I have a box in my closet, black and white, with flowers laced through. It is a beautiful, unlabeled box. I keep it there most of the time, quietly shelved away.
It holds the cards – the myriad of sympathy cards, brief words, scriptures, stories, prayers: love outpoured on the written page. Some people who have written know me well. Some knew me well years ago; others walk with me on this path right now. Some do not know me at all but rather knew my Daddy.
I know, I know.
Writing sympathy cards is difficult. Awkward. Heavy.
Maybe you haven’t lost someone – or at least someone close.
Maybe you think you’ve “passed the window” for sending a card.
Maybe you think that nothing you say will be helpful.
Maybe you don’t want to “bring up” that pain again.
But as someone who has lost someone I deeply love, please allow me to say:
Receiving cards is so meaningful. So powerful. So heart strengthening.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”
Perhaps not everyone is like me. But I do think that sending a card (or a text or a facebook message) is not just meaningful but one of many ways of showing comfort to someone who is grieving.
If you want to send a card and aren’t really sure how, here are some things I have found to be particularly encouraging:
Don’t worry about the timing
Just because the initial window has passed does not mean that grieving, sorrow and hurt is past. Just because a person is “functioning” or participating in life and their old activities doesn’t mean that they aren’t still missing that person. It’s in those hard, quiet, by ourselves moments that a thoughtfully written card can be just the words we need to hear (or read).
Share a memory
I have been so richly blessed with memories, stories and tributes that people have shared of my dad. Whether they knew him intimately or met him in passing, sharing the part of him they knew is such a beautiful gift for me. That shared memory is a treasure I can tuck away in my heart – but it also helps me to know I am not alone – not just in missing my Dad but in renewing those relationships with those around me.
Tell them you pray for them
Sometimes, we feel a desperation for practical service. We hate to see people we love who are hurting – and so we want to DO something.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me, doing is an incredible blessing (I think with both amazement and humility of the many hands that have helped and served and given me things my family needed).
Yet, when we bring our brothers and sisters before the throne of God Himself, we beseech the very best Comforter to help the hurting. “I’m praying for you” is a simple phrase but it is one that is filled with beauty and great power because of the one we pray to.
Write out a Scripture
I think sometimes, we are overwhelmed with not knowing what to say. We might think, “I wish I could say something to make it better” or “there are no words.” We feel the pressure of saying something – imparting something wise and gracious. Giving something.
But really, there is nothing you or I can say to make the pain “better.”
Heaven is what makes loss and grief, heartache and trials (and all the rest of what makes earthly life hard) better. God is the one who eases the ache in the heart.
So, if you feel like you’re not sure what to say, find something that God said . Find a Scripture that speaks to those mourning or hurting and write it out. Though the person may have read the words before, they gain power in the freshness and the weight of this new loss. That person isn’t expecting your words to fix the ache in their heart but scripture always helps.
Writing that sympathy card (or text or message) may be hard and awkward. But there is great blessing and love in reaching out to those who are grieving. And one day, you, too, may be blessed by the same comfort.