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Our Guide to Writing Sympathy Messages

Writing sympathy messages or cards can be intimidating to say the least. Oftentimes, it can be a challenge choosing the right words to say in order to offer support, love, and comfort during a very difficult and emotional time.

Many people that struggle to write sympathy cards opt to not send them at all, which usually sends the wrong message to the recipient. Keep reading to learn how to craft a sympathy message that conveys your condolences and support.

DO - Check your spelling & grammar

The last thing you want to do is make the person receiving the message feel like you just scribbled something out without proofreading it.

DON'T - Give advice

Although sentiments such as “stay strong” or “this too will pass” are well-intentioned, they often undermine the recipient’s feelings of grief.

DO - Write a rough draft

Make sure to write a rough draft first and read it to yourself out loud. This will ensure that the message you want to convey is truly getting across.

DON'T - Use cliches or these phrases

“Everything happens for a reason.” This is not comforting to a grieving person to hear and almost comes off as passive aggressive.

“I understand how you feel.” You will never know how someone else is feeling or grieving, it’s best to avoid saying this altogether even if you have good intentions.

“He/she is in a better place and/or better off.” Once again, even with the best of intentions, this isn’t the right message you want to send someone who is mourning the loss of a loved one.

DO - Keep it simple

Don’t beat yourself up over writing the ‘perfect’ message. In other words, don’t overthink it. Receiving a sympathy message is more about the thought rather than the words. Just make sure to show your sincere support and empathy. 2-3 short sentences are enough to let someone know you are there for them.

DON'T - Use harsh language or slang

Use formal language. Avoid using slang, shortcuts such as “ILY’, etc. This makes the message feel less personal. Avoid using harsh words such as “death” or “died’ and instead, use “loss” or “passing”.

DO - Follow-up with the recipient

Follow up with the recipient after sending your card. Showing support by doing things like offering to buy them groceries or cooking a meal can mean the world to someone who is grieving.

DON'T - Assume someone's religious beliefs

Unless you knew the deceased or their family very well, mentioning God or prayers may be a bit insensitive if it doesn’t align with their beliefs.

What to Say 

When writing a sympathy card, there are a few points that you want to touch on—acknowledging the loss, showing support, appreciation of life, and offer of support.

The first thing you want to write in your message is an acknowledgement of the loss. Try saying things such as:

  • • “I/we am so sorry to hear that [deceased’s name] has passed. I know how much they meant to you and can’t imagine how you are feeling.”
  • • “I/we are sending our deepest condolences over the passing of [deceased’s name].” • “I/we were incredibly saddened to hear about [deceased’s name] passing. We want you to know that our thoughts are with you during this difficult time.”
  • • “Your (mother, father, grandmother, etc.) was such a wonderful person. They will be missed dearly.”

    After expressing your sincere condolences, follow it up with showing your support.

  • • “I/we are thinking about you during this difficult time.”
  • • “I/we are missing [deceased’s name] too and are wishing you comfort during this sad time.”
  • • “Our thoughts are with you.”
  • • “I/we hope that you are feeling love and support during this difficult time.”

    If you were close to the deceased, this is the great opportunity to show your appreciation of their life by sharing a memory or sincere sentiment about them. While there’s no right way to do this, make sure to keep it short and simple by saying things like “I’m so lucky to have known him/her” or “I have the best memories with them”.

    Lastly, offer your true support whether that be emotionally or physically. Say things like:
  • • “I know it can’t take the pain away, but please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you and your family out during this hard time.”
  • • “Please let me know if you ever need someone to talk to and I will be there in a heartbeat.”
  • • “Please let me help out with [cooking, grocery shopping, babysitting, etc.].”
  • • “Feel free to call me anytime if you need someone to talk to.”

    Don’t forget that your words don’t have to be perfect, the thought of sending a sympathy card or message is what counts. Although it may be difficult and even uncomfortable at times, your support and love can mean the world to someone who is grieving.