Writing a meaningful sympathy note can be difficult. You want to express your condolences and support, but you don't want to say the wrong thing or make things worse for the bereaved family. It's hard enough dealing with grief without having to worry about what to write in a card or letter of sympathy.
We've put together some helpful tips to help you write an appropriate message that expresses your support and compassion in words that will not cause additional pain for the grieving family members. In this article, we'll cover how best to address the deceased person, what kind of language is most appropriate when dealing with death, whether it's better to send flowers or a handwritten message, plus more helpful advice on writing a meaningful condolence card message.
A sympathy note or card is a message that is sent to someone who has recently lost a loved one. The purpose of a sympathy note is to express condolences and support to the bereaved person. It is usually sent in a card, but you can also send letters.
The tradition of writing condolence letters is an ancient practice. Writing condolence notes has been traced back to as early as 4,000 years ago, when Chinese leaders would send gifts and condolence letters to bereaved families. During these times, it was believed that sending condolences could help the deceased person's soul find peace in the afterlife. The tradition of condolence notes has survived throughout the centuries and can be seen in many cultures today.
Anyone who feels inclined to send a message of support to the bereaved person is welcome to do so. However, it is considered most appropriate for close friends and family members of the deceased person to send a sympathy note.
There is no formula for what needs to be included in a sympathy note. However, most messages tend to have some variation of the following:
Personalize the message just as you would have if the deceased person were still alive. Try to include specific memories or anecdotes about time spent with your loved one.
A sympathy card should be sent as soon as possible after the death of a loved one. However, there is no set time limit, and cards can be sent at any time after the death. Keep in mind the relationship you have with the person you are sending the card to and decide based on that.
The etiquette for sending a sympathy card is similar to any other social situation. You want the gesture to be appropriate but not overbearing or uncomfortable for the recipient. Suppose you are a close family member or friend of the deceased person. In that case, you may want to send a handwritten note expressing your condolences and support in words that are sure not to cause additional pain for bereaved family members.
However, suppose you are unfamiliar with the suffering person. It's better to choose an alternative form of condolence messages such as flowers or a personalized gift such as this memorial photo keychain. When selecting a word for your message, try personalizing it just as you would have if the deceased person was still alive and include specific memories about your deceased loved one.
While there is no set time limit when you send a sympathy card, it is best to send it as soon as you are made aware of the passing of a loved one—sending a card as quickly as possible shows that you care immediately and think about the bereaved person.
The most common practice is to sign off your sympathy note with your first name only, but signing with "sympathy" or "sincerely" is fine too. It is never appropriate to sign off with just your last name.
When sending a sympathy card to someone, not your close friend or family member, it's best to send the note in an envelope addressed directly to the bereaved person. Keep in mind that many people receive a large volume of condolences and may not feel comfortable reading through every single card. It might be better to send a sympathy flower arrangement instead of a card.
Including a personal message in your sympathy card is always more meaningful than sending a standardized message. Try to think of things you would have said to the person if they were still alive and write it in your own words. This will show that you took the time to think about what the deceased person meant to you and how much their death has impacted you.
When writing a sympathy card, it's essential to keep the message short and sweet. You don't want to monopolize on the bereaved person's time, and you don't like to send something that will be difficult for them to read.
Try to offer your condolences and words of support, letting the bereaved person know that you are there for them. Consider ending the message with a prayer or an expression of hope. Ending your sympathy note with something positive like a prayer or a word of hope will remind the bereaved person that although they may be feeling sad, it's okay to look toward the future too.
One of the most important things you can do for a grieving friend or family member is to let them know that you are there for them. Don't be afraid to reach out to them and offer your support, and they will appreciate it more than you can imagine.
A simple way to show that you care is to thank the bereaved person for sharing stories about the deceased. Stories will let them know that you appreciate their memories of their loved ones and are grateful that they shared them with you.
With that being said, don't make your sympathy card all about you. It's essential to be sincere in these messages and ensure that the bereaved person knows how much you care for them. Make yourself known to them by sharing stories or memories of their loved one.
Sensitivity is always essential when delivering a message of condolence. Try not to use words that might upset or hurt the bereaved person, but instead, show that you are there for them and want to help them heal.
Make sure that your sympathy card conveys how sorry you are for the bereaved person's loss. Letting them know that you feel their pain and support them will help them get through this difficult time.
