Writing in a condolence book sounds easy enough but can be an extremely daunting task. Many people find themselves with writer’s block when it comes to expressing their sympathy and condolences - it is not unusual or a sign that you do not care, it is simply something we are not used to. In this article we aim to provide you with guidance on what to write in a condolence book when you are invited to do so.
A little can go a long way - It is ok not to fill a page when leaving your condolences. 2-3 lines is perfectly acceptable if you are struggling to write your thoughts. Sometimes, a little can go a long way.
Be considerate when leaving your message - You must also be considerate when writing in a condolence book. Do not use up more than 1 page of the book per entry, even if you have many memories to share. There may be many others that wish to share their thoughts and memories and they must have the opportunity to do so. If you have many memories you wish to share, maybe consider writing a separate letter to the family, they can then keep this alongside the condolence book.
The more personal the better - The family will use the condolence book to reflect on memories of their loved one and these memories will help with their grieving process. By writing a personal message about your relationship with the departed you can help support the bereaved through that process. Share a fond memory, or something you loved about their character. Before you write the message, imagine the family reading the content of the book, write something that you believe will help them, you can be positive in your message, you can even share a funny story, don’t be afraid to make them smile. These are the entries that the families will hold on to, the more personal the better.
It is not a competition - Do not compare your entry to others. No one will think badly of you for what you write inside a condolence book, so long as it comes from the heart. You should feel no judgement or pressure when writing your entry.
Take your time - Think through your entry before putting ‘pen to paper’. The most valued entries are the ones that come from the heart or share a memory. Avoid writing something for the sake of adding an entry and put your time and thought into what you are sharing.
Character - Did they have a big character? Was there something that truly stood out about them to you? Characteristics are what make us unique and individual, our character speaks volumes about who we are as a person, they define who we are. Sharing characteristics that you loved about a person can help the family reminisce and will give them a sense of pride when reading your entry.
Memories - Memories are the story that we leave behind as we journey through our lifetime. Sharing memories helps us to remember our loved ones for who they were and the stories they leave with us, as opposed to their departure. Share your stories with the family, they might learn something about their loved one from your story, it might bring up old memories for them that might otherwise have been forgotten. Don’t be afraid to make them smile. Happy memories, funny memories, heroic memories, and milestone moments are all encouraged when leaving your entry. Never share stories that will have a negative impact on the family, such as stories of conflict, sadness, or sorrow – somethings do not belong in a condolence book.
Sympathy - You may not feel that your words will make a huge difference, but your words of sympathy can be extremely supportive to the family who are going through loss. Grief is a lengthy and difficult process, but your loving words will make that process just a little easier. The family may look to your message when they are feeling alone, and your message will help them feel supported through this time.
Negative memories - Any memories that may have a negative effect on the family is a no.
Phrases such as;
‘Sandra is in a better place’ - Even though it is meant with good intent, it can be insensitive and not comforting at all to the family.
‘I know how you feel’ - These messages can upset those who are going through the grieving process. You should support their grieving process, not relate to it.
‘Things will get better’ or ‘You will be happy again’ - It is too soon for the family to imagine life without their loved ones. Especially if they have lost their spouse. This can be insensitive and can be extremely upsetting to those who are going through this difficult time.
Religious sentiments - This is a difficult subject altogether. Although you may be sharing thoughts from the heart, religious sentiments can have a negative effect on the family, especially if they do not share the sentiment. It is something to be mindful of when sharing your condolences.
The most important point we want to put across is ensure it comes from the heart, that simply is the best way you can leave a condolence message.