Very Belated Condolences

1 Aug

Dear LetterBalm: When does the time limit expire on sympathy expressions? I just heard that the husband of a friend died more than a year ago. She and I were close once, and we went to each other’s weddings. But after my husband and I moved away years ago, our friendship drifted. She and I haven’t been in touch for almost 10 years. I’d like to let her know I sympathize with her loss and send my condolences. I don’t want to make her feel bad by bringing up something painful or make her feel obligated to resume our friendship. What should I do?

–Sad From A Distance

It’s never too late to acknowledge your sympathy to someone with whom you once were close. Do send a handwritten note, not a sympathy card. Your note, indeed, may prompt her to rekindle your friendship (do you want that?) or make her uncomfortable at being in contact with you. So, stick to the matter at hand using simple, heartfelt words. No expectations, no explanations. Ms. L.B. advises that you want your friend to feel O.K. about not responding – although courtesy says she should – and going on with your lives as they are. Try this:

Dear Darlene,

I just heard the sad news about Elliott, and I want to tell you how sorry I am at his passing. I hope these words of condolence – coming so much later – don’t make you sad all over again. Please know that an old friend is thinking of you and sending these thoughts to comfort you. I hope your grief is softening over time, and I hope you are well.

Fondly/Sincerely/Affectionately,

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