Trying to come up with the right words to say on a sympathy card can sometimes be overwhelming. Often times, we end up saying nothing because we are afraid of saying the wrong thing. And at other times, we are too worried about not saying it perfectly that we never say anything. This post would address both of those problems so that whenever you have to write a sympathy card message, you are better prepared to express your heartfelt wishes.
First off, it might be helpful to remind yourself that nothing you say at this time would take away the pain of separation that the grieving person is currently feeling. Therefore, your goal isn’t to take away their pain. That alone should take off some of the pressure you might feel when saddled with the responsibility of writing a sympathy card.
Instead, your goal should be on how to write them a card that addresses some of their needs and brings them a little comfort during this difficult time. In her article “10 Things You Should Know about Grieving People“, Nancy Guthrie, cohost of the GriefShare video series, shares insights on how we can provide comfort and support by shedding light on what our grieving friends and loved ones need. I discuss some of those needs in this post and also show you how to craft a thoughtful sympathy message that addressed the need.
Tips on What to Write in a Sympathy Card
1. Short Sympathy Messages
According to Nancy, “Grieving people don’t expect you to have words that will fix this, but they do want you to say something.” So even when you don’t know what to say, still send a simple message to let the recipient know how you feel about their loss and also let them know that you share in their pain. Here are a couple of ideas:
- I share in your sadness at this impossible time.
- Patrick, I’m so sorry to hear about your brother’s passing.
- So sorry to hear about your loss, Clara. Praying for strength and comfort at this difficult time.
- I am truly sorry for your loss.
- “Gone from our sight, but never from our hearts.”
2. Make your greetings personal. Use names whenever possible
One great fear that grieving people have is that the memory of their loved one would gradually be erased from the minds of everyone now that they have passed away. So according to Nancy, “To hear someone simply speak that person’s name is like a balm to the soul of a grieving person.” Whenever possible, refer to the departed person by name.
- Calvin will live forever in our hearts and memories.
- Sharing in your grief as you remember Sam.
- We share your family’s sadness in the loss of Ashley. Our love and thoughts are with you.
- My deepest sympathies as you remember Cliff.
- Praying that you’ll find comfort in your memories of Paul as well as in the knowledge that others are missing him too.
Bonus tip: While the people closest to the deceased suffer the most pain, letting the recipient know that you share in their pain can bring a bit of comfort. So go ahead, do that.
3. Share memories
It can be very comforting for a grieving person to hear your fondest memories of their loved one who has just passed. This doesn’t have to be anything big. Even just talking about the little things you loved and appreciated in their loved one can go a long way to bring some measure of joy in the midst of pain. Here are some examples:
- I will always remember your mum as a simple, kindhearted, and easy-going woman.
- We’d miss Sharon for the light that she always brought. Our thoughts are with you at this difficult time.
- I had the privilege of having your dad coach me at Larkhall Junior High. He was a fine gentleman and a great coach. I owe my success in pro league basketball to him. Please accept my sympathies.
- Memories of the times I spent volunteering with your sister at the Salvation Army camp are some of my most favorite. She would never be forgotten.
- Patrick was such a gem He’d be remembered for the joy he brought everywhere he went.
Bonus tip: In appreciating the qualities you admired in the departed, here are a couple qualities that you might want to talk about: gentleness, strength, love, kindness, calm, smile, excitement, talent, energy, generosity, courage etc.
4. Offer to help whenever possible
At times like these when a grieving person can easily get overwhelmed with feelings of pain and sadness, things that they’d usually do themselves can start to suffer neglect. So nothing is off the table. Let them know that you are available to help and be proactive by making suggestions of things you would like to help with. Just ensure you follow through with your offer of help. Let these examples inspire you:
- It hurts that I cannot be there for your dad’s memorial service but I would really love to help in any way possible. I would call Aunt Clara to find out what groceries you need picked up.
- No one’s cooking would ever come close to Clara’s. But I would still like to help out with preparing meals whenever you’d like. Please don’t hesitate to ask.
- There’s obviously a lot on your mind right now and I’d really like to know how I can be of help. But for starters, don’t you worry about mowing the grass for the rest of the summer. I’d take care of it.
More Examples of What to Write in a Sympathy Card
Sympathy Messages for Loss of Mother or Father
- Your dad must have been someone special to have raised an excellent young man like you. No doubt he died a proud man. I hope the thought of that can bring some comfort at such a difficult time.
- It’s so sad that I never got to meet your mother, but from the way you spoke about her, she must have been someone special. She would be missed dearly.
- Your dad was an amazing Bible teacher. I feel privileged to have come across his ministry. He’s the reason why I’m standing strong in faith today.
