone is going through a tough time, just knowing that you are thinking of them can make the most significant impact.


Keep in mind that your note may go unanswered AND THAT IS OKAY! Your note is about making the recipient feel like they are not alone and have support. Their silence does not mean that your note was not appreciated. It likely just means that they need space to process what they are going through.


A friend once referred me to a great book called There Is No Good Card For This: What To Say And Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, And Unfair To People You Love, by Kelsey Crowe, PH.D and Emily McDowell. It gives you easy to follow advice on what to say and what NOT to say. It even provides some helpful infographic-style cheat sheets.


What I love about the advice is that it is all common sense; we know it, but sometimes we need to be reminded that it's about the recipient, not the sender. And sometimes it is perfectly okay to say, "I don't know what to say. But I am here for you if you want to talk."


You can listen to a read the NPR interview with the author, Emily McDowell, here.

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