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Death is not a happy subject. It is probably the most difficult occasion for sending a greeting card. As any florist will tell you, consumers often struggle with the sympathy message to accompany their sympathy arrangements. Words like “with deepest sympathy” are often used. But when the words printed on a greeting card already say “with deepest sympathy” where does that leave you? Stuck.

Follow these tips to help you write a caring, thoughtful sympathy message.

1. A good sympathy message recognizes the sadness of loss

The purpose of a sympathy message is to console the person you are sending the card to. You want them to know you care, and that you are sorry for their loss. Say you are writing to a friend who often talked about his grandfather. You might write, I am so sorry for your loss Tom. I know how important your grandfather was in your life and how much you will miss him.

2. A good sympathy message honors the person who died

Losing a loved one hurts. At this time, we look to encouragement from family and friends to help us make it through a tough time. One way you can be encouraging is to write a sympathy message describing what the deceased meant to you. Stop for a moment and think of three words you would use to describe the person. Examples might be: loving, hilarious, caring, motivated, outgoing, quiet, talented, a pioneer, beautiful, and dedicated. Then form these words into a sentence like this: Sally was a dedicated mom, caring teacher and motivated volunteer. I will never forget her beautiful smile and dedication to her students.

3. A good sympathy message comes from the heart

Many people are so afraid of writing, they stiffen every muscle when the pen is in their hand and they are facing a blank card. Try to relax. Think about the person you are writing to or the person that died. Let a thought or memory surface in your mind. Allowing your genuine feelings to surface allows your pen to flow with words that are real and genuine. You might say something like, I didn’t know your friend Jack. But I do know what a role model he was to you in college. My fondest sympathy to you on the loss of your one-of-a-kind friend.

Yes, a good sympathy message can be difficult to write. Many people destine themselves for failure before even picking up a pen. Rather than thinking, “I don’t know what to say,” stop and give yourself a moment to let your feelings surface. The Art of the Sympathy Message ,Focus on the person you are writing to and not yourself. Imagine yourself as the other person and write something you would like them to say to you. Recognize the sadness of loss, honor the person who died and let your feelings come from your heart. Follow these suggestions and your sympathy message will be appreciated and even cherished by all who receive them.