The importance of sending sympathy cards
WHEN someone passes away, a good way to express your condolences is by sending a sympathy card, even if you didn’t personally know the deceased.
It may be difficult to know who to send the card to or what is acceptable, but here are some ideas that will help you.
Why send a card?
If you are wondering whether or not to send a card, although it varies from one country to another, amongst expats living in Spain, the answer would be yes.
You can of course send a text to the family of the deceased as soon as you learn of their passing, but make sure that you pick out and send a sympathy card too if you really want to show them that you care.
It may not seem like something important, but receiving a text message sent from a phone, while appreciated, will not touch the family of the deceased in the same way as if you buy or make a card and take the time to write a message by hand and then deliver it. Now more than ever, when it so easy just to text, a sympathy card will really show that you care.
It is also something than can be displayed in the home as a reminder of people’s support and be read repeatedly, providing a source of lasting comfort.
Who should it be addressed to?
If you are unsure to whom you should address the card, then the best thing to do is to send it to follow this guide:
If you knew the deceased personally, then send your card to their closest living relative, for example their husband, wife or partner, or their eldest child.
If your friend or relative has lost someone close to them, then write to them directly, whether or not you knew the deceased personally.
In either case, you can add “and family” to your sympathy note.
Although in modern times, taking time out of our busy schedules to get a card, write a note and send or deliver it, you should get this done as soon as you can after you learn of someone’s death, even if you have already sent them a text message.
Same sentiment, different words
When you are sending a card to express your condolences take into account that religion plays an important factor, and while the bereaved will be grateful for your gesture whatever their beliefs, it is important to word your card carefully.
If the person is Christian or Jewish, they may appreciate a relevant quote from the Bible or Torah in their time of suffering, and there are many to choose from, but it is equally acceptable to write a personal message of condolence with no reference to religion.
Likewise, although it is not traditional Muslim families will appreciate a sympathy note from non-Muslim friends, but generally speaking they will expect it to have some content from the Koran or a reference to Allah. If you are unsure of what to write, acceptable quotes include: May Allah give him/her an easy and pleasant journey and shower blessings on their grave or May Allah grant him/her eternal peace.
If you are sending your condolences to Buddhists, be aware not to mention heaven, and instead you can speak of their spirit, kindness and wisdom, as well as the use of appropriate quotes from Buddha, such as “To walk safely through the maze of human life, one needs the light of wisdom and the guidance of virtue.”
Sending your sympathies to Hindus must not include phrases such as Rest in Peace, as they believe in reincarnation. The correct thing to say is Om Shanti, and to speak of the eternity of the Spirit. A nice quote along those lines is “The Spirit is neither born nor does it die at any time. It does not come into being or cease to exist. It is unborn, eternal, permanent, and primeval. The Spirit is not destroyed when the body is destroyed.”
If you are purchasing a card to send, obviously be aware that what may seem appropriate to people from one religion is most definitely not appropriate for others. Flowers are always a safe option.
Should I send money?
Another thing you might be considering is whether you should put money in a sympathy card.
This is tricky, because although you do not want the family to be offended, in many cases a monetary gift may be just what they need to help with the expenses of the funeral, although people will often ask for this ‘in lieu of flowers’.
If the deceased was the main earner in the family, and especially if they have small children, it could be appreciated, as it will be if they are on a fixed income.
Older people are more likely to have a funeral plan in place, whereas if the deceased is younger, they may not have had the time to do so, especially if the death is sudden.
If you choose to give money, the amount depends on what you can afford, the needs of the family and your relationship with them.
In your card, be respectful and let them know that it is a way to show your support and that you would like them to use it in the way they need most. If they plan to use any monetary gifts to donate to a specific charity, they will probably have made this clear beforehand.