Sunday, February 17, 2008

How to Write a Condolence Note or Send a Sympathy Card

Sending of sympathy cards links people together and reinforces a sense of community and solidarity in the wake of the calamity of death.

Charles Lippy
Sympathy Cards & the Grief Process

When to Send a Sympathy Card
There may be situations and circumstances when it is preferable to express your sympathy in a short condolence note or selecting sending a beautiful sympathy card to send with a note.
Used correctly a Condolence Notes or Sympathy Cards is a way to quickly acknowledge a loss.

In these situations you can write a brief personal note on commercial condolence card or insert a brief hand-written note into a hand-crafted card. It is recommended that you follow up the short note with a condolence letter later.

Sending Sympathy Cards - Popular for Condolences in the U.S.
According to research by Hallmark, Americans send nearly 125 million sympathy cards annually. Sympathy cards are a simple gesture of support that provide meaning to both senders and receivers.
Sympathy Cards and Condolence Notes are very popular in the United States more so than in other countries.

You can find out more about How to Write a Condolence Note in the article that I just recently published on the topic.

More Information:
Dyer K. 2008. How to Write a Condolence Note.

Prior Blog Posts:
Dyer K. 2008. How to Write a Condolence Letter. Grief, Loss & Transitions Blog.

Image Source:
Elaine Broskie.
Sympathy Card. Some Rights Reserved. Creative Commons.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Coping with Sudden Death - A Series of Recent School Shootings

In the past few weeks we've seen another series of school shootings in California, Florida and now in Illinois. Friends, Family, Schools are left trying to figure out how to help the survivors cope with these sudden traumatic losses.

The Sudden Death Shatters Our World in an Instant

A sudden death is one that occurs without any forewarning; it is unanticipated.

A traumatic death, in addition to being sudden, can also be violent, mutilating or destructive; the traumatic death can be random and/or preventable or may involve many deaths.

The sudden, accidental, unexpected or traumatic death shatters the world as we know it. It is often a loss that does not make any sense.

In an instance life is forever changed. Survivors (those left behind) are left with the knowledge that life is not always fair and that sometimes bad things happen to good people. The sudden, traumatic death leaves the survivors feeling shaken, unsure and vulnerable.

Each type of sudden loss, whether a shooting, a heart attack, a car accident or a terrorist attack, leaves survivors bereaved, dazed and vulnerable trying to make sense out of the insensible loss. As survivors of sudden or traumatic death begin to process the loss, they experience a grief response.

After a Sudden Loss - Focus on the Basics

When facing the aftermath of a sudden death, it is important for the survivor to take care of him/herself following a sudden loss by focusing on the basics the body needs for day-to-day survival:
  • Maintain a normal routine. Even if it is difficult to do regular activities, try to anyway.
  • Putting more structure into a daily routine will help one to feel more in control.
  • Get enough sleep, at least plenty of rest.
  • It may be helpful to keep lists, write notes, or keep a schedule.
  • Try and get some regular exercise. This can help relieve stress and tension.
  • Keep a balanced diet. Watch out for junk food, or high calorie comfort food binges.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. Alcohol should not be used as a way of masking the pain.
  • Do what comforts, sustains and recharges you.
  • Remember other difficult times and how you have survived them. Draw upon the inner strength.
  • Take it one hour at a time, one day at a time.
The Unanswerable Whys

Following a traumatic death or sudden loss, people are left wondering "Why?" It is difficult to find a good answer to this unanswerable question.

When faced with the unanswerable “Why” in the past, I have found the thoughts of Rabbi Earl Grollman on this topic to be very helpful in coping with this most difficult question. He says:

“Why must life be one of sorrow?” “Why?” There are no pat answers. No one completely understands the mysteries of life. Even if the question were answered, would your pain be eased?

There is no satisfactory response for an unresolvable dilemma. Not all questions have complete answers. “Unanswered Why's” are a part of life. The search may continue, but the real question might be “How [do I] pick up the pieces and go on living as meaningful as possible?”

Dyer KA. 2002. Dealing with Sudden, Accidental or Traumatic Death. Journey of Hearts.

Dyer KA. 2001. 9-11: United in Courage & Grief. Ways of Coping then Helping. Journey of Hearts.
Dyer KA. 2001. 9-11: United in Courage & Grief. Why does my heart Feel so bad? Journey of Hearts.
Grollman RA. Why? Journeys Newsletter. Washington D.C.: Hospice Foundation of America, March 2001, p. 3.

