There are certain things, after being flooded with so many sympathy cards, that I would recommend you do not do. Let me first say, however, that those in grief are not assessing or judging your cards - that is the least of their concerns. But I did notice so many things from my personal experience, I know the next bereavement card I send to someone will be different than those I sent in the past. So here are things you should NOT say or do, in my opinion:
"I Know How You Feel" And Talking About Yourself - Though after the shock, it can be comforting to talk with others about their loss, that is for the bereaved to seek on his or her own. A sympathy card should not be about you or a comparison to your own experiences, such as "I feel your pain."
Leave Out Your Religion Unless You Know The Person's Beliefs Intimately - If the person is grieving and you are 100% certain of his or her beliefs, by all means offer spiritual support and reminders to help the individual cope. But if you do not know, avoid these statements that were in the majority of cards I received: "It's in God's Plan," She is in a better place," "You're in my prayers," "The Lord Works In Mysterious Ways." You may find comfort in your own spiritual beliefs, but never assume you know those of the one who is grieving - unless you do, then absolutely include them because spirituality does help with grief, when confident in one's beliefs.
Avoid The Cookie Cutter Phrases - I think we've all been there and done that, but from my receiving sympathy cards I never recognized how at a loss for words we all are when consoling someone else. Please avoid: "So sorry for your loss," "My thoughts are with you."
Telling People "I'm Here For You" When You Aren't - So many people told me they were here for me, but to be honest, they are so uncomfortable with my grief that many completely disappeared. As I stated in the what TO DO segment, take action - don't just use words. I would never call someone or lean on them unless I was very close to them. The words, to be truthful, are dismissed as the card is put away.
In sum, I've learned a lot about how to express sympathy for others in the future by receiving sympathy cards during my own grieving. Don't feel that the recipient is in a state of mind to have ill feelings toward these "dont's" listed above. However, if you truly care about this person's grief and want to express it in a meaningful way, fill your sympathy card with words and expressions mentioned in my "to do" list.