"I am so sorry. I am here for you."
These are two of the most popular sentiments expressed after someone has passed away. Though simple, these gestures let a grieving person know that they have your support. As a funeral director with more than 20 years of experience, I have not only learned the importance of offering support to grieving families, but also seen the evolution of the mediums in which people choose to express their condolences.
Questions I get asked by clients, grieving relatives and even friends and family, often tend to be about different platforms to express sympathy and how to do it in a tasteful manner.
While there are many ways in which you can communicate your condolences, the avenue in which you choose to do so will be largely dependent on your connection to the grieving individual as well as your own instincts. To guide you on how best to share your condolences, no matter the medium, I have compiled a few tips.
Make a Personal Visit
One of the best ways to express your condolences to someone in mourning is with an in-person visit. This can be done at the visitation, funeral service or even a trip to their home.
Though some may be stressed about seeing someone at one of the most vulnerable times of their lives, it's important to put them first and know that your support will help them through their grieving.
When making a personal visit, speak from a place of kindness and love. You can share a memory, offer your support or even just act as a shoulder to cry on.
Give Them a Call
Understandably, not everyone can get to the funeral or visitation. Maybe you live out of town or you're uncomfortable in a funeral setting; no matter the reason, expressing condolences on the phone is a suitable alternative to a personal visit.
When on the phone offering your support, make sure that the grieving understands that while you may not be able to be physically present, you're there if they need you.
Send a Condolence Card
Sympathy cards remain a popular medium to share condolences, as it's often easier to express feelings in writing. And if visiting someone in person is not an option, sending a condolence card is a great alternative.
For some, cards are a keepsake that one can hold on too and look back on as they celebrate the deceased person's life. This card can accompany flowers, a donation in the deceased's name, or be on its own.
Share Your Condolences Digitally
Offering condolences online is a recent, but great, addition to the avenues available for support. From signing a virtual guest book to contributing to a deceased person's memorialized Facebook page, social media can be a good place to show those in mourning you're thinking of them.
It's also a great place to showcase the deceased's impact. I am often reminded when someone passes at a young age that their loved ones may not have been privy to all of the relationships in their lives. By offering your condolences through social media, you can help showcase the wide impact someone has had.
Photographs are a great addition to digital condolences when possible. Being able to see a loved one's face again, even if just in a photograph, has the ability to bring forward great memories. Just think of the joy you get when you see a photograph of someone you love, or the excitement of seeing an old photo that you can't remember having seen before.
It's important, however, to be aware of the audience when sharing these notes and photographs, as most of these platforms are public. Not all memories or comments are appropriate for all audiences.
Above all else, trust your instincts as they will be your best guiding force throughout the process.
When in doubt remember these nine words: I am so sorry. I am here for you.