Sympathy cards can be difficult to write. Many people are unsure of what to say. We would suggest keeping your sympathy message short. You know the saying all good things come in small packages. A lot of the time the card may already express most or all of what you wanted to say or perhaps you didn’t know the deceased well, or at all. Whatever the reason, you can absolutely be brief and still come across as warm and caring.
If you knew the deceased, but not the surviving family member(s) to whom you’re sending your card, it might be helpful to mention your connection to their loved one (from college or through work, etc.).
- “I hope you feel surrounded by much love.”
- “I was saddened to hear that your grandfather passed away. My thoughts are with you and your family.”
- “It was truly a pleasure working with your father for 17 years. He will be deeply missed.”
- “Thinking of you all as you celebrate your grandmother’s remarkable life.”
It can be a great comfort to a grieving person or family to hear that others thought highly of their loved one, too. If you knew and admired the deceased, be sure to let your recipient(s) know. It will be a great boost to know that their loved one was valued. Key words consist of kind-hearted, admired, unforgettable, fun-loving, funny, wonderful, well-loved, lovely, generous, one-of-a-kind, one-in-a-million, honourable, respected, caring, hardworking, strong, energetic, happy as opposed to just “good”.
- “What an amazing person and what a remarkable life. I feel so lucky that I got to know him.”
- “What a good and generous man your father was. I thought his funeral service was a wonderful tribute to him and all he has done for our community. He will be missed.”
- “Celebrating the life of a good man and mourning his passing with you.”
- “Your daughter touched so many lives for the good. I’m grateful I had the chance to know her as both a colleague and a cherished friend.”
- “Your mother blessed so many people with her faith and kindness. Praying that you’ll find comfort in your memories of her and in the knowledge that others are missing her, too.”
- “Nobody could tell a funny story like your mom. Remember at your graduation party—the story about the vacuuming incident? My face hurt for a full day after from laughing so much. I’ll always cherish those memories of fun times spent with her.”
Offer to Help
If you’re able to help your recipient with arrangements, meals, housework, childcare or something else, then feel free to include an offer to do so as part of your message. Just be sure to follow up and follow through. These acts of kindness will mean a lot to the person. Be specific if offering your help. No task is too small.
- “I know I can’t make your pain go away, but I want you to know I’m here with a shoulder or an ear or anything else you need.”
- “Thinking of your family with love and wanting to help out in any way I can. I’ll call to see when would be a good night to bring over a meal.”
- “I know this must be a very difficult and demanding time for you all. We are keeping you in our thoughts and prayers. If there is anything we can do—from walking Max to picking up your dry cleaning, please let us know.”
When someone you know is grieving, you might want to offer ongoing messages of support in the weeks and months following the loss of his or her loved one. You can send these cards to note an occasion like the deceased’s birthday, a wedding anniversary, holidays or any other time when the grieving person may need extra support.
- “It’s been a while, but I know that the hurt doesn’t go away when the cards and casseroles do. I’m still here for you.”
- “Just wanted to let you know we’re remembering your mom on her birthday and sending lots of caring thoughts your way.”
- “I know Christmas won’t be the same without Sara, but I hope it helps a little to know that you’re in my thoughts and prayers, especially through the holidays.”
- “Hard to believe it’s been a year since we said good-bye to Bill. Couldn’t let this anniversary go by without letting you know that I’m thinking of you.”
A warm, respectful closing is a graceful way to wrap up your sympathy message. Choose one of these or create your own.
- With sympathy,
- With deepest sympathy,
- With prayers and sympathy,
- With warm thoughts and prayers,
- With love at this sad time,
- In caring sympathy,
- Sharing your sadness,
- Thinking of you,
- God bless you and comfort you,
- Keeping you in our prayers,
- Lifting you up in prayer,
- Praying for you,
- Wishing you peace,
- Wishing you healing,
- My heart goes out to you,
- Please accept our condolences,
- My sincere condolences,
What NOT to Write in a Sympathy Card
Here are a few thoughts and phrases to avoid in sympathy cards, because they risk either minimizing the recipients’ unique feelings of grief or making them feel worse.
- “She was so young.” No need for a potentially painful reminder.
- “What a terrible loss.”Avoid dwelling on the pain or difficulty of the loss.
- “You should…”Instead of advice, offer comfort and support.
- “You will…”Steer clear of predictions about how their grief journey will go.
- “This happened for a reason.”Even with the best intentions behind it, this thought risks assigning blame for the death.