Remember that everyone grieves in their way. Not everything you say will be correct, but simply letting them know that they're not alone is enough. Offering sympathy to someone who has lost a loved one can turn into something much more profound than anyone could have imagined, so take the opportunity to do so when it is given. Letting the bereaved person know that you are there for them is one of the most important things you can do.
It is never easy to write a sympathy message. You want it to be heartfelt and meaningful, but you don't want to say the wrong thing and make things worse for the grieving person. Here are some helpful tips on how to compose a note that will comfort your friend or loved one while still acknowledging their loss.
Not all sympathy cards are created equal. You'll want to find one that is appropriate for the situation. A traditional condolence card might be most appropriate if the person has passed away.
For a death in the family, you might also want to consider sending a gift along with your note. This memorial keepsake box makes for a great gift. No matter the situation, avoid cards that are too humorous or lighthearted.
Find a card that matches the recipient's style or personality. Just as you would want to send a personal note, you'll also want to choose a card that reflects the personality of the person you're sending it to.
If they are a traditional person, go with a conventional card. If they are more creative or expressive, find a card with a more visual appeal or whimsical.
When it comes to expressing sympathy for someone who has lost a loved one, there are some terms that you want to avoid using just because others tend to use them. For example, don't say "Thoughts and prayers" or "God bless." The grieving person may not take these statements in the way you intended.
At the same time, some cliches are fine to use because they are respectful of all beliefs and religions. For example, saying "I am thinking of you" or "My deepest sympathies," while not religious, are still respectful and appropriate.
When you sit down to write your note, take a moment to think about what happened. What do you want to say about the person who has died? How can your friend or loved one best cope with their grief? Consider mentioning specific memories of the person who has passed away.
It's tempting to fall back on well-worn paths when trying to express sympathy, but this just isn't helpful. Telling someone that you know they will get through this or that everything happens for a reason doesn't say anything meaningful. Instead, try to be specific about what you think they are feeling and how you want to help them.
When writing a sympathy note, the best thing you can do is to be yourself. Don't try to be someone you're not or say things you don't believe, and this will just come across as insincere.
If you are usually a funny person, don't be afraid to inject some humor into your note. Just make sure that it is appropriate for the situation.
When writing a sympathy note, it's essential to think about the person reading it. What is their relationship to the person who has died? What is their age? What do they know about the situation?
Be sensitive that not everyone wants or needs to receive a sympathy card. Some people may find it too painful, while others might not want to be reminded of their loss. If you're not sure whether or not to send a card, it's okay to ask the person who has been affected by the death.
There are many online sources of helpful things to write in sympathy cards/notes. You can find ideas on sites like Pinterest, and there are books that you can buy that have helpful information. You can also call your local florist and ask for a support group on Facebook or other online communities.
The most crucial thing in any written condolence is sincerity and empathy. If you can't find the right words, try sharing what's in your heart rather than trying too hard. "I'm so sorry for your loss" is often enough when you're not sure what else to say; saying something like this shows that you care about them and support them during this difficult time.
Here are some examples of good things to write and not-so-good things to write to help get you started.
I am genuinely sorry for your loss
I am thinking of you during this sad and challenging time
Love and sympathies to you and your family
Please know that you are in my thoughts, and I'm here for you if you need anything at all.
I can't imagine what this must feel like, but I want to offer my support if I can do anything during this challenging time. My heart goes out to you.
It can be hard to find words that offer comfort at a time like this, but I want you to know that if there's anything I can do, please don't hesitate to ask.
If there's anything I can do for you, please let me know.
You will get over this in time
I understand how you feel
Perhaps it was just their time.
At least they are no longer suffering.
I hope you can find comfort in God/Jesus/The Bible/A Higher Power.
Please know that I'm here for you if there's anything at all you need.
If it's any consolation, maybe this happened for a reason. Perhaps it was just their time to go.
As much as we'd like to think that the perfect words will flow from our fingertips, sometimes they just won't. The best advice is to write what feels suitable for you and your relationship with the person who died.
If it's a close family member or friend, you may feel more comfortable sharing how much they meant to you and your memories of the time you shared.
If it's a more distant relationship, you might want to stick with something simple like I'm thinking of you and hoping that your memories bring comfort during this difficult time. Writing a heartfelt message from your heart is always best and encouraged.
Handwritten messages convey your thoughts and feelings in a way that an email or text cannot. A handwritten note adds a personal touch that lets the family know you think of them. It also shows that you took the time to sit down and write a message especially for them. This small gesture can mean a lot in times of grief.
