Sympathy is what people give when most people need empathy. Acting the way you usually would is the best way to show sympathy toward a friend. They can always let you know if they need anything else. - Blake Flannery
People often refrain from doing these things because they are afraid they may say something unpleasant, which may offend or upset the grief-stricken. Even people with the best interests may say something that can hurt sentiments and damage relationships. Let us look at some things that should not be used while writing a condolence letter.
What Not to Write in a Condolence Letter
Do Not Compare
Don't compare the loss that has just taken place with that of your own or any other similar situation about other people you know. They are two completely different circumstances, and comparisons may often portray that it is all about you. It may hurt the feelings of the bereft, if you say, "I felt the same way when my grandma died last year".
Avoid Acknowledgment of Feelings
Never say, "I know how you feel". You won't know what the bereaved is going through and how has the loss affected him or her. This may make the bereaved put up a false expression. It may trigger anger or an infuriated response, considering the casualty of the question. The bereaved may feel that you are mocking him by putting such a statement across.
A condolence letter should only contain positive comments that may help the grieving family to minimize the feel of their loss. If you complain or point out certain flaws about the deceased in the letter, it is bound to upset the grief-stricken family.
Do Not Share Unwanted Information
Do not mention any secrets or past instances that you know about the deceased. If you know some hidden details, then mentioning them at such times is a strict no-no. Instead, you may mention some happy memories and positive aspects of the departed soul's behavior as well as personality that was appreciated by one and all.
Do Not Go Overboard
Do not write long, preachy sentences. Don't describe details about your life and some happy events that you may be tempted to share. This is not the time for that. If you have not talked to the bereaved since a long time, you may want to share some details about your life.
You may do so keeping in mind the current scenario, and the state of mind of the bereaved. You can mention some events which you know might help cheer them up.
Other Things to Avoid Saying or Doing
► Don't mention any debts or differences that the deceased person had. Even if he owed you money, it can be brought up at a later date. Now is not the time for that.
► Don't make the grief-stricken family look at the brighter side or positive side of the situation. Don't mention about the vacation that you know the family had been planning, or the reduced medical costs that they may incur. You may want to cheer them up, however, mentioning it at this point in time may offend them.
► Expressing relief and statements like "you must be relieved that her ordeal has ended", or "she is free now, her suffering has ended", may not go down well. Though there might be some truth to these statements, the bereaved may feel guilty thinking about the situation in this way.
► Don't suggest what to do and mention other ways to come out of the emotional state that the family is going through. The bereaved may not be ready to do so. Just give it the time it needs.
The main purpose is to convey your condolences and pay respects. There are many ways in which you can express your condolences. You can share happy memories and positive aspects of the deceased personality which you admired. Be honest and genuinely express what you feel.
Assure the relatives of your support, and be compassionate and understanding. If you write from your heart, it will fulfill the main purpose of lifting the spirits of the bereaved, and make them feel better so as to face this inevitable occurrence in life.