Please consider the information below if you know someone who has lost a loved one and you are not able to go to the funeral home in Washington, DC or wherever else the service may be held. You should not feel guilty for not being there because you have other options to express your care and compassion to the family. You may be out of the country or have important other plans, but you can still demonstrate your empathy, sympathy and support.
A great way to show your feelings to the bereaved family and pay your condolences is by sending a well-written sympathy card. You do not need a long message- a basic note of two or three sentences that informs the family that they are in your thoughts can go a long way in providing comfort.
Address the family in the card, convey your regrets over your absence from the funeral, but avoid rambling or making excuses. Finish the note with your promise to call or visit, if you are certain that you can actually do so. Mark your calendar to remind you of this obligation.
If you have difficulty finding the correct words to put in the card, brainstorm some thoughts about the connection that you had with the loved one on scrap paper. From this, take something kind about the deceased or briefly share a fond memory that you have of him or her. Write a first draft, check it for spelling, read it out loud and then commit it to the card.
You can also bring food gifts to the grieving family. The family will be quite challenged by having to deal with their grief; many times they do not have the time, energy or desire to cook and eat. You can show them how much you care by bringing them a meal or even baked goods. Be considerate by making sure the dish that you bring will be enjoyed by the family. For their convenience, use a dish or pan that you do not expect to get back. Use disposable containers or provide them with a nice platter or bowl as a present. Be clear that you do not need it to be returned.
Many families enjoy flowers that they can bring home or place at the burial site after the funeral. You can also send a live tree or plant that can be put into the earth as a tribute to the loved one. If you can afford it, get them a small engraved plaque that reads “In memory of (name of the deceased)” to set beside the plant.
Today, a lot of families request a memorial donation to a charitable organization in lieu of flowers. Please follow the families wishes and donate, even if you cannot give much. Write to the family to let them know that you made a contribution without specifying the exact amount.
Many funeral firms give families an online guestbook on which relatives and friends can write their condolences. Ask if this amenity is available and add to it as soon as possible. This digital guestbook will provide comfort to the mourning family members as they read the messages, thoughts and feelings. The online accessibility of this service allows all of the family to revisit these loving sentiments. On the other hand, its public nature should prevent you from writing anything you want kept secret. Communicate your feelings of sympathy, but the heart of the message should be upbeat and touching.
You can also assist family members with daily tasks in the days preceding the funeral and the few months subsequent to it. Many times, the deep sadness that they fell prevents them from doing some daily chores. Offer to mow the lawn, clean up the house, babysit children or run errands. The more help you can give, the better. Recruit church or other group members to join in, as well. A strong sense of community will provide the family with immeasurable comfort.