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How to Compose a Sympathy Message

Many of us find it difficult to compose a sympathy message to a bereaved acquaintance. It can be especially difficult if you have never written out condolence cards before. There are many questions as to what you should say, or what would be considered appropriate.

When sending condolences it is important not to procrastinate. There are occasionally delays that cannot be helped, but in general it is a good idea to keep a supply of simple, dignified sympathy cards on hand so that your message can go out quickly.

If you are concerned about what you should say, keep in mind that brevity and simplicity are always appropriate. Don't overwhelm yourself searching for flowery, heart-rending phrases; they wouldn't be suitable anyway. Start with a salutation. Your salutation should be based on whether the card is going to a close friend or family, a business associate or employee, or an acquaintance.

  • Dear Susan and Family,
  • Dear Mr. Willis,
  • Dear Gloria, Bobby and Ruth,
  • Dear Johnson Family,
  • Dear Friends,

Even if the sympathy card you have already chosen has a printed sentiment, it would be a nice gesture to add a personal note below the printing. You can start by expressing your sympathy.

  • My/Our sincere (heartfelt/deepest) sympathy/condolences on the death (loss/passing) of your mother/husband (or use the deceased's first name).

If you knew the deceased well enough to make a more personal statement, you can do so with a few extra words.

  • I/We will always remember his bright smile and sunny temperament.
  • I/We will miss her wise counsel.
  • She/he will be sincerely missed and warmly remembered by so many of us.

Try to stay away from writing anything that presumes what the bereaved is thinking or feeling. Your sympathy cards really shouldn’t be the place to offer advice, counseling, platitudes, or your personal religious views. You may however, want to add one last thought letting the bereaved know of your concern.

  • You are in my thoughts and prayers.
  • You and your family are in our thoughts.

Once you are finished composing your message, you may close, above your signature, with:

  • Sincerely,
  • With sincere caring,
  • In loving sympathy,

Remember to put your clearly legible name and address on the envelope. It will make it much easier for the bereaved to keep track of whom they received cards from.

Composing condolence cards doesn’t have to be a difficult process, even if you have never done it before. The bereaved will appreciate the sentiment, and you can rest assured that your card was both appropriate and comforting.