A sympathy note does not need to be a long, drawn-out letter, and it's often best to keep it short and sweet. No one would expect you to write the Great American Novel to someone who is grieving, but they will appreciate a few lines that show you are thinking of them and share your sympathy for what they are going through.
We've all been there: We know we need to send a card to someone who is grieving, but we don't know what to say. In these cases, it's best to keep it simple. Express your condolences and offer your support. The family will appreciate your thoughts, even if you don't know what to say beyond that.
Many sympathy cards on the market have prompts for what to write inside. However, these pre-formulated messages often give the impression that a person is just filling out a form or checking a box. It is always more meaningful to write something from the heart.
Suppose you find a pre-printed card that expresses your thoughts and feelings that is great. However, it is essential to put your personal touch on it. Add a sentence or two about the person who died. Tell the family how much you care and that you are there for them if they need anything.
Sending a sympathy note does not guarantee that you will get one back, and this can be extremely difficult to grasp when we are used to sending cards for happy occasions and receiving one in return. However, the family is going through a lot of pain, and they may not be able to respond to your gesture right away, or ever. Just know that your thoughtfulness is appreciated, even if you don't receive a reply.
If you want to be especially helpful, offer specific support in your note. For example, if you are a family friend, tell them that you are available to help with anything they need. If you live close by, offer to cook a meal or do some grocery shopping for them. If money is tight, offer to babysit or watch the dog. You get the idea.
You can write something such as:
"Please call me and let me know when I can come over and help with watching the kids."
"Please let me know what you need help with over the next few weeks."
"Please let me know when a good day is to bring over a meal or just to visit and check-in."
This is meaningful to the family because they know that you have remembered their loved ones while they are still grieving the loss. Remind them that you are still there for support if they need anything. On a personal note, you could write something like:
"I am thinking about you and Jimmy on this difficult day. What a great kid he was. We all remember him fondly and continue to keep his memory alive."
"It's been a year since we lost Jimmy from our lives... from our hearts... but his spirit remains with us always. I know you miss him every day, and we all do too. We are here for you if you need anything."
Sending a sympathy card is a kind and thoughtful gesture that shows the deceased's family that you care about them and their loss. It can be challenging to know what to say to grieve, but it's simple. Just reach out and let them know you are thinking about them during this difficult time.
Just because it is called a "sympathy card" does not mean you can only use it when someone has experienced the death of a loved one. Other moments could warrant a card of condolence.
Some examples might be if someone has lost their job or has financial troubles, you can send them a "job loss" or "I'm sorry I heard about your loss" card. A move that came about abruptly due to unforeseen circumstances, you could send an "I'm sorry for your loss of home" card. If someone has a severe illness, you can send them an "I'm sorry for your loss of health" card.
The bottom line is that if someone you know is experiencing a difficult time, a sympathy card is always a welcome gesture.
Divorce is another problematic life event that feelings of grief can often accompany. Although you may not feel comfortable sending a sympathy card to someone going through a divorce, they may greatly appreciate it. The sentiment shown in a sympathy card can be beneficial and supportive.
Sometimes people feel like they need to say something funny to relieve their tension in a given situation, but this is not always appropriate. If young children are involved, you may want to keep your sympathy card simple and let the adults handle addressing their feelings for each other.
If someone you know has lost their job, a sympathy card is a great way to show your support. Job loss can be a challenging experience, and it is often accompanied by feelings of grief, sadness, and anger.
A sympathy card can provide a much-needed sense of support during this difficult time. It can be challenging to know what to say in a sympathy card, but simply letting the individual know that you are thinking of them is often enough.
You may want to consider sending a specifically for job loss card, or you can send a general "I'm sorry for your loss" card. Either way, your support will be appreciated.
When someone receives a complex medical diagnosis, it can be overwhelming, and they are suddenly faced with a lot of information and change. A problematic medical diagnosis is often accompanied by feelings of grief, sadness, and fear.
A sympathy card is a great way to let the individual know that you are there for them. You do not need to say anything specific on the card, and just letting the person know that you are thinking of them is often enough.
You may want to consider sending a specific card for a complex medical diagnosis, or you can send a general "I'm sorry for your news" card. Either way, your support will be appreciated.
Many people consider their pets to be members of their family, and the loss of a pet can be just as complex as the loss of a human loved one. Pet death is often accompanied by feelings of grief, sadness, and loneliness.
You may want to consider sending a card specifically for pet death, or you can send a general "I'm sorry for your loss" card. Either way, your support will be appreciated.
