Sympathy Cards Do’s and Don’ts

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The loss of a loved one is a very emotional time for most people.  What to say and do can be a very difficult morass to traverse.  You never want to offend anyone so here are a few sympathy card do’s and don’ts.

Do’s

  1. Send a sympathy card as soon as possible after hearing of a friend or colleague’s loss. Delaying will just make their grievance longer.
  2. Add a personal note such as “we are keeping you in our prayers” or “we are here if you need us”.
  3. Address the card to the person and their family. You can say John Smith and family or Mary, John, and the Smith family.  Remember the whole family will be grieving and they will all appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Don’ts

  1. Don’t write I know how you feel. This can really sound condescending.  You don’t know how they feel.  Everyone deals with loss differently and you don’t want to convey the impression that their pain is felt the same by everyone, making it insignificant.
  2. Don’t send a typed note. Sympathy cards should always be personal.  Expressing sympathy with a typed note appears cold and unfeeling.
  3. Remember if you feel uncomfortable writing something, it will come across wrong to the recipient.

Most importantly, you should keep in mind that a sympathy card should be a warm expression to help ease a person’s loss.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Donny March 24, 2016 at 3:54 pm

These are the toughest cards to write. No words seem enough.

Ida March 30, 2016 at 12:56 pm

Thank you for the tips. Sympathy cards are so hard to send 🙁

Candy March 31, 2016 at 10:47 am

We keep an assortment box of just the sympathy cards so we can get them out ASAP in the unfortunate event of someone passing.

Sara March 31, 2016 at 3:59 pm

I find the less words the better. A simple “I’m thinking of you” worked for me when I suffered a loss. The phrases like “memories will comfort you” or “in time you’ll find peace” actually bothered me. Memories weren’t good enough – I wanted that person back and I couldn’t envision going through time without them. I learned of course how to cope and treasure my memories. But, at first, the simple phrase “I’m here if you need me” helped the most.

Doreen Carlson April 1, 2016 at 2:40 pm

It is never easy to send a sympathy card. Sincerity is probably the most important thing.

Christie April 5, 2016 at 2:43 pm

Sympathy cards are tricky, it is a vulnerable time in the recipient’s life so to put yourself in their shoes when thinking of what to say is key. A card is a wonderful idea, just knowing that you are extending support in any way means more than you might think.

Deena April 7, 2016 at 9:49 am

I agree with the previous comments that it is never easy sending a sympathy card. You never want to see someone grieving, but a sympathy card shows you are thinking about them. I would say not to go too overboard, and agree that “less is more” in this case. If someone is missing a loved one, chances are they do not want to read a bunch of 500 word essay sympathy cards. A simple “thinking of you and your family at this time” on a card would be best in my opinion.

Tommy April 7, 2016 at 3:54 pm

Definitely dont write i know how you feel. Worst thing you can say. You dont know.

Karla April 28, 2016 at 1:52 pm

These are very useful suggestions. I’m, always at a loss for words in these events.

Dianne April 29, 2016 at 1:30 pm

Addressing to the entire family or family of is a good tip – especially if you knew the person who passed, but not their family members. Wouldn’t want to leave anyone out.

Hariot May 5, 2016 at 10:30 am

I always get a little anxious when I hear bad news. These are great tips to help with my sympathy cards.

Veronica May 9, 2016 at 11:23 am

Thank you for these helpful suggestions. Sympathy cards are the most difficult to write.

Kirk July 28, 2016 at 11:14 am

Good article. Sympathy cards are tough to write. Sometimes I just end up signing my name bc I don’t know what else to write.

Olivia September 14, 2016 at 4:43 pm

Dealing with loss is never easy, cards are a great way to let your loved one know you are thinking of them during their difficult time and let them know they have a friend in you. Appreciate time-it’s never promised!

Angelica September 15, 2016 at 10:24 am

I work for an insurance company. I cannot tell you the amount of positive responses we get back from sending our sympathy cards that we order through the Gallery Collection. The selections and sentiments are all so touching. Thank you for providing a great service that really touch peoples in their most difficult times.

Bertrand September 26, 2016 at 11:21 am

When we had to put down our Golden Retriever in 2009, the veterinarian’s office sent us a sympathy card the next week. The whole family was very touched by their expression of condolences.

sydney September 30, 2016 at 4:50 pm

It’s such a personal and thoughtful gesture to send a sympathy card. Keeping it short an simple is great advice. Just letting someone who is grieving know that you are thinking of them and that you are there for them is such a great thing to do.

Colleen February 7, 2017 at 10:40 am

These are very helpful suggestions. I always try to have some Sympathy Cards on hand because if I don’t, I find the card never gets sent because I keep forgetting to go to the store to get one. It is best to be prepared, even for these very sad occasions.

Paolo November 24, 2017 at 1:12 pm

I have not sent a sympathy card yet, but it does seem to be a great idea. I am sure that I will have to send one someday. When the time comes, I will be ready.

dawn c October 10, 2018 at 10:07 am

Sympathy cards are my least favorite, but I tell myself its not about me, but about those grieving. I’d like to think that receiving a sympathy card helps in some way and I usually just write – keeping you in my prayers and depending on how close they are if there is anything I can do to help.

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