Whether you plan to write a five-page handwritten letter or send a short message of encouragement, there are some do’s and don’t’s to consider.
Committing the don’ts results in your message having the opposite effect despite your good intentions, so before you hit send or put pen to paper, ask if you’re including some of these things.
1. Do recount a time they said or did something kind for you.
On the surface, it may sound like you’re making this about yourself. But this is not a narcissistic statement. You’re acknowledging that the person has been there for you, and now you want to be there for them.
Often, people can’t ask for their needs when sad. They don’t want to inconvenience others. You’re opening the door, so they can feel safe to express what they need to feel better.
2. Don’t say let me know what I can do to help.
Of course, you want to help. But this can come off as an empty gesture. So, see No. 1.
3. Do remind them it’s important to take care of themselves.
Many people give until they have nothing left. But people who don’t take care of themselves first have less to give, not more. Again, it can’t just be words. If they’re normally trying to handle certain duties, you might specifically offer to take those over.
If you’re close, follow your message by bringing them a meal they love or a gift.
4. Don’t Engage in Toxic Positivity
Toxic positivity is having the idea that a person is always better off when they’re happy and cheerful. That’s not true. People have a full range of emotions and need to feel all of them in due time.
Examples of toxic positivity in a message would include:
- Stay positive.
- Telling a joke.
- The sun will come out tomorrow.
- This too shall pass.
- You’ll do it better next time.
- All things work together for good.
It’s true that these same statements can be positive in a certain context. The issue is timing.
They shouldn’t be in a message right after something sad or tragic has happened. They mask feelings and shame a person for not recovering their joy sooner. They hinder personal growth and make grieving take longer than it would otherwise.
Cheering up should happen from the inside, not due to outside forces.
5. Do Read the Room
With number 4 said, you can read the room. If the person has put some distance between themselves and the event, it may be okay to interject some more positivity to cheer them up.
- Motivational playlist
- A funny meme
- 10 things I love about you
- Recall a funny memory
- Send them a nostalgic image
6. Maybe send a care package with the message attached.
A care package is a message without words. Think about what would help your loved one feel better, which will be unique to the person but might include:
- Essential oils
- Self-care products
- Candy or healthy snacks
- A journal
- Jar filled with hand-written quotes
- Gift card
- A worry eater doll
- Colorful socks
- Meditation app subscription
When combined with a short written message, items like these can mean everything to a loved one who needs some cheer.