A sympathy card is a way to express your condolences to someone who has lost a loved one. You can share your sympathies and say how sorry you are for their loss in the card. A sympathy card is also a way to let the individual know that you are there for them and not alone. People often find it comforting when they send them a card to show their support.
A good sympathy message can be anything that you feel comfortable saying. It is important to remember that there is no wrong thing to say in a sympathy card and that the most important thing is just to express your condolences.
Some examples can be:
Please accept my heartfelt condolences.
Words cannot express how deeply sorry I am for your loss.
My thoughts are with you during this difficult time.
You want to avoid saying anything that makes the person receiving your message uncomfortable or like they have to thank you for your condolences. Some examples of things to avoid writing in a sympathy card are:
I know how you feel (or anything that implies that they do not).
You can get through this (or anything similar).
It's all part of God's plan (or anything similar).
When writing a sympathy card, the most important thing is that the message should be personal and tailored to the individual. You do not need to say anything groundbreaking or earth-shattering, and just express your condolences in your own words. Your words will let the person know that you are there for them and not alone.
You may want to think about sending a card specifically for the loss of a job, or you can send a general "I'm sorry for your loss" card. Either way, your support will be appreciated.
Yes, it is always appropriate to send a sympathy card. You do not need to say anything specific on the card, and just letting the person know that you are thinking of them is often enough. You may want to consider sending a specific card for multiple losses, or you can send a general "I'm sorry for your loss" card. Either way, your support will be appreciated.
The best way to sign a sympathy card is to use your name. This will let the person know that you are the one who sent the card and that they can reach out to you if they need anything. If you feel uncomfortable including an additional message, "Sincerely" is always a good option. For example: "Sincerely, Lisa Smith."
Even if it has been some time, you can still send a sympathy card depending on your relationship with the individual. You can indicate in the card that you were just made aware of their loss. For example: "I was so sorry to hear of your loss, and I had no idea and wished I had been there to support you."
The general rule of thumb is to send a sympathy card as soon as possible. However, if you cannot send it right away, try to send it within a week of the death. However, you can still send a sympathy card if more time has passed, and just be sure to acknowledge the time that has passed appropriately.
The sympathy card should be addressed to the individual who has suffered the loss. If you are unsure of who that is, you can always address it to "The Family of (Name)."
If you don't know the person who died, you can still send a sympathy card. Just be sure to acknowledge the death in some way and express your condolences. For example: "I was so sorry to hear of your loss, and I wished I had known (Name) and had the opportunity to meet them."
No, it is not necessary to mention the cause of death. You can acknowledge that you are aware of a loss and then express your condolences. For example: "I was so sorry to hear about (Name). I know losing someone is so hard."
You can send a sympathy card through the mail, even if you don't personally know the individual. When writing a sympathy card to a family or friend of a person who has passed away, it is appropriate to send a handwritten card to express your condolences and support for them during these difficult times.
Yes, this would be appropriate to send a sympathy card depending on your relationship. You can indicate in the card that you are sorry for her loss and offer your condolences. For example: "My thoughts are with you during these hard times."
If you know many people in the family that lost a loved one, it is appropriate to send each of them a sympathy card. Sending multiple cards will let them know that you are thinking of them and extend your support. If you do not know many of them, it is appropriate to send a sympathy card to the main person in the family that you are aware of.
You can still send a sympathy card even if it was just one time that you met the individual or they were in your life for a brief moment. You can mention in the card how sorry you are for their loss and that your thoughts are with them.
Some examples of possible messages that you could include in a condolence note or card:
"I can't imagine what you must be going through, and I am so sorry for your loss."
"It was always a pleasure to have known your [loved one], and I will always remember the time we spent together."
"It's a painful loss, but you're in my thoughts and prayers."
"Please know that I am praying for peace during this difficult time."
"I want you to know that if there is anything that I can do to help, please don't hesitate to let me know."
"May God bless you and give you the strength to get through this tough time."
"Your loved one is in my thoughts and prayers."
"I am so sorry for your loss, and I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers."
A brief, sincere message of condolence can make all the difference to grieving. Whether you know the person well or not at all, take a moment and think about what might be most comforting for them.
Sometimes simply writing words that express how much you care, especially when you cannot be there in person. You may never know precisely how meaningful it was until after the fact, but every effort counts in moments like these, so don't hold back on showing some kindness!
February 28, 2022 by Frances Kay