What to Write in a Condolence Card or Sympathy Note to a Bereaved Friend

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When to send condolences to the family?

It’s appropriate to send condolences to a family as soon as you learn of their loss. This can be done through a card or letter, a phone call, or a message. It’s important to let the family know that you’re thinking of them and offer your support during this difficult time. It’s also a good idea to send condolences even if you’re unable to attend the funeral or memorial service, as this can provide some comfort to the family.

Writing a Condolence Card With Care and Compassion

Writing a condolence letter can be an emotional experience, especially when the recipient is someone close to you. It’s important to remember that a sympathy note should never be rushed or superficial. You want your message of comfort to be genuine and thoughtful. Let’s look at some tips on how to write a condolence letter or sympathy note that truly matters in times of loss.

  • Consider Sending a Physical Letter or Card

    While sending a message through email or social media may be more convenient, a physical letter can be more meaningful and personal. Consider sending a handwritten letter through the mail, or even a thoughtful card or note.

  • Choose Your Words Carefully

    When constructing your words, choose ones that come from the heart. Don’t feel like you have to sound eloquent or professional, as sincerity is more important than style in this case. As long as you’re sincere, the words will come naturally. First, offer your condolences for the loss and express your sympathies for their grief. If you knew the deceased personally, share fond memories about them—this can help provide comfort during difficult times.

  • Be Supportive

    Your sympathy note should also include expressions of support for the recipient during their time of mourning and grief. Offer practical help if needed such as meals, childcare, rides to appointments, etc., but don’t be too pushy with it—sometimes people just need space and time to grieve on their own terms. If there’s anything else you can offer (other than practical things), mention it here too—a comforting hug often does wonders during trying times!

  • Use a Respectful Tone

    Remember that the recipient is grieving, so avoid using a casual or overly familiar tone in your letter. Instead, use a respectful and compassionate tone to show that you understand the gravity of the situation.

What Not to Write in a Letter of Sympathy

When writing a letter of sympathy, it's important to avoid using language that might be hurtful or insensitive. Here are some things to avoid when writing a condolence letter or sympathy note:

  • Avoid using cliches or platitudes. Phrases like "time heals all wounds" or "they’re in a better place now" may be well-intentioned, but they can often come across as insincere or unhelpful. Instead, try to be genuine and sincere in your message.
  • Don't compare the recipient's loss to your own experiences. It's natural to want to relate to the recipient, but avoid making comparisons to your own experiences of loss. This can minimize the significance of their grief and may make them feel like you don't truly understand what they’re going through.
  • Don't try to fix things or offer advice. A condolence letter or sympathy note isn’t the time to offer solutions or advice. The recipient is likely to be grieving, and trying to fix things or offer advice can make them feel like you don't understand or aren’t respecting their feelings.
  • Avoid using religious language or references. While religion can be a source of comfort for some people, others may not share the same beliefs. Avoid using religious language or references in your letter, unless you’re certain that the recipient will appreciate it.

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Sample Messages of Sympathy After the Death of Someone Close

Sample Condolence Letter to a Friend

Dear (Michelle),

I recently learned of you (relative)'s death and I wanted to offer you my deepest condolences, to let you know how sorry I am and that my loving thoughts are with you during this trying time.

I wish that I would be able to express to you all this in person, but sometimes the world is not so small so (email/a letter) is the next best thing and I do hope that it will serve to give you some comfort even though I am far away.

I know that there is never a good time for a family member to pass away, but life brings to us the many joys we cherish in our memories to guide and hold us together in these challenging times that come inevitable our way.

I remember when my (relevant person) died, I was (age) years old at the time and very unprepared for what I needed to deal with. My family and dearest friends, however, with all of their wonderful support and unconditional friendships, managed to guide me through what to me seemed like an insurmountable mountain.

It is wonderful to see how during these times of sadness, how those around you are always able to say the special uplifting words which we cannot find within us at the time. I know that they all helped me make it through the days, helped me heal.

I hope that I have given you a smile for the day with my words and know that I am thinking of you. Please do not hesitate to let me know if you need anything or if there is anything that I can do.

With much love

(your name)

Sample Condolence Letter for the Death of a Parent (Mother/Father)

Dear [Name],

I am writing to express my sincere condolences on the passing of your [relationship to deceased, e.g. father, mother, etc.]. I know that words cannot begin to describe the pain and sorrow that you must be feeling at this time, but please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.

[Name of deceased] was such an important person in my life, and I will always cherish the memories that we shared. [He/She] was a kind, caring, and compassionate person, and [he/she] will be greatly missed.

Please let me know if there is anything that I can do to support you and your family during this difficult time. I am here for you and am willing to help in any way that I can.

Again, my deepest condolences to you and your family.


Condolence Letter for the Loss of a Husband or Spouse

Dear [Name],

We are so sorry to hear about the passing of your [spouse]. Your beautiful love story was an inspiration to all, and we will keep [spouse's name] in our hearts forever.

You and [spouse's name] may be parted on earth, but your love will live on for eternity. Losses aren't meant to be endured alone, so please know that we are here for whatever you need.

[Spouse's name]'s sense of humour, generosity, and always positive attitude was a blessing to us all. He/she will forever be remembered and deeply missed.

Please accept our sincere sympathies.


Condolence Letter for the Loss of a Child

Dear [Name],

I am so deeply sorry to hear about the loss of your [daughter/son]. My heart goes out to you and your family during this difficult time.

[Child’s name] was such a special person, and I feel honoured to have known [him/her]. [He/She] brought so much joy and love into the world, and [he/she] will be greatly missed.

I know that there is nothing I can say to take away the pain that you and your family are feeling. Just know that you have my full support in anything you need. We will miss [child’s name] every day.

Your [daughter's/son's] smile and kindness touched everyone who knew her/him. The memories our families created together will last a lifetime. I am so sorry for the heartbreak your family is experiencing during this difficult time.

I hope that you can find some comfort in knowing how many people were touched by [child’s name]’s sweet soul. May the care and love of those around you provide the comfort you seek.

Again, please accept my most heartfelt condolences for your immeasurable loss.


Sample Condolence Letter to a Colleague

Dear [Colleague],

I was saddened to hear about the passing of your [family member/partner/friend]. Please accept my heartfelt condolences during this difficult time.

I know that losing someone you love is never easy, and I can only imagine the pain and grief that you are feeling. Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.

If there is anything that I can do to support you and your family, please don't hesitate to reach out to me. I am here for you and am willing to help in any way that I can.

Once again, please accept my sincere condolences for your loss.


Short Example Template Easy-to-Adapt

Dear ____,

We were upset to hear about your recent loss. _______ Was dear to us.

He/She will be missed greatly by all of those who loved him/her.

Respectfully yours,

Your Name

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