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How to Write a Sympathy Card


Purple Sympathy Card
Julie Cefalu/Flickr

One of the most difficult messages to write is one of sympathy to someone who has lost a loved one, whether it’s a family member, friend, or pet. However, there are times when it’s simply the right thing to do.

Keep in mind that the person receiving it is not evaluating your writing style or even thinking about you during this time. The purpose of the card is to provide comfort to the person on the receiving end. Send the card as soon as possible after you hear the news of the person’s loss. This note is more personal if it is handwritten.


You’ll need several things to create your sympathy card:

  • Stationery – the best quality you can afford in either a card or linen-finish paper
  • Pen
  • Practice paper

Before you write the message on the actual card, it’s a good idea to jot down some notes on practice paper.


When you write a sympathy message, remember that it doesn’t have to be some long tome that rambles on and on about the deceased. You should also suppress the urge to give reasons for why the death happened. The key point is to let the receiver know that you are thinking of him or her and that you care enough to send the card.

The message can be a simple one-sentence expression of sympathy, like “I am sorry to hear about the loss of your uncle.” This may be used for someone you don’t know very well, such as a business associate or acquaintance.

For someone you know well, perhaps you may want to add a memory about the deceased. Don’t be afraid to mention a happy or funny moment. The recipient will appreciate a smile through the tears at the reminder of a special moment in the loved one’s life.

Let the person know that he or she is in your thoughts and prayers. If you feel that the person may not want to be prayed for, you can omit mentioning the prayers. Even if you choose to pray for the person, remember that this is about the person you’re sending the card to—not about you.

Close the note with an offer of help. This can be the delivery of a meal, letting the person know you’re available for a chat over coffee, or the willingness to help with a chore. You can be specific about what you can do, or you can simply offer to be there for whatever the grieving person needs.

What Not to Include

Avoid the temptation to add clichés such as, “He’s in a better place now.” This isn’t likely to make the recipient feel any better and may actually evoke a negative reaction. The person suffering the loss is hurting and doesn’t need to read meaningless comments.

Don’t tell the person you know how he or she is feeling. If you have experienced a similar grief, he or she probably knows and doesn’t need to be reminded at this time of sorrow. If you haven’t gone through this, you will come across as sounding insensitive.

Example of a Sympathy Message

Dear Samantha,

I’m sorry to hear about the passing of your uncle. He was always the life of the party, bringing smiles to everyone he encountered. I’ll never forget the time he had everyone in stitches playing the kazoo at your birthday party. I’m sure those happy times will be missed by everyone who knew him.

I want you to know that you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. If you need anything, don’t hesitate to ask. Or if you simply need someone to listen, call me any time. I’m available to babysit next weekend if you and your husband would like some time to yourselves.

With sympathy,


For more ideas, read Words of Condolence.

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