How long should you keep your sympathy cards? It’s an interesting question.
Sympathy cards provide comfort during our hardest moments. They are heartfelt gestures of support.
But after losing a loved one and the days turn into weeks, months and even years, a question arises: How long should you keep sympathy cards?
It’s really an individual choice and one you have to make yourself. But it can be difficult for some of us to let go of sympathy cards. And there are cultural traditions to consider, connections to the deceased and how the cards help us cope.
You need closure and to release the emotion associated with holding onto these cards. So finding alternative ways to honor and remember the sentiments they represent is necessary.
So we’ll take a look at why sympathy cards hold such profound meaning and how they become an integral part of the healing process. As well as how holding onto sympathy cards can be a source of comfort but that recognizing when the time is right to let them go is important.
How Long Should You Keep Sympathy Cards For?
There is no right or word answer for how long you should keep your sympathy cards for.
Many people choose to keep them for only a short period, maybe a few months. But others decide they want to hold on to them indefinitely as a way to remember their loved one.
It depends on how much they mean to you. If the sympathy cards remind you of the deceased, hold sentimental value or you like to revisit them from time to time then keep them as long as you like. Maybe make a memory box or scrapbook to store them in.
If you’ve got all you can from your sympathy cards and feel ready to let them go then do so. Don’t feel bad for discarding them.
After losing my husband I kept the cards I received for a couple of months before feeling like I had got everything from them I was going to.
I kept a select few where the messages meant a lot to me. The one’s that said more than ‘sorry for your loss‘ or something similar and instead touched me deeply or contained stories and memories of my husband I couldn’t bare to lose.
But as for the rest, while I appreciated receiving them they didn’t mean much to me as time went by. And I didn’t feel guilty when I let them go.
It felt like the right time. And I believe that’s how everyone should make their decision. But others feel differently and this article describes the difficulties of knowing the right thing to do.
How to Decide
If you aren’t sure how to decide and what to consider when choosing to keep or let go your sympathy cards think about the following:
- Think about your emotional connection to the sympathy cards. Do they hold sentimental value or provide any sense of comfort? Also look at the messages and memories associated with the cards – are they contributing to helping you heal and process the grief.
- Be honest – are the sympathy cards an important part of your journey to recovery? Do the cards bring you comfort or in fact are they causing you some distress?
- Are there any traditions or cultural reasons for preserving sympathy cards for specific durations?
- From a practical perspective do you have the physical space available for storing your sympathy cards. Instead of being something that you appreciate are they instead becoming overwhelming or difficult to manage?
- Finally think about how emotional ready you to part with your sympathy cards. Are you prepared to let them go or does holding onto them provide a sense of security?
Whatever decision you come to don’t feel pressured one way of the other. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to how long you should keep sympathy cards.
Trust your instincts and take as long as you need to really think about your relationship with the cards and what they mean to you.
Ways to Preserve Sympathy Cards
If you choose to keep your sympathy cards it will involve storage and organizing. You want them to last and be easily accessible.
There are practical strategies to help you organize and preserve your collection of sympathy cards. This will allow you to revisit them whenever you want.
Create a Card Index or Catalog
Think about maintaining a card index or catalog that provides a brief description or summary of each sympathy card. You could include details like the sender, date you received the card and any significant messages or sentiments.
This would be helpful to quickly locate specific cards and trigger memories that are associated with them.
Categorize by Relationship or Occasion
You could also group your sympathy cards based on the relationship with the sender or the occasion for which they were given. You might even consider creating separate folders or envelopes to distinguish between immediate family, close friends, colleagues, etc.
Keep Cards in Acid-Free Sleeves or Page Protectors
If you’re planning on storing the sympathy cards long term then you will need something to preserve them. Acid-free sleeves or page protectors will protect the cards from damage and deterioration over time.
Ensure they fit comfortably without being cramped or folded.
Consider Digital Archiving
You can now create digital copies of your sympathy cards. This will allow you to keep an indefinite number for as long as you want. Plus they won’t take up a lot of space or storage.
You can simply scan or photograph the cards and create digital files of them. Then store the files on your computer, an external hard drive or cloud storage for easy access and backing up.
Explore Creative Options
If you are artistic then you could create a scrapbook or memory album to both store and showcase your sympathy cards alongside photographs or other memorabilia. Alternatively turn the cards into crafts that you could use and would mean more to you. Something like bookmarks, ornaments, a framed collage etc.
Safe and Suitable Storage
However you decide to keep your cards make sure the storage solution protects them from light, humidity and other potential sources of damage.
Things like acid-free boxes, archive-quality albums or acid-free envelopes are ideal for long-term preservation. Keep them away from direct sunlight and stored in a cool, dry place.
Don’t forget the aim of storing and organizing your sympathy cards is to guarantee they last forever and give you easy access to them whenever you want.
