Expressing Your Condolences to Distant Family Members
With social media, email and other online options, it is easy to stay in touch with people you may not see very often. This can include distant family members that live in another state. They may also be family that you never knew well when growing up so you didn't have the opportunity to become close. However, you may have connected online and because of this, hear about a death in the family.
Expressing Your Sympathies
It can be difficult to know what to say in this instance. You are related to the person and have been in contact with them. Nevertheless, you didn't know the family or at least not very well. Many people find it hard to come up with the right words or actions in these types of situations. Instead, they may be tempted to do nothing.
It is appropriate to use email or messaging to send your condolences to the remaining family member. You can keep it short and send a longer written letter later on. You may also send an email instead of a handwritten note. Something as simple as "I'm sorry to hear of your loss" can make the other person feel better. They will understand the sentiment behind your words.
If you knew the person that passed away, you can mention a special memory. Even though they are painful, sharing stories of past times together often brings comfort. If you have been through a similar situation, you can bring that up, but don't assume the other person feels the way you did. Everyone handles grief differently.
People often feel helpless when someone dies, especially if they are far away. You are limited to how much help you can provide if you are not able to go to them. Nevertheless, even just a few words of encouragement can be invaluable at a time like this.
If you do live at a relatively close distance or plan to visit your family member, it is appropriate to mention ways you can help. Many people appreciate practical assistance during this time. Making a trip to the store for them or taking their pets for a walk can make things a little easier with all of the other obligations they have.
You may also want to send flowers or a plant as an expression of your condolence. You can include a short note with a message, such as "You are in our thoughts and prayers." This simple note shows your support without being too emotional.
Visiting Long Distance Family
You may want to wait until things are settled after the death of the family member if you want to visit your relative. If you plan to attend the funeral, make arrangements for travel and lodging on your own so you don't add any work to the grieving person. They will be glad to see you but will have numerous other obligations taking their attentions. Just your presence will show your support so don't feel like you must offer any special words of wisdom.
Offering condolences to a distant family member can be difficult but as long as it is heartfelt and sincere, the person receiving it will feel your intentions.
Suzie Kolber is a writer at ObituariesHelp.org. The site is a complete guide for someone seeking help for writing words of condolences, sympathy messages, condolence letters and funeral planning resources.