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Writing a letter of condolence is one of the most difficult tasks we undertake because it's always hard to know just what to say. Of course, what you say depends on how close you were to the deceased and/or the recipient of the letter.

Condolence Letter Writing

A condolence letter should be written in a friendly format. Unless you are a close friend or relative, start the letter by introducing yourself. In the next paragraph, offer your sympathy. The third (and final) paragraph is the place to offer assistance (if you are sincere in your desire to help) and to try to say something that genuinely helps the bereaved work through their grief.

What you don't say in a condolence letter is almost more important than what you do say. All the same, even if you only write a line or two, you'll show the family your support.

Condolence Letter Tips/Notes

1. Keep condolence letters short. The family may have a mountain of cards and letters to read and answer. Don't add to their burden.

2. Never say you know how they feel. Simply put, you don't. Even if you have endured a similar situation, grief is a very intimate series of feelings that are unique to each individual. Don't intrude on them.

3. When my son passed away, a well-meaning friend said, "At least he didn't leave any children behind." Her well-meaning words rattled me to the bone. I would have gladly given my life to hold his son in my arms just one time. Especially in cases where death was a long-suffering ordeal, you may be tempted to write that it was a "blessing" or "relief". Don't. Some words are best left unsaid.

4. Do share a fond memory of the departed in the body (second paragraph) of your letter.

The passing of a loved one leaves a big hole in our lives. A well-written condolence letter helps fill the hole with friendship and love.

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