When it comes to what to write on a sympathy card, it can be tricky. Your friend/colleague/family member is going through an incredibly difficult time and you want to be their helping hand, without being too invasive, forceful or patronizing.
Most importantly, a sympathy card is all about letting them know that you are there for them. When searching for the meaningful words to put down on paper, our minds can often go blank. What exactly do you say? How do you say it?
Here are some suggestions on how to write a sympathy card that is heartfelt, understanding and appropriate for your situation.
If You Know The Deceased & The Card Recipient
This card is all about offering your sympathy and condolences, while sharing in the grieving process with the recipient. Offer your comfort and love and speak of how you will miss the deceased and what they contributed toward your life. Draw on positive aspects of the deceased and how they personally touched you during their lifetime. This could include personal memories, outstanding aspects of their personality, or incredible things that they achieved.
If the card recipient is a close friend or family member, it can be comforting to speak of memories that you both share of the deceased. Amusing and positive memories allow the card recipient to focus on their treasured memories with the deceased and encourage them to celebrate the incredible life their friend/family member had.
If You Didn’t Know The Deceased
The purpose of this condolence card is to show your friend or colleague that you are here for them during this difficult time. During times of grieving, it is comforting to know that you are surrounded by the love and care of others. Let your friend know that you are always there for them if they want someone to talk to.
Show your support by offering to help them out during this time of need. Perhaps offer to cook them a nice dinner or look after their children while they grieve.
Although it may feel appropriate to speak about the deceased, be careful how you do this since you didn’t know them personally. However, being open to hearing your friend/family member speak about them is always comforting. You can do this in the form of questions when it seems that your friend is open to it. An example would be when you’re at a restaurant and s/he mentions their loved one, you might ask, “Did you come here with your mother?” or “What was your mother’s favorite place to eat?” This helps them know that you are open to listening when they speak of their loved one.
If You Knew The Deceased & Don’t Know The Card Recipient
If the deceased was someone you knew rather well, it is well worth sending a condolence card to their family, even if you are not acquainted with them yourself. It will be comforting for the recipient to hear that their loved one was well loved during their lifetime.
Begin the sympathy card by introducing yourself and how you knew the deceased. Ensure you keep it heartfelt, genuine and comforting. Sharing a positive story of the deceased is always well accepted; it helps the grieving family member or friend to remember the person as they were in life and to treasure the precious memories of them that they have.
What exactly do you write when words seem to escape you? These examples may help you find the right words….
‘I am so sorry for your loss…’
‘Thinking about you and your family during this tough time.’
‘You and your family are in my prayers.’
‘Remembering (name of the deceased) in our heartfelt thoughts’
‘I am so sorry to hear about the passing of (name of the deceased), you are in my thoughts and prayers.’
‘I feel blessed to have known (name of the deceased). S/he will be deeply missed.’ ‘Remembering (name of the deceased) as we celebrate his/her life and his/her achievements.’
‘Your father was a kind-hearted and generous man who will be missed deeply. It was a pleasure to work with him and be blessed by his kindness each and every day.’
‘Your mother was such an inspiring and admired lady. Her funeral service was such a wonderful tribute to her and everything that she contributed to our community.’
‘I remember when I was 9, Grandma used to sit me down with a bowl of sugar and a spoon and let me eat as much as I wanted. I would never tell Mum. Her cheeky and positive attitude to life has given me such beautiful childhood memories that I will never forget.’
‘With deepest sympathy…’ ‘Sharing your sadness…’ ‘My sincere heartfelt condolences….’
Whether you personally knew the deceased or are offering comfort to those in mourning, it’s important to draw on the positive aspects, while offering your sincere condolences, love and support. If the deceased and the grieving are religious, Biblical quotes and Christian references also offer comfort of the deceased transcending this life and living on in another world.
Most importantly, a condolence card should make the recipient feel that they are not alone and give a bit of comfort in this difficult time.