- The story of my journey to becoming an accomplished author would never be complete without talking about the contributions of a brilliant English teacher (your dad) who never gave up on me despite my poor grades. He’d surely be missed!
- “Christine, I’m so sad to hear about the loss of your father. I will always remember him as an amazing father and an ever better papa.”
Sympathy Messages for Loss of Spouse or Partner
- Not only was Sarah your wife. She was your best friend and that was evident for everyone to see. What you both shared would always be an inspiration to all of us. And we all share in your sorrow at this time.
- Kindhearted and unselfish are two words I think of when I think about Bob. His life continues to be an inspiration for us all.
- Lorraine blessed so many people with her faith and generosity. I cherish every moment I got to spend with her.
- No one loved Craig as much as you did. And no matter how much we miss him, I know you’ll miss him even more. I hope you can find some comfort in knowing that you spent each day showing how much he meant to you.
- “Sometimes, someone comes into your life, so unexpectedly, and changes your life forever.” Brian was someone like that. And I would never forget him.
Sympathy Messages for Loss of Brother or Sister
- I admire how strongly you stood by your sister during the last few months of her life. It must be hard for you to lose her in the end but I hope you feel good that you were there for her all through.
- Kirk was the kind of guy you always wanted on your team. I have fond memories of our time together at Eaglecreek basketball team.
- Beth was such a sweet soul. She always told me how proud she was to have you as her brother. Praying that you’d find comfort in your memories of her.
- I feel so lucky to have met and known your brother. It seemed like he could always find a way to brighten the darkest days with his words. No doubt, he would be missed greatly.
- Your brother was the most talented bass guitarist I’ve ever seen. We would miss him sorely.
Sympathy Messages for Loss of Child
- My heart goes out to you at this very tough time. I just want you to know that you are always in my thoughts.
- We miss Pamela so much! The love and happiness she gave us will never be forgotten.
- So sorry that you have to go through this heartbreak. Praying you find the fortitude to bear this incredible loss.
- Hannah was simply a standout kid. It seemed like nothing ever fazed her as she went about with her big, bright smile. I miss her so much as do Sam and Jake.
Sympathy Messages for Loss of Coworker or Colleague
- Rebecca meant a lot to every one of us at Cox & Palmer. We have your family in our prayers.
- It was truly a pleasure working with your brother the last 2 years. We would all miss him deeply.
- To meet, Pat was the best team player I ever met. He always liked to work behind the scenes. However, everyone at PWC knew how invaluable he was to our team. He would surely be missed.
- It was such a pleasure working with your mother the last 3 years. Her keen insight in organizational leadership has profoundly changed the way we do things at Global Electric. Her legacy lives on!
Bonus tip: Coworker When sending a card to the surviving family member who might be oblivious of your relationship to their loved one, consider mentioning your connection to the deceased.
What to Write in a Sympathy Card for Loss of Pregnancy
- Keeping you and Rob in our thoughts and praying for healing to come to you in time
- Words cannot express how sorry I am. Just want you to know I’m here for you.
- My thoughts are with you and Martha at this time. You don’t need to respond, but I’m here for you if you need anything.
- I’ve been thinking about you a lot—sending you my love.
What to Write in a Sympathy Card: Warm Closing
- With sympathy,
- With heartfelt sympathy,
- Thinking of you,
- My deepest condolences,
- My sincere condolences,
- Wishing you peace,
- God bless,
- With you in sorrow,
What NOT to Write in a Sympathy Card
Avoid saying things that seem to downplay the feelings of grief that the recipient might already be feeling. Also, you want to try to steer clear of statements that dwell too much on the pain and difficulty of the loss.
Some of the phrases to avoid are:
- I know how you feel…
- Everything happens for a reason…
- What a huge loss…
- Paul’s death is a big blow…
Putting it all together
Using the various tips mentioned in this post, here is a format you can always follow when trying to write a sympathy card message. First, express condolence. Then share memories, appreciation, and reassurance that you’re standing with them at this difficult time. And then you can offer to help if possible. Finally close with a warm greeting.
Here is a complete example of a sympathy card message:
I just heard about your husband’s passing, and I wanted to let you know how sorry I am. I still remember how I felt on the first day I met you guys at church. Bob had asked how I was coping with having my family abroad at the time and the advice he gave that day was instrumental in helping me move my family over from Kenya.
There are so many things I have come to love about Bob but what really stands out to me was his genuine care for people. The friendship and love you both shared will continue to be a source of inspiration for me. I’d like to help however I can and will give you a call in a few days to see if there are errands to run. Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.
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