Image Source: Broken Egg. Modified Microsoft Image.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Virtual Hug for You on Valentine's Day... Pass it On

Sometimes, a hug is all that we need.

Juan Mann

Valentine's Day can be difficult for those who are single and for those who are newly single. In previous blogs this week, Coping with Valentine's Day as a Single I shared some ways of coping with the holiday.

Another way of coping is to brighten someone's day by sharing a hug.

The Free Hugs Campaign
The Free Hugs Campaign began as one person's attempt to make a difference and reach out to others to brighten their lives. Read about his experiences with starting the Free Hugs Campaign.
The first person who stopped, tapped me on the shoulder and told me how her dog had just died that morning. How that morning had been the one year anniversary of her only daughter dying in a car accident. How what she needed now, when she felt most alone in the world, was a hug. I got down on one knee, we put our arms around each other and when we parted, she was smiling.
A simple gesture, a hug made all the difference for that woman who was grieving two losses. Watch the Video and be inspired:

Enjoy a Virtual Hug on Valentine's Day
In honor of Valentine's Day, I am posting a Virtual Hug. Here's Your Online Hug:
    ((( Hug )))

Be sure to pass on the Hug to someone else. Remember that

You can't give a hug without getting a hug in return.

I wish you a hug and a smile for this sometimes difficult day.

Dyer K. 2007. Free Hugs Campaign.
Dyer K. September 2007. The Gift of Touch - Quote on Hug (Touch) Therapy. Grief, Loss & Transitions Blog.
Dyer K. September 2007. Grief, Loss & Transitions Blog.
Dyer K. February 2008. A Cleansing, Healing Candle Burning Ceremony.Grief, Loss & Transitions Blog.
Dyer K. February 2008.
Coping with Valentine's Day as a Single. Grief, Loss & Transitions Blog.
Dyer K. Ways of Coping with Valentine's Day. Condolence & Sympathy Section. Journey of Hearts.

Image Source:
Comfort Hug. © 2002 Kirsti A. Dyer, the Violet Heart Collection.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Be Inspired by A Knock at the Door

"A Knock at the Door" was created as a love letter to your Inner Child. It was written for the dreamers of the world, those who still believe in magic and in miracles.

This mini-film is a beautiful empowering message for any young girl to believe in herself, in her imagination and in her dreams. It is also an empowering, inspiring and healing message to those of use who are a bit older.

Be Inspired and Watch the Love Letter for Your Inner Child:

"A Knock at the Door" Inspiring People Around the World
"A Knock at the Door" the 5-minute mini-film was created by Angi Sullins and Silas Toball as a fairy tale to inspire artists and dreamers. Since 2004 this mini-film has circled the globe via weblinks and emails and has been seen by over 1,000,000 viewers, inspiring those who view it.

For More Information and to order the Knock at the Door Book and DVD see the lens that I created A Knock at the Door - An Inspirational Mini-Film and Book - A Fairy Tale

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Cleansing, Healing Candle Burning Ceremony

I was inspired by the post yesterday on Coping with Valentine's Day as a Single and remembering the cleansing Valentine's Burning Ritual (Boyfriend burning bonfire) conducted by Phoebe for Monica and Rachel to help them deal with the holiday.

I went in search to find a positive, healing candle burning ritual and remembered that I had created on for my friends several years ago. This would work for Valentine's Day, when you are coping w
ith a break-up or divorce. It would also work for any time that you would like to clear out the cobwebs of the past or manage a transition.

To do the candle ceremony yourself, read through the text, decide which passages you would like to use. Get the corresponding number of candles then recite the passages as you light the candle.

A Cleansing, Healing Candle Burning Ceremony

On this day…

I light a candle for harmony and transformation

so that past regrets, disappointments and losses no longer consume me.

I light a candle for understanding and compassion for all of humankind

for those who love me and for those who do not.

I light a candle for healing and cleansing my mind, body and spirit

so that my past no longer hides the wondrous essence of who I am.

On this day…

I light a candle for the insight to make wise decisions,

so that I can look to the future without regret.

I light a candle for the ability to confidently accomplish what is possible

and find the courage to accept whatever is beyond my control.

I light a candle for illumination to find my way through the darkness

and to light the way for others struggling in their own darkness.

On this day…

I light a candle for all of my hopes, wishes and dreams

and my abiding faith in believing they will come true.

