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Finding the Right Words - What to Write in a Sympathy Card

bereavement support grief & grieving sympathy gifts

What to write in a sympathy card

Photo: Jess Bailey

A well-written condolence card is something to treasure, but all too often we struggle to find the message which says how we really feel.

We have all spent hours finding the perfect sympathy card – and then found ourselves completely stumped about what to write in it. We want to say something comforting, but we are also terrified of getting it wrong.

Staring at the blank paper, we desperately search for the right words - something that is touching without being depressing, hopeful without being glib – then we take a deep breath and carefully write how we feel.

Except often we don’t. All too often, the emotions we feel inside don’t seem to translate so well to paper and the message we finally write in the card often doesn’t seem to do the situation justice.

Photo: Anna Tavares

So what should you write in a sympathy card that will strike the perfect note and truly convey your feelings? As a very personal thing, suggesting a template isn’t really the answer. But bear some key ideas in mind, and the words should hopefully come a little easier.

Don't overthink it - First off, don’t spend ages overthinking it or worry too much about getting it wrong. As long as what you are saying is sincere and supportive, it will be appreciated.

Keep it brief - A short message is fine, especially if you didn’t know the person well. Express your sadness at their loss and say that you are thinking of their loved ones.

Make it personal - You could show your appreciation for them as a ‘wonderful friend’ or a ‘kind colleague’. You might say something like, ‘I remember your dad’s wonderful sense of humour’ or ‘I’ll miss your daughter’s enthusiasm for everything.’

Share your thoughts - If you knew the person who died well, or you have particularly happy or touching memories of them, don’t be afraid to share those thoughts. You could even include a photo with your card, from a time that you both enjoyed together. It’s lovely to read about how much a loved one meant to others.

Offer to help - You could use the sympathy card to offer practical help during what can often be a surprisingly busy time, with many arrangements to be made. Your message could say that you’ll call ‘to see when would be a good night to bring over something to eat’ or ‘when might be a good time to meet for a walk.’ Perhaps you could offer to do some childcare or help with the shopping.

Stay Supportive - Try to stay supportive through the weeks and months ahead, and check in with another card, note or phone call on dates like birthdays, anniversaries or other times which might be difficult for the person who is grieving.


Photo: Joanne Kosinska


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