Space Constraints and Practicality
When you are deciding how long to keep sympathy cards you must consider practicality and space constraints. Even if they provide you with sentimental value storing them, especially if there are many of them, can pose a challenge.
So you should evaluate the amount of storage space you have firstly. Do you have enough room for any, some or all of them?
If space is limited then look at alternative ways like digitizing the cards or choosing a few to keep while letting the rest go.
There’s also the organization to keep in mind. Even if you can store them you may not want to have to organize and maintain a system. It can take up time and effort that you don’t have.
If you do decide to keep them then you may want display the cards in some way. Finding a way to keep them visible while minimizing the required space is key here.
You could look at something like a dedicated display board or framing select cards as artwork, maybe even incorporating them into a special memorial area. Alternatively you can embrace technology and digitize them.
But if you simply don’t have the space then letting the sympathy cards go is probably the sensible choice. You could do so slowly over time and periodically review your collection selecting a few cards to keep while discarding others.
Finding a balance between keeping the cards that means a lot to you and possible space constraints is tricky. Hopefully if you explore all the options you can find a solution that will satisfy you without being a burden.
Letting Go: When and How
Even though sympathy cards hold a lot of sentimental value there may come a time when you choose to let them go.
This doesn’t diminish the love or appreciation you hold for the sender or the person who has passed away. But it marks you being emotionally ready and moving towards closure.
How do you know you’re ready? The following should help you with how to approach this process.
Reflect on your emotional readiness to let go of sympathy cards. Do you feel it’s the right time to let physical memories you have go and maybe move to honouring those memories in some other way.
You can help to make the decision easier by doing things to find closure. This could be something like writing a final letter or message of gratitude to the sender, holding a private ceremony or creating a memorial item that sums up the sentiments of the cards.
If you acknowledge the support you received through sympathy cards it will help to find a sense of closure.
Releasing the Emotional Burden
Holding onto sympathy cards can sometimes prolong the grieving process. Rather than providing comfort they remind you of the pain and stop you from moving on.
So letting them go can release those emotions you’re feeling. Remember – letting go of the physical cards does not mean letting go of the memories.
So think about alternative ways to preserve the memories associated with the cards.
Honoring Memories in Other Ways
Move your focus on to honoring the memories of the person who has passed away through other means. You could volunteer for something the deceased was passionate about, participate in memorial events, create a memorial garden or tribute space etc.
If you redirect your energy into something like this you can create new ways to remember your loved one that goes beyond the physical cards.
Alternative Ways to Honor Sympathy Cards
If you’ve made the decision to let go of your sympathy cards there are alternative ways to remember your deceased loved one. This will let you keep the sentiments and love that the cards represented.
The following ideas are some heartfelt ways to keep the feelings that sympathy cards create beyond their physical form.
- A Memory Journal – this is where you can transcribe or summarize the messages from the sympathy cards. Add your own memories, reflections and personal anecdotes that you associate with the cards and the people who sent them. This journal would become a treasured keepsake that helps you remember the sympathy cards and let you continue to reflect.
- A Digital Collage – digitally capture images of the sympathy cards and use photo editing software or services to compile them into a collage. Then arrange those images in a meaningful way, using your own photos, special quotes or other elements that bring to mind the person who passed away. You can the choose to display the digital collage as something like a printed artwork, screensaver or wallpaper that honors your loved one.
- A Remembrance Box – a remembrance box that is dedicated to the sympathy cards sent after a loved one passed away is a great way to keep their memory alive. Simply put the cards in the box alongside photographs, handwritten letters or other mementos that remind you of them. You can the revisit and look at the box when you feel the need or want to specifically remember whoever you have lost.
- Acts of Kindness – you can always channel the support and love you received through the sympathy cards by volunteering for charities or other acts of kindness. Maybe donate to causes or organizations that were significant to the person who passed away.
Passing Down Sympathy Cards as Heirlooms
You may want to keep sympathy cards because you intend to pass them down as heirlooms. Some people see the memories and stories attached to sympathy cards as something to pass on to keep the memory of the deceased alive.
Not only that but the cards provides a tangible link to the past. They can serve to remind future generations of the love, legacy and how well thought of their deceased relative was.
But rather than keeping all of your sympathy cards instead choose the ones that hold the most significant meaning or represent important relationships. This might be the cards from special people or that have the most heartfelt and touching messages.
When you pass the cards down you can write notes to accompany them and provide context. Include stories, why the cards are significant to you and how they helped you as you grieved.
Keeping Sympathy Cards: A Tough Decision
The final decision of how long to keep sympathy cards is not easy and will be a personal choice. And as we’ve seen it will be influenced by many different factors.
Hopefully everything discussed here will have helped you in deciding what to do and made that choice a little easier.