I light a candle for empowerment and kindness

so that my heart is filled with light, love and happiness.

I light a candle for determination and strength

so that I can proceed on my life’s journey

in harmony and happiness with hope and a peaceful heart.

© 2000. Kirsti A. Dyer, MD, MS

This blessing was created as part of a Holiday Ceremony for two of my dear friends to help them find hope and love for the New Year. It was inspired by a poem written by Francesca Lindquist "Light a Candle of Hope" many years ago originally available at the Hope for Infertility Website.

For More about the Benefits of Candle Ceremonies see the World Candle Lighting Lens on Squidoo.

Image Source: Modified Microsoft Images.

Coping with Valentine's Day as a Single

For many, many of my adult years, Valentine's Day was a harsh reminder and a reality check of the absence of someone special in my life.

As a medical student and resident physician in training, I found it difficult to see the nursing staff and married student's getting special flowers from that "Special Someone."

I would spend many a day and night wondering, when or if, I would ever find someone. (I met my husband when we were both 36.)

Valentines - Harder for the Single Female?
Perhaps because of the Valentine Marketing that now appears soon after Christmas and the many pressures placed on women to be part of a "couple," Valentine's Day is harder for the single female and the newly single female.

These feelings were depicted on a classic "Friends" episode from the first season, where Phoebe leads Monica and Rachel on a cleansing Valentine's Burning Ritual (Boyfriend burning bonfire) to help them deal with the holiday. Their ritual goes awry and the fire department (with male fire fighters) respond.

Suggestions for Coping with Valentine's Day as a Single

  • Have a burning ritual, but make it a positive, cleansing one--getting rid of the old, to let in the new. Be fire aware.
  • Listen to your favorite uplifting music.
  • Light a candle.
  • Read an inspiring poem (not necessarily a love poem).
  • Take a minute to list everything you have to be grateful for, and focus on living life with gratitude.
  • Plan a special day just for you.
  • Give yourself a special spa day.
  • Go to a funny (non-romantic) movie.
  • Get your hair or nails done.
  • Give yourself the time to read the book, magazine that you've been wanting to read.
  • Watch the inspirational short mini-film, A Knock at the Door.
  • Plan a distraction, such as a weekend away or a visit with single friends or supportive relatives.
  • Create a new tradition.
  • Go on a lovely hike. Practice some nature therapy. Getting out in nature can be very uplifting.
  • Take a girlfriend out to Tea.
  • Remember that Life is still worthwhile if you just Smile.
  • Do something nice for someone else - thinking of others when you are feeling down is a great way to lift your spirits.

Suggestions for Coping with Valentine's Day When You're Newly Single

Valentine's Day is also a difficult day for those who are newly single, those who have lost that special someone, due to breakups, divorce and especially death. As with Christmas. Birthday's and Anniversaries, Valentine's Day can be another of the painful 'trigger' days that bring back the old memories.

Some helpful coping strategies for making it through the day include:
  • Take time to relax.
  • Focus on yourself and take care of your health.
  • Make time to attend to the needs of family, especially children.
  • Find someone to talk to about how you are feel.
  • Focus on good times you shared with your loved one, rather than the loss.
  • Pretend it is an ordinary, regular day.
  • Find a way of celebrating (or not) that will be the most meaningful for you.
  • If you need to take a look at other healthy ways of coping with grief.
Look over the list of suggestions for Coping with Valentine's Day as a Single and find one that sounds like it would be a good way to celebrate the day.

Dyer K. Ways of Coping with Valentine's Day. Condolence & Sympathy Section. Journey of Hearts.
Dyer K. Anniversary Reaction - When Remembering Isn't Always a Happy Occasion.
Dyer K. Life is still worthwhile if you just smile - An Inspirational Song by Josh Groban. August 2007. Grief, Loss & Transitions Blog.

Image Source:
Sarah Williams.
Brokenheart. Royalty Free Use.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

How to Write a Condolence Letter

Finding the right words to write a condolence letter or sympathy note may be challenging, yet the benefits can be immeasurable especially for the recipient.

Many people don't realize the importance of Sympathy Letters until they have been on the receiving end and greatly appreciate the hand-written condolences.

A well-written, heart-felt condolence letter is a simple way to show your support and sympathy for the person grieving the death of a loved one.

Find out more about How to Write a Condolence Letter in the article that I have recently published on the topic.

Image Source: Nadya Smolskaya. In Closing. Used with Permission.