Staying Connected: Using Technology to Send Condolence Gifts and Messages
When a coworker, friend, or relative loses a loved one, it is important to reach out and offer your condolences. However, let’s be honest. If you haven’t lost a loved one, or had much practice offering condolences, it can leave you feeling uncertain how best to proceed with genuine sympathy. Sometimes we can be so afraid we’ll “say the wrong thing” that we end up saying nothing at all. This blog will help you navigate how best to offer condolences both in person and using technology in this digital age. No matter the method, don’t lose an opportunity to encourage the grieving individual and let them know you care about them and are aware of their loss.
Understanding Condolences in the Digital Age
Condolence simply means an expression of sympathy, especially on the occasion of a death. The manner in which we offer condolences has obviously shifted as so much of life itself has with the advancement of the digital age. While a mailed sympathy card is always a kind gesture, there are numerous other ways to send condolences digitally. Whether it’s via email, text or online forum, digital condolences are immediate. A video call can happen at any moment if the two parties are available. Let’s dive into how you can best use technology to encourage a friend walking through loss.
Virtual Condolence Messages
The age old adage “It’s the thought that counts,” continually rings true. The manner in which you offer your sympathies is less important than the heartfelt intent to comfort that’s behind it. Digital methods could include an email, a text (maybe skip the emojis, though), a phone call, sympathy e-cards or even posting a comment via social media channels. Make sure to also check the death announcement. A lot of funeral homes offer an online forum for friends and family to post their condolences. Those pages stay active for quite some time after the loss allowing family to go back and read through comments if they like. This Martha Stewart article has a few tips when crafting a condolence message:
- Focus on the Individual - this is about *their* loss, not yours
- Be Specific - share a memory you have of the deceased if possible or offer a specific way in which you can offer to help
- Avoid Platitudes - No one needs to hear “At least…” or “Maybe this is for the best…” right now
- Don’t Worry About Delayed Condolences - It’s never “too late” to offer support and love
An important note, if the family hasn’t announced the death on social media, do not write in a public setting and offer condolences. Personal messages are fine, but be respectful of their privacy and timeline in sharing the loss with others. Also avoid discussing the specifics of how the person died.
Another option to offering condolences is through a brief video message. This is a great way to communicate your support and allow them to watch it when they have time. Often, the days after a death are chaotic with funeral planning and other arrangements. Sending a short heartfelt video message can communicate that you are thinking about the person and didn’t want them to feel the pressure to answer a video call or phone call if they weren’t feeling up to it. The same tips for written messages apply to video ones. Keep in mind file size and format limitations. Dropbox or Whatsapp can be helpful in some situations. One added benefit to a video message is the recipient can rewatch it numerous times, especially if it is particularly encouraging or includes a thoughtful anecdote about the deceased. If you are a person of faith and know it would be welcomed, you could also include a prayer in your message.
Digital condolence messages can be just as thoughtful as a written card. Here is a great example of a kind and simple text I got from a good friend after my father’s unexpected death. It didn’t require anything from me, and let me know I was being thought of and prayed for.
Virtual Condolence Gifts
Condolence gifts are never required but would certainly be appreciated. In our age of fast affordable shipping and digital gift options, there is no shortage of possibilities when sending a virtual condolence gift. Sympathy gifts could be:
1. Online flowers and bouquets - If you want to send something ahead of the funeral, consider shopping local and finding a florist in whatever city or town the service will be held. Some florists have great websites, while others might be best served by a phone call. Another option is Farmgirl Flowers. Their bouquets are gorgeous and I’ve personally been on the receiving end of a sympathy gift of stems that was lovely.
2. Charitable donations - This is truly a gift that can make a difference. Some death announcements include a suggested charitable donation. It’s a good rule of thumb to honor the family’s wishes in this regard. If nothing is listed, think about the deceased and a cause they were passionate about.
3. E-gift cards - Gift cards can feel impersonal and trite; however practical they may be. But don’t let that stop you from sending one if you think it could be helpful to the family. You can up the personalization factor by thinking about what the recipient might need. A family might appreciate a Publix grocery gift card (shout out for all the readers in the South! If you know, you know ;) to grab an easy dinner one night. A gift card to a nice local coffee shop could be accompanied with a note that says, “Wish I could take you out for coffee and sit with you. Know that I’m sending love and caffeine from afar. So sorry for your loss.”
4. Remembrances Gifts - These items can easily become cherished keepsakes for years to come. Whether you choose a Shining Bright Birthday Candle, Custom Engraved Photo Frame, or one of the many Christmas ornaments, these thoughtful and personalized sympathy gifts are beautiful and special. Remember, every Laurelbox comes with signature packaging as well as a complimentary personalized notecard.
In this digital age, there are countless ways to send condolences to a colleague, friend, or family member. Whether it’s a video call, email, Facebook message, virtual sympathy card or condolence gift, the list is endless. If your main hesitation is what to say (or not say) when sending condolences, check out July’s blog that can help! Bottom line, acknowledge the loss. Grief is really hard to navigate and so any little encouragement can mean the world to the person grieving. You may feel your small gesture is just that, small. But I promise, small tokens and words of support can feel huge to hurting friends.
Lanna Britt was a national news producer in Washington DC for nearly a decade covering politics, breaking news and current events. She now lives with her husband and three children in Richmond VA. She has two sweet babies she’ll meet again in heaven.