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Condolence notes: what to say

Condolence notes: what to say

What to say or write when a friend is mourning a death? Kathleen O’Brien discusses the question of condolence notes at Religion New Service

As we go through life, most of us manage to acquire some small measure of expertise about daily living. In general, the more times we’ve had to undertake a task, the better we get at it.

Yet in this one area, we are all fumbling newbies, approaching every funeral as if it were our first. We think about what we could possibly say at the funeral home, or what we’ll write on the Facebook tribute page — and words fail us.

I’ve gradually learned to fight the urge to try to make those in pain feel better.

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How do you express yourself on these occasions?


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Don Burr

Like the time the hospital chaplain (I am one at a different hospital) told me–as my nephews, sister-in-law, siblings, and I were standing over my brother’s fifty-year-old dead body in the ER (after he was struck and killed in a highway hit and run–that because I was the youngest of of seven children, that “God must have felt there was one too many of us”. No, really, he did say that to me. Luckily my nephews did not hear him.


FWIW, what I’ve learned:

– It must be awful. I know I can’t begin to imagine how sad and grieving you are right now.

– Here are some of my favorite loving memories of the one you lost, memories I hope in time will give you strength and comfort.

– Here is how and why I can imagine this person dearly loved and cherished and appreciated you.

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