Communicating Condolences

I was brought up to think that writing a letter of condolence was a nice thing to do…And it is…For sure. (Way to go Mom and Dad — you got that right!)

But writing a condolence note shouldn’t be a check-the-box obligation… It shouldn’t even be a should… It should be a want.

The passing of someone’s loved one creates a window of mutually acknowledged vulnerability, intimacy and transparency that is unlike nearly any other event. It’s the humanity of the moment that lends itself to connecting on a very real, personal level.

The passing of life is something every single person has in common. It is truly a moment when we are one. It’s the perfect forum to let yourself go and let your being be. You cannot over express yourself.

Here are the couple things I’ve learned about writing a letter of condolence.

1. Go with a hand-written note. Why? Because nothing is hand written. Hand-written screams out intimacy and messages that you took a moment to sit down and write a note. No matter what kind of hieroglyphics your penmanship resembles, better to write it by hand. With that said, you can type it out before committing it to ink.

2. To the extent you need to, acknowledge the lapse in time. If you’ve fallen out of someone’s orbit, or life has simply taken hold, it’s all good. Simply acknowledge the distance and move on. “While our orbits haven’t been aligned for some time, I want to let you know that I think of you often.”

3. Here are some other questions to prompt you: What did that person mean to you? What morsel of goodness or energy did they bake into your being? How did they make you feel? What about them still makes you smile?

4. If there’s a moment — a photograph burned into your memory — describe it. Explain what it means to you. And why you hold it so dear.

5. Life goes on…And as you move forward, ask yourself the following: What element of their spirit will you carry onward? In what way have they altered the trajectory of your life? Perhaps it’s only by example… A template to do good, be good or to simply smile. Whatever it is, express it… There is something therapeutic about simply extracting it from your mind and putting it out into the universe.

Each and every one of us has a fixed number of days — that’s the way this thing works. And by expressing how we embrace all that has been given to us, we not only give a gift to someone else…but to ourselves as well.