Writing Condolence Letters
My father was a Man of Letters. During his years at Princeton, he was head of the Press Club where he was able to supplement his scholarship money by reporting on Ivy League sports to the NY Herald Tribune and the Associated Press. He served as a combat correspondent in the Marine Corps during World War II. He carried a rifle and a typewriter in the invasions of Saipan and Titian and spent three days in a raft after his ship was hit by a kamikaze.
I remember when he came home. He got off the train in Poughkeepsie in his uniform. I looked up at him and said, “Where
have you been all my life?” The family story remembers this as a delightful and charming greeting from a 5-year-old daughter. It took me years to unravel the unacknowledged ABANDONMENT I was expressing.
Father Wrote Letters
His writing and the click, clack, clanking of his manual typewriter was always part of my relationship with my father. Even before I left home for boarding school, he would leave outside my bedroom door with descriptions of how disappointed in me he was and his directives of how he expected me to improve.
As I became an adult, he seemed to be trying to make up for his harsh parenting. Some of my confrontations of him, as I went through my own journey of therapy and healing, must have gotten through his formal and reserved facade.
As I think about him now, several years after his death, the unique notes and letters written on his manual typewriter are charming reminders of his clipping service. He sent me articles that he thought I would enjoy and warm personal notes of encouragement. A letter written on a manual typewriter received today, is as distinctive as a handwritten one.
Condolence Letters on a Typewriter
As my experience with receiving letters from my father transformed from painful to heart-warming, I honor his memory by writing handwritten notes as often as possible. There was a study done recently about the things that bring pleasure it our hectic “tech” filled life, near the top of the list is a handwritten letter.
Condolence letters are often the only ones that we write these days, and many people find them too difficult to tackle. After saying how sorry you are to hear of the death, use the person’s name. My thought is to name what happened, no euphemisms. Then add a positive memory, particularly if the person who died taught you something or did something that you admire. Avoid anything that gives false hope or says that you know what they are going through!
Always include a handwritten note. Remember that blank cards with your personal words are more thoughtful than those anonymously written at Hallmark. You do not have to be perfect.
Writing Condolence Letters Can Heal You
Here is a three-step process for my condolence letter:
#1 I am sad/shocked to learn of the death of _________________.
#2 I will always remember ______ and the day he/she _________________.
#3 I send you thoughts/prayers that your journey of healing be gentle.
Sympathy notes immediately after a death are wonderful, but the process of grieving goes on. Notes one month, six months, one year and longer are important to let people know that you REMEMBER and are sending love and support.
Here is my two-step process for writing condolence notes several months after the loss:
#1 Today as I was ___________, I thought/dreamed about __________.
#2 I will always remember ______________________________________.
The amazing thing is that for every note that you write to someone who has had a loss, YOU will be healing your own losses. It is automatic, works 100% of the time. It is spiritual law. Try it out for yourself. Anything from the heart works and it works both ways.
To read more on coping with major loss: https://www.opentohope.com/setting-grief-healing-goals/
See Barbara Redfield speak: Life Without My Dad | MNN