"To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart." ~ Phyllis Theroux 

How many times have you sat, pen poised, not knowing what on earth to write in the card? You want it to be poignant and look as though you put a lot of thought into it. But you are so upset, your mind has gone blank. And remember, there's no actual deadline date. You may find out about a death months later. Late is definitely better than never.

Firstly, relax, and see if any of these tips help. Just remember that as long as your message is from the heart, it will be appreciated.

Don't be afraid to use the name of the person who has died, or to include your personal reminiscences about him or her. The bereaved will want to forget the pain of the loss, but they won't ever want to forget the person they have lost. Even if reminiscences are painful to read at first, hearing about the thoughtful or funny things our loved ones did that made someone's day a little brighter or easier help keep their memory alive. So humorous anecdotes and stories are welcome, along with serious ones (as long as they're in good taste).

If you don't know either the deceased or the bereaved person well - keep your message simple with something like "Thinking of you and wishing you comfort in your memories," or "My deepest sympathies are with you on your loss." If you know the bereaved person well but did not know their loved one who has died, it's good to personalize your note by saying something like "I know how much you loved your grandma, and from what you've said, she must have been a remarkable woman. I hope that knowing how special she was will be a comfort to you."

If you were close to the deceased but did not know his or her family, you may wish to mention how you knew their lost loved one when you write. Share a favorite anecdote or tell the story of how you met - the family will appreciate knowing more about another aspect of their loved one's life.

Many families ask for contributions to a favorite charity of the person who has died. If you plan to make a donation or have already done so, you can mention this in your sympathy card. If you have a spare copy of a favorite photo of the deceased, include it with your note. The family may not have seen the photo, and they will be grateful to have it.

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