More than Words: Thoughtful Ways to Express Condolences
The Baby category celebrates new life with onesies and nursing balm. The Birthday category celebrates another year of life with candles and chocolates. But what about the end of a life?
My mom passed away when I was 21. It was unexpected and devastating, as anyone who has lost a parent can relate. For weeks, I received flowers and cards from people I hadn’t seen or talked to in a long time. This meant a lot to me that they took the time to let me know they cared. Their words and actions solidified the importance of always reaching out when someone you care about is going through this difficult time. These are the moments that matter most.
For this reason, the decision to add a dedicated section for condolences came easy. However, what isn’t so easy is knowing what to say, how to say it and when - which is why people often shy away from sympathy. We want to help by providing tips for consoling people in your life who are mourning the loss of a loved one.
WHEN TO REACH OUT
Right away: What is most important is that you reach out through a phone call, text or card in the mail. Acknowledging a person’s grief and loss is most important, so this should be done right away. Don’t avoid reaching out because you don’t know what to say or you intend to send a gift later.
After the funeral: Before the funeral a person tends to have guests visit and receives gifts and messages of condolences – and afterwards there is a deafening silence. Consider checking in with the person during this time. I highly encourage people to reach out to those who mean something to you no matter how much time has passed.
WHAT TO SAY
From my own experience, I learned that while people may not always say the right thing, I knew it was coming from a place of caring. However, there are certain phrases to use and avoid.
What you should say:
- You and your loved ones are in our thoughts.
- You are loved. I am so sorry for your loss.
- Sending you love and comfort.
- I am here for you if you need anything or if you want to talk.
What to avoid saying:
- Anything that makes it about you by saying things like, “I know how you feel” or discussing your own losses at length.
- Phrases like “You are so strong” leave a person in a hard position because he/she may not feel comfortable being vulnerable or asking for help, if needed
WHAT TO GIVE
Gifts are a way to send comfort during this difficult time and a way to let the person know you are thinking of them. The item(s) should come from a place of sending comfort and love, so try to look at it through that lens.
A few general tips:
- Avoid anything too somber
- If the person receiving the gift is religious, double check what is customary or should be avoided during this time.
- Self-care items, flowers (they can and should be cheerful), and food items are all good.
Also, what stands out the most from my experience is my roommate buying me groceries and toiletries like toilet paper. I was incapable of leaving the house, so this was incredibly appreciated. Now, I often do the same for friends and family. I’ll buy groceries, which include fruit, crackers, and packaged fresh meals, toilet paper, and tissue paper and set them outside their house and let them know via text they are there for them.
At Birdytell, we send a lot of sympathy gifts on people’s behalf. The items we see come up the most are the following:
- “You Belong Among the Wildflowers” Candle
- Bath bombs and/or scented soap
- Love or wellness tea
- Something sweet like chocolate covered pretzels or toffee stack
Featured small merchants: Mame Luxury Candles, Goodytwos Toffee Company, Big Heart Tea, The Flower Bar, Ruze Cake House, Zaaina Skincare, and Lily Pad Essentials.