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What to Write in a Sympathy Card

Sending a sympathy card is always the right thing to do. Even if you attend the funeral, and even if you offered your condolences in person, and even if you live right next door or talk to the grieving person every day - they'll appreciate your extra effort in acknowledging the importance of their loss.

So now that you've found a lovely card, how do you add that personal touch? Not sure what to write in a sympathy card? You're not alone! Like almost every form of writing, getting started is the hardest part, so we have several ideas to help you get your pen to paper. Feel free to change the words to "sound" more like you. Don't worry about writing too much or too little or choosing the perfect words. Your sympathy doesn't need to be profound; it just needs to be sincere. So get your thoughtfulness on, and "speak" from the heart - you'll do great!

  • Express your feelings

    Are you sorry about the loss? Sad about the death? The first thing that comes to mind is usually the most authentic. A brief sentence expressing your feelings is the perfect start for a longer message or a warm way to simply sign the card.

    "We are deeply sorry about the loss of _____."

    "I was so sad to hear that your mom had passed away."

    "Please accept my most heartfelt sympathies for the loss of your cousin."

    "With love and remembrance,"

    "Our warmest condolences,"

  • Validating your friend's sadness... lets her know what she's feeling is normal.

    Acknowledge his or her feelings

    The emotions associated with death can be overwhelming, unfamiliar - and sometimes scary. Validating your friend's sadness (without claiming to know exactly what's she's going through) lets her know what she's feeling is normal. And it's a compassionate way for you to help her with the grieving process.

    "I know that your heart must be filled with sadness during this time."

    "This must be a very difficult time for you."

    "I'm sure your heart is aching."

    "As you grieve, know that we are remembering and honoring ____."

    "We are thinking of you during this sad time."

  • Share a memory

    When my friend Amy's mother died, she found that cards with personal memories brought her the most comfort. Sharing memories helps with the healing journey and adds warmth to your message. On the other hand, if you didn't have a relationship with the deceased - don't stretch to come up with something. Your other words of support are still very much appreciated.

    "I'll remember your dad in so many positive ways-with a big smile and a great sense of humor, always great with a story."

    "(Name of deceased) was a kindhearted, generous person...and I was often the recipient of that kindness."

    "John was a blessing to me and a good friend for many years."

    "I will never forget how much fun __________ was at ____ (work, college, our get-togethers). She had the effortless ability to make everyone have a good time."

    "I know that _________ was well loved and respected. He had great character and a big heart."

  • Honor the relationship

    This is a good option if you didn't know the deceased but still want to address how important and special the relationship was to your friend or loved one.

    "You will always have a special place in your heart for your mom - a place that only a mother and daughter can share."

    "Your husband was lucky to have a wife who loved him so much."

    "I know you were very close to your cousin."

    "I'm glad that you had the opportunity to be with your sister and to let her feel your love before she passed."

    "What wonderful comfort it must have been for ____ to be surrounded by such a loving family."

  • Blessings, prayer or scripture are lovely sentiments... as long as you know the recipient well.

    Keep the faith...carefully

    Although many people are comforted by religion during a time of loss, keep in mind that those who are grieving may not share your beliefs - or could be questioning their own right now. Blessings, prayer or scripture are lovely sentiments...as long as you know the recipient well. Like, really, really well. Rule of thumb: If you're guessing, skip the blessing. Just sayin'. If, on the other hand, your knowledge of that person informs you that he would find it a source of comfort and it's in your nature to mention God, prayer, etc., then these may help:

    "We pray the love of God enfolds you during this time."

    "Peace, Prayers and Blessings."

    "I am praying for you during your time of loss."

    "May you feel the comfort and love of the many people who are praying for you."

    "I will continue to pray for you and your family in the weeks and months to come."

  • Offer ongoing support

    Long after the last sympathy card is received, the grieving still continues. Offering support lets the receiver know they will not be alone in the days and months ahead. But only make a specific offer if you honestly plan to carry though.

    "We want to let you know that we are here for you if you need anything. Expect us to check in soon."

    "I will call you in a week or two to take you out to lunch."

    "I'll be calling you next week to see if you need me to run any errands for you."

    "I am up late if you need someone to talk to at night."

    "Our spare room is waiting for you if you need some time away."
    (This is a nice way to offer support if you are out of town.)

  • Extend your caring thoughts

    Just as grief won't end after the funeral is over, your sympathy won't end after the card is sent. Let them know the hopes you have for their healing and the positive thoughts you'll continue to send.

    "(Name of Deceased) will remain in our hearts forever."

    "Wishing you peace to bring you comfort, courage to face the days ahead and loving memories to forever hold in your hearts."

    "(Name of deceased) brought many gifts to our life. We will never forget her."

    "May you be comforted by the outpouring of love and support."

    "Sent with love and remembrance,"

Still need help getting started...or wrapping up?
How about an example (or three)?

When Ken's mother passed away, he found comfort in this note every time he read it, even though his friend Connie had never met his mother.

Ken,

I was so sorry to learn from Paul this morning that your mom had passed away. I know that your heart is heavy now, but I'm glad that you had the opportunity to be with her and to let her feel your love before she passed. Though she will be greatly missed, you will always have a special place in your heart for her, a place that only a mother and son can share.

God bless her and keep her close, and may you and your family be comforted by the love surrounding you.

Big hugs to you,

Connie

Although Deb only met Katie's sister briefly, she was able to share this sweet memory.

Dear Katie,

I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your sister. I'll never forget her warm smile and gracious hospitality at your beautiful birthday party.

I know that nothing anyone can say will take away the pain of your loss, but I am here to talk - or listen. I will give you a call next week.

Deepest sympathy,

Deb

When Brenda's husband died unexpectedly, she was comforted by Kelly's memories of him as well as her specific offers of support.

Dear Brenda,

I just heard about Glenn's passing, and I want to let you know that I am deeply sorry for your loss. Glenn was a great father who set an excellent example. I'll never forget his willingness to coach soccer. The boys will always remember him as a strong leader who cheered them on, promoted sportsmanship and liked to have fun.

If you need someone to help with errands, I am available most evenings. I'd also like to extend an invitation to Emma and Josh to go skating next month. I'll call next week to set up a date.

In the meantime, know that I'll be praying for you and your family. If you need to talk, don't hesitate to pick up the phone and call me.

Keeping you, Glenn and the kids in our thoughts and hearts,

Kelly