How to be there for someone from far away
April 1, 2014 7:42 AM   Subscribe

How do I write a letter of condolence to my best friend whose dad passed away when it is the only way I have of contacting him?

My best friend, I'll call him Jake, has been in an alcohol treatment facility out of state for about a week and a half now and will be there for three or four more weeks. His parents are divorced and he rarely (every couple years or so) sees his dad who lives a few states away. His dad had been suffering from lung cancer for a while now and a few weeks before Jake entered treatment, he visited his dad as things seem to have gone downhill. This morning I received a text from his mother who told me that his dad had died and she was on her way to deliver the news to him in person. The only way I have of contacting Jake is by letter and I have written him one already about how I'm glad he's getting the treatment he needs, etc. What should I say/should I not say in a letter to him regarding the loss of his father? Generally, he would only be a half hour away from me and I would be able to drive down and talk to/comfort him, but with him being in the facility I won't be able to visit for a couple of weeks. I've never had to write this kind of letter before especially to someone so close to me. For what it's worth, I lost my mother to cancer when I was five. Is this worth talking about or would that be improper?
posted by holmesian to Human Relations (9 answers total)
Best answer: Just tell him you heard about his father's death and were sorry for your friend's loss, and that if he needs anything, you are there for him--or whatever your precise sentiment is.

No need to reference your mother, I don't think; keep it about him.

It is a sad rite of passage to have to write condolence cards, but you'll find over the years, you'll pen more. It sounds like you are being a good friend.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:51 AM on April 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It doesn't really matter so much what you say - he'll appreciate the thought no matter what. Just let him know you're sorry for his loss and will keep him in your thoughts, and look forward to spending some time together whenever he's able.
posted by something something at 7:57 AM on April 1, 2014

Keep yourself out of it. The condolence letter can be short and sweet - one page or less. If you have a particular special memory of his father, you might share that.
posted by bunderful at 7:59 AM on April 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I'm so sorry for your friend and glad you are such a support to him. The fact that you have already written to him about the treatment and are about to write again makes you a very good friend. If you say what you said here, that ordinarily you would hop in the car to see him in person, and that you will do so once he leaves treatment, I'm sure it will help a lot.
posted by BibiRose at 8:00 AM on April 1, 2014

Don't over think it. Short and sweet.
It is the thought that counts.
posted by Flood at 8:01 AM on April 1, 2014

Just an "I'm so sorry for your loss, and I'm thinking of you" will mean a lot to him. Don't try to write too much...shorter will definitely work better in this instance.
posted by xingcat at 8:03 AM on April 1, 2014

Best answer: The letter that gets sent is better than any letter that doesn't. Say you are sorry, share a memory if you have one, skip any "I know how you feel because" stuff though "Something that helped when I was in a similar situation...." might be okay. Just write and send.
posted by jessamyn at 8:22 AM on April 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you want to be extra supportive, send the short letter now and more casual correspondence for the next few weeks (like once a week or so). Getting stuff in the mail is nice.
posted by bunderful at 9:00 AM on April 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for your answers. I read through them all and all were helpful.

I've settled on:

I am so sorry to hear about your dad. It's an impossibly difficult thing to have to deal with at any age in any situation. Your mom said she and your stepdad went up to tell you in person and I'm glad that they are able to be with you. I wish I knew what to say other than give you my sincerest condolences. If I could, I would hop in my car and drive up there today. If you need to talk or need someone to listen, I'm a phone call away.
posted by holmesian at 11:13 AM on April 1, 2014 [8 favorites]

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