How to Write a Letter to a Grieving Widow

Let the widow know you are thinking about her by writing a letter.
Let the widow know you are thinking about her by writing a letter. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

The death of a spouse is a devastating experience for the person left behind. Support from family and friends is essential to a widow who is grieving. Even if you are not able to visit the widow in person, you can still extend your sympathies and offer your support by writing the widow a letter expressing your feelings about her loss.

Consider the tone of your letter. Knowing what to say to a someone who is grieving is not easy, especially when you have to put your thoughts into writing. The overall tone of your letter will depend on how long you have known the widow and what sort of relationship you have. If you are writing a letter to a relative, you can use a more relaxed and loving style than if you are writing to an acquaintance.

Write a rough draft of your letter first. This will allow you to write freely without having to worry about spelling and grammar issues. A rough draft will also allow you to be sure you have included everything you wanted to say.

Start the letter by acknowledging the death. Avoid cliché phrases such as "passed on" or "gone." Instead, use the word "died" and refer to the deceased by name.

Offer your support. If it is possible for you to offer practical support, such as picking up groceries or cooking a meal, then let her know. If distance prevents that sort of help, make it clear that she can telephone you anytime she needs to talk. Having a person to talk to is a great comfort.

Resist telling the widow about your own experiences of grief. Grief is a very individual process, one that no two people experience in the same way. Although your intentions may be good, you run the risk of minimizing her loss if you talk about your own experiences.

Complete your letter by signing off with a meaningful sentiment. "Thinking of you" and "you’re in my thoughts" are both suitable for a letter of condolence. Sign your name.

Proofread the rough draft of the letter before writing the final copy. Be sure there are no spelling or grammar issues. If the widow used her husband's name, such as Mrs. John Smith, then address the envelope in that manner. It is still appropriate to use that form of address even though her husband has died. Double-check the postal address and mail the letter as soon as possible to ensure that she receives it in a timely manner.

Tips & Warnings

  • Keep the letter short and to the point. Grief can make it hard for a person to concentrate, and having to read a lengthy letter may be overwhelming.
  • Avoid trivializing her husband's death by saying "he is in a better place" or "he is no longer in pain." Statements like these may be true, but they are unlikely to offer any comfort to a grieving widow.

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