Supporting a family in mourning when you can’t be near them is possible even in times when your movement and travel may be restricted or you are simply unable to see your family. The rules on expressing your condolences haven’t changed from the tried and true.
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If you’re wondering, “What can I do for a family mourning from a long distance?” there are plenty of ways to show someone you care. You can support someone who’s grieving from far away solely with the words you say. You can also take certain actions from where you live to help them get through this tough time.
How to Show Support With Your Words
When you express sympathy and condolences to others after suffering a loss, you’re showing them kindness and that you support them through their grief and sorrow. Many people are uncomfortable with reaching out after the death of a loved one because they don’t know what to say.
Fear of not knowing what to say or saying nothing at all can build an unspoken resentment and tension from the person who’s just experienced the death of their loved one. It’s very easy to avoid this from happening to you. The following are some ways to help show your love and support even when it can feel difficult for you to find the right words to say:
1. Send a card
Sympathy messages go a long way in showing someone you love and care for them. Even if you’re not that gifted in expressing your condolences, there are many condolence or sympathy cards available that’ll convey a beautiful message for you. Some of the more common words of sympathy are:
- “Sorry for your loss.”
- “My deepest sympathies for your loss.”
- “I’m saddened to hear about the loss of your [family member].”
- “My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.”
- “May your heart and soul find peace and comfort.”
Many of these sympathy phrases can come pre-printed on the card. You can close the card by signing it at the bottom with a short phrase similar to the ones below.
- “With sympathy”
- “My deepest condolences”
- “Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers”
- “Thinking of you”
- “With heartfelt condolences”
2. Write a letter
Writing a personalized letter and sending it in the mail is almost unheard of nowadays. Most modern communication is conducted by text messaging on a smartphone or other electronic devices. Society has shifted from sending and receiving physical mail through the U.S. Postal Service to sending electronic mail.
These changes have contributed to the dying art form of penning a letter to someone, which continue to be tangible pieces of memory people can keep. If you’re at all nostalgic, you might want to handwrite a letter to your loved ones to express your condolences. They'll be happy to receive it and may hold on to it for years to come.
3. Write a poem
Feelings of sympathy may sometimes be hard to convey in words. Sometimes it's difficult to communicate the pain and sorrow you're feeling without some outside help.
Poetry is a unique way of conveying sympathy for a loss. Whether you write an original poem or borrow from one from the classics, your loved ones will appreciate your thoughtfulness, love, and support.
Below is an example of a popular sympathy poem in the form of an Irish blessing:
May you see God's light on the path ahead
When the road you walk is dark.
May you always hear,
Even in your hour of sorrow,
The gentle singing of the lark.
When times are hard may hardness
Never turn your heart to stone,
May you always remember
when the shadows fall—
You do not walk alone.
- Irish Blessing
4. Make a phone call
In today’s society, some people might be more comfortable with sending a text message rather than calling on the phone. In some cases, we’ve gotten used to the idea that it’s okay to just text someone even when it’s to express condolences.
But sometimes, texting can be an impersonal way to communicate with someone who’s close to you that has suffered a loss. When you place a phone call to your loved one, you’re allowing the warmth of your voice and your words to soothe and console the person on the other end. This is something that may very much be needed at such a difficult time. Consider calling instead of texting whenever possible.
5. Set up a memorial page
Helping to set up an online memorial page can take the pressure off from your loved ones of having to do this themselves. With permission, you can help organize a page that allows others to visit and get more information, leave sympathy messages, and openly express what their loved one meant to them.
You can offer to moderate it for them until they are ready to take it over.
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6. Give a short eulogy
Online social media and other tools have made it easy for you to communicate with others even when far away. Apps like Zoom, Messenger, and FaceTime allow you to hold video conferencing with a group of people at the same time.
This is a perfect opportunity to participate in the funeral or memorial service. Consider asking the family if you can give a short eulogy in remembrance of the deceased.
How to Show Support With Your Actions
If you’re thinking that words aren’t enough and you want to do a bit more to show your support, there are ways of doing this even if you’re on a limited budget. The following are ways in which you can show your loved ones support even from a distance.
7. Send a gift
A carefully thought out gift is almost always welcome when someone has suffered a significant loss. Conduct an online search for some unique sympathy gift ideas to see what you think would be most welcome on the receiving end.
Some gift ideas are:
- Engraved wind chime
- Memorial garden stone or plaque
- Sympathy flowers
- Lightly scented candles
- Food delivery service
8. Give to charity
Consider a charitable donation in the name of the deceased to a charity that they’ve held close to their heart. You can also ask the family if they have a preference for charities to donate to. Sometimes, a family will opt to support a charity that’s closely related to the cause of death. Donations such as these help organizations in furthering their research to find a cure or more effective treatment.
The amount of money that you pledge or donate is entirely up to you. A suggested amount to give is $50 when a family asks for a charitable donation in place of flowers. This is the average cost of a sympathy flower bouquet.
If you want to spend more than this amount, send the amount that is most appropriate for the size of the gift or flowers you would’ve otherwise purchased. Consider sending a card to the family to advise them of your gift.
9. Set up crowdfunding
A crowdfunding account is one that’s usually set up online and promoted through social media. Its purpose is to seek donations for the financial support of someone who’s suffered a loss.
Crowdfunding means that a crowd of people gather virtually to make a collective effort to raise money. This is usually for the benefit of an individual or family who can’t afford medical or burial expenses. There are other reasons someone might want to consider crowdfunding, but in cases where there’s been a death, the most common one is to help with the final burial expenses.
10. Give financial support
The gift of money is almost always welcome and needed, especially in deaths that occurred suddenly and unexpectedly. Modern etiquette rules no longer require you to ask the family if they need financial support. A more modern approach is to use cash transfer apps such as Venmo, CashApp, or Zelle to quickly transfer money to someone without needing their permission to do so or requiring a trip to the bank to accept a wire transfer.
11. Gift a subscription
Gifting a subscription is no longer limited to magazines or newspapers. Now there’s an unlimited amount of things that you can give to someone.
This is a gift that keeps on giving for as long as the subscription lasts. Subscription sympathy gift ideas for you to consider include:
- Monthly sympathy gift box with self-care products
- Weekly meal prep delivery
- Lawn care
- Pet sitting
- Mobile auto detailing
Read our full list of digital gift ideas for more.
12. Show up
If it is possible and safe to do so, hop on an airplane or get in your car and show up. You may want to discuss your plans with your loved ones to make sure that they’re okay with receiving guests before making the trip.
Also, consider where you’ll stay. Your loved ones are probably not in the right frame of mind to receive you as a guest in their home. Look for alternative places to stay so you have choices when you get there.
Supporting Your Loved Ones Through Distance
After suffering a significant loss, you should expect that your loved ones will be grieving. The types of grief that can manifest are varied, and no two people will be grieving in the same way.
Whether you show your support through your words or actions is not what’s important when acknowledging someone’s grief. The simple act of doing so is what matters most.