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Ways to express sympathy during COVID-19 March 24, 2020

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Has someone you know lost a loved one, but you’re unable to attend the visitation or funeral due to COVID-19 restrictions and/or guidelines? Do you feel bad about not being there for someone you care about? We all want to be able to give that hug and demonstrate to the family we care, but the restrictions put in place as well as concern for everyones health makes this hard to do.

You want to support the family who is grieving but, the problem is, how? Families who have suffered a loss during this pandemic will most like understand these uncertain times are changing how people who care about them can reach out to them. Below is a list of suggested actions that you could take to express your sympathy and let someone you care about know you are thinking about them during their time of loss.

Send a Sympathy Card
One of the best ways to show how much you care and offer your condolences is to send a well thought out sympathy card with a heartfelt condolence message. It doesn’t have to be long. In fact, a short, simple note with two or three sentences letting those who are in mourning know that you’re thinking of them can provide quite a bit of comfort.

If you can, end it with the promise of a phone call or visit, but make sure it’s something you can follow through with.

Send food to the family    

It’s difficult enough to have to deal with grief, so many people either don’t have time to cook or think about eating after a loved one passes away. Maybe they haven’t had a chance to get to the grocery. Send a meal, a tray of vegetables and cold cuts, a breakfast casserole or even a grocery bag dropped off outside the front door filled with the ingredients to make a meal. Be sure someone will be home to receive the food and be conscientious of social distancing.

Be thoughtful of the people you’re taking/sending food for. Make sure it’s something they like, and if you don’t know, you can ask. In order to make the process as easy as possible, don’t use a dish or pan that you want them to return. Instead, use disposable products or offer the platter or bowl as a gift. Make it clear that they don’t have to return it.                                                                                    

Send Flowers or a Plant
Most people appreciate flowers that they can take home later or place on the gravesite after the funeral. Another option is to send a live plant or tree that can be placed in the ground in honor of the deceased. If you have the time and money, you can have a small plaque engraved with the message “In honor of (name of deceased)” to place by the plant.

Donate to a Cause
Many times a family asks for a memorial donation to a cause instead of flowers, so it’s a good idea to honor this request. You can usually find these types of requests in the obituary. Perhaps the deceased had a passion for a certain charity or an illness that has a research foundation. There may be a trust fund for dependent children. Whatever the cause, it’s another way to let a family know you are thinking of them. No amount of donation is too small. Most organizations will notify the family that a donation has been made to them in memory of the deceased.

Sign a Virtual Guestbook
Many funeral homes provide an online service for friends and family members to sign and offer their condolences. Find out if this is available and sign it as soon as you’re able to. Surviving family members often find comfort in the messages, and having it available online gives all of them an opportunity to go back and read people’s thoughts and sentiments.

Follow Up Later
The week or two following the funeral typically goes by in a blur for the surviving family members. Then suddenly, all the visits, calls, and cards may stop, leaving them to feel alone and confused about what to do next. This is a good time to make that phone call.

Send a Gift Card
Most surviving family members will appreciate a gift card to a favorite restaurant that is offering carryout or delivery. If you can’t afford it alone, there is nothing wrong with getting a bunch of friends or coworkers to go in on it with you.

Phone Call
If possible, reach out to the family through a good old fashion phone call. When doing this, be sure to keep the conversation meaningful and the focus on the family that is grieving.

Social Media
In some cases, because of the various restrictions/guidelines in place due to COVID-19, Social Media may be the only option available to you to show your sympathy. Only use this option if the family has publicly announced the passing of their loved one on social media. If they have, you can then write a condolence message to them.

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