Sending Condolences: Hurricane Katrina

This post is about writing condolences, but first things first:

The past week has been filled with tragedy and loss for many Americans in the Southeast. If you or someone you love has been affected by the horrible events of the hurricane and its aftermath, please accept my sincere sympathy. I hope you know that people throughout the world are holding you in their hearts and minds.

Although all Americans and many people throughout the world have been touched by the disaster, some have been touched more deeply. These are people who have lost or been separated from loved ones, whose homes or businesses have been destroyed, or whose future has been turned upside down in one way or another.

For those who have experienced a profound loss, it is very helpful to hear from others. Receiving notes and calls helps to reduce isolation, loneliness, and helplessness. Yet for those outside the experience it can often be hard to know what to say to someone whose life has been changed by suffering and loss. Here are some suggestions and examples to reduce the difficulty and awkwardness.

Suggestions: Send an email or a note through regular mail. Don’t be embarrassed if you can’t think of the "right" words. Just write what you feel. Acknowledge the other person’s loss. Express your care, concern, or understanding. Close with an expression of sympathy.

Example 1.
Dear _____,

Words cannot express how sorry we are about the recent tragic events that have touched you so deeply. Your loss is huge, and we can only imagine the hurt you feel.

We want you to know that you are in our thoughts and prayers. Please accept our condolences and our hopes for your healing and renewal.

With sympathy,

Example 2:
Dear _________,

I am so sorry about the heartbreaking losses you have experienced through Hurricane Katrina. Please accept my deepest sympathy.

As you move through the difficult days and weeks ahead, you will be present in my thoughts. If there is anything I can do to ease your loss, please let me know. I would be grateful for the opportunity to help you.

With sincere sympathy,

Example 3:
Dear ____,

We are deeply sorry to learn about your losses caused by the hurricane and its terrible aftermath. Please know that we are all thinking about you and your coworkers as you piece together your lives and your work.

You have our sincere condolences.

Example 4:
Dear ____,

Talking with ______, I learned about how Hurricane Katrina has upset your plans for school [retirement, business]. I am very sorry this has happened. I know it must be extremely difficult for you and others in your situation.

I simply want you to know I am thinking of you. I wish you the best possible outcome as you navigate this very difficult time.

Sincerely,

I hope these examples are helpful in writing notes of sympathy and condolence. 

Lynn

4 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for these helpful suggestions. I am sure they can be applied also to other difficult situations that call for expressions of sympathy, when words are hard to find.

  2. Thanks for your good advice about and wonderful examples of condolence notes. Those notes are the hardest 3 lines to write.

    After a death, I am often at a loss for words, so I turn to Pat McNees’s book, Dying:A Book of Comfort. It is a collection of poems, essays and thoughts about death and grief. I have sent the book (and a note!) to countless friends after a death. Everyone thanks me, and finds something in it that provides comfort.

  3. Marilynne, thank you for recommending Pat McNees’s book. It’s wonderful that you have given it to people who could really benefit from it. Condolence messages can be read in moments, but a good book can provide lasting comfort.
    I look forward to reading it myself.

  4. Thanks for your helpful notes templates. I used one sending for condolences to a business partner.

    Thanks again
    LS

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