When those close to us are going through difficult times, it is natural to want to help in some way. Watching a loved one experience loss or extreme sadness can be heartbreaking and we want to ease their pain. But, how do we know what will help them the most? How do we decide what to write in a sympathy card that will bring comfort—especially when we know that words are never enough?
In most cases, the simple act of giving or sending a sympathy card will go a long way. If appropriate, sympathy gifts are also appreciated. However, it can be difficult to find the right gift or words to show how much you care. Use the tips and ideas below to formulate the best approach in each unique situation.
Things to Know Before Writing a Sympathy Message
One important thing to remember is to be sensitive and compassionate without distracting from the grieving process. It is tempting to compare our own feelings and experiences with those of our friends and family members. Try to avoid this as much as possible and keep the focus on them. Do not tell them you know how they feel or share stories of a time you went through something similar. Simply be there for them and express sympathy and love.
It is also a good idea to refrain from giving advice. Everyone grieves and heals in their own way and time, so don’t attempt to control the situation. Even advice given with the best of intentions can sometimes make a person feel worse.
There is no definitive timeline in which a person should be done processing these emotions and no one way to get there. What they need is to be in this moment and experience these feelings for themselves. They do not need to be reminded that pain is temporary or that they will feel better with time.
Finally, don’t focus on the details. When you mention specific things, like age or medical conditions, it can trigger fresh pain. Instead of lamenting over how young the deceased was or pointing out that perhaps this happened for a reason, try simply expressing what a wonderful person they were.
What to Write in a Condolence Card
Knowing what to write in a sympathy card for loss takes a special amount of love and attention. It’s perfectly acceptable to keep the message short and sweet, particularly if the card already contains a message of condolences. The main goal is to express that you are thinking of them, that you love them, and that you are willing to help them if you can.
Use these examples of what to write in a condolence card for inspiration.
- I’m sorry for your loss.
- We love you.
- We will miss him/her too.
- We are thinking of you during this hard time.
- We will cherish the wonderful memories we have of him/her.
- We are grateful to have known him/her.
- I am here for you if you need anything.
- You are in our thoughts and prayers.
- I was sad to hear the news and want you to know I’m thinking of you.
- We wish we could be there to celebrate his/her life with you, but we send our love.
In some specific family circumstances, such as a parent, child, or sibling, you may wish to get more personal.
- We appreciate the impact your family has had on our lives.
- We will get through this together.
- I hope we can honor his/her legacy and follow in his/her footsteps.
- I know you will miss him/her as much as I will.
- I will never forget the way he/she…
- Remember the time we…
If you wish to make your message longer, you can combine more than one of these phrases in a thoughtful note, as we’ve done in the examples below.
“I was so sad to hear of the passing of your beautiful mother. She always made me feel loved when I visited you and I will truly miss her. I am so grateful she was a part of my life.”
“I am so sorry you are going through such a hard time. I am here if you need to talk or you need a hug! I love you!”
“Your father was such a wonderful man and we are so grateful we were able to get to know him. Our family is thinking of you. Please let us know if you need anything.”
“Your husband was such a great friend and neighbor. We appreciate all he has done for our family over the years and will miss waving to him as we pass the house. Our thoughts and prayers are with your family.”
What to Write in a Sympathy Card for a Coworker
When a coworker experiences the loss of a loved one, an injury, prolonged illness, or other difficulties, it is appropriate to send condolences. If the coworker is a close friend, you may use the examples listed above. Otherwise, it is acceptable to write a sympathy card for a coworker from multiple people in the office, similar to the examples below.
- We were sad to hear of your loss and we are all thinking of you.
- We miss you at the office and hope you feel better soon!
- You are in our thoughts during this difficult time.
- We hope you are surrounded by loved ones and send our sympathies.
- Please let us know if we can help in any way, and know that you are missed.
In the case of a coworker passing away, sending a sympathy card to the surviving family members is a wonderful gesture. Include a personal message expressing fondness for the person they lost. It is also helpful to specify how you knew the family member.
- We enjoyed working with him/her.
- We will miss seeing him/her at the office every day.
- He/She was such a joy to work with.
- My office was next to his/hers and we loved taking our lunch breaks together. He/She will truly be missed in our department and I wish your family the best.
What to Write on a Belated Sympathy Message
Although we try our best to stay on top of things, life happens. Ideally, you would express condolences within the first two weeks, but if this is not possible or time gets away from you, you should still reach out. It is polite to acknowledge that some time has passed, but there is no need to make excuses or explain yourself.
The following examples could also apply if you have previously expressed sympathy, but wish to follow up later on. The holidays can be particularly hard for those who have lost loved ones, especially the first holiday following the death.
- We were so sad to hear about your loss and wish we could have been there to celebrate his/her life with you. We are thinking of you and sending hugs.
- I just wanted to let you know I have been thinking about you. I know it has been a few months, but that the hurt doesn’t just go away. I am still here if you need me.
- We hope you have a happy holiday and wanted to let you know we are thinking of you and missing him/her too. He/She always made this time of year so special.
- I figured you would be missing your mom on her birthday, so I sent you a special treat. I know my cookies aren’t as good as the ones she used to make, but they are filled with love.
How To Help A Grieving Loved One [14 Tips]
In addition to putting careful thought into what to write in a sympathy card, an act of kindness is always appreciated. When a person or family is grieving, it can be difficult to cook and clean and keep up with other regular activities. In many cases, the family may forget to eat altogether. Stopping by with a meal or treat may be just what they need. You can try some of the suggestions below or get more great ideas for supporting friends and family with our sympathy gift guide.
- Make them a home-cooked meal.
- Order gourmet soup from Spoonful of Comfort and have a delicious, soothing meal delivered.
- Bake their favorite treat.
- Hire a professional housekeeper for quick cleaning.
- If the person is a close friend or family member, clean up for them.
- Drop off some basic groceries, including paper plates and cups so they won’t need to do dishes.
- Babysit children.
- Bring them games, coloring books, or other entertainment for children.
- Give them a gift, such as a journal, framed photo, or another keepsake.
- Give them gift cards for restaurants or a spa.
- Give them calming items like scented candles or a super soft throw blanket.
- Shovel snow from their driveway or mow their lawn.
- Donate to their favorite charity in their honor.
- Sit with them and listen.
When offering assistance to a grieving loved one, keep in mind that they may not ask for help. They may even tell you they are fine and do not need anything. Try to respect their wishes while looking for appropriate ways to serve. You may also opt to do something anonymously. For example, a next-door neighbor can most likely get away with shoveling snow or mowing the lawn without being asked.
When offering, try to be specific. Although it is kind to say, “Let me know if you need anything,” it is not as helpful as, “Can I bring you dinner?” You can also mention ways you plan to help in a note or sympathy card.
For example, “We are sorry for your loss and our hearts go out to you. Dinner is on us tonight! We hope you enjoy it and that it helps lighten your load a little bit. Please call if we can do anything else!”
Or, “Your husband was such a tremendous help around the neighborhood during snowstorms! We will miss his smiling face as we attempt to fill his shoes. Don’t worry about your driveway, we got this!”
Spoonful of Comfort
Nothing complements a caring card like a little comfort food. Send your loved ones a delicious gift basket filled with gourmet soup, rolls, and cookies. Our beautiful baskets are perfect for any occasion and are a wonderful way to cheer someone up or make sure they get a good meal on a bad day. Check out our variety of gift baskets from Spoonful of Comfort and send one to someone you love today!