Do’s and Don’ts For Sympathy Cards

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.


  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.


  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. 

Should I Send a Get Well or Thinking of You Card?

I think the rule of thumb when deciding to send a Get Well Card or Thinking of You Card is the level of illness of the recipient. So, if the patient is sure to recover I would send a Get Well Card followed up with a Thinking of You card later. If the patient is terminal, sending a Get Well Card is thoughtless and cruel so I would send a Thinking of You Card.

Let’s say you don’t know the degree of the patient’s condition but you want to send a card to let them know you care and you want to boost their spirits. Sending a Thinking of You Card or a Get Well Cards with subtle message like “Wishing you the Best” are options. Also, if the card has a preprinted greeting-read it!-if the sentiment offers prayers during a difficult time and the patient has a broken finger, may be overkill.

It is difficult to know the right words to write in a Get Well or Thinking of You card, here are some suggestions:

  • I am so sorry to hear you’ve been ill.
  • I’m wishing you the very best during your recovery
  • I hope you’re doing well and are on the road to recovery.
  • And my favorite, You are in my thoughts/prayers.

What not to do is also important as:

  • Don’t compare illnesses – not a great idea
  • Do not tell stories you heard about the hospital, doctor or your Aunt Jane who had sort of the same thing…

Showing someone compassion is a virtue which should be admired.

Helping Coworkers Cope with Sympathy Cards

Sympathy cards are a wonderful way of showing a person how much you are thinking of them during their difficult period of sadness and grief. When a co-worker’s beloved friend or family member passes away, it’s only right to send them a Sympathy Card to make them feel comforted during their difficult time. I find sympathy cards to be extremely important because while they may be a small gesture at the moment, they end up being a huge comfort to the person after the initial stage of grief. While there is no time frame for grief, an elegant sympathy card, explaining how much you’re thinking of the person and their family members can go a long way. If you visit, there are a bunch of elegant and comforting card designs with wonderful greetings such as “Our thoughts and prayers are with your during this difficult time,” and “Sincere Condolences to you and your family at this time of sorrow.” These comforting words, including your own personal words inside of the card, will be sure to show your co-worker that you care, and will allow your co-worker to cope with his or her loss, knowing that he or she has a friend in you!

Helpful Tips for Sending Sympathy Cards

For obvious reasons, no one likes to send sympathy cards. But they are needed, as they help bring comfort to the bereaved and also enable you to express and share your grief. Knowing the right things to say and do can be difficult. Here are some tips for sending sympathy cards.

Writing the Sympathy Cards
• Opt for a black or blue pen. Do not use colorful pens.
• If you’re not sure what to say, keep it simple. Messages such as “I am sorry for your loss.” and “My thoughts and prayers are with you.” are always appropriate.
• Avoid saying things like “He is in a better place.” or “Time heals all wounds.” Hearing trite clichés like this might be painful for the family.
• Be heartfelt and respectful.
• If you knew the deceased well, you can include a memory or acknowledge how much the person meant to you.
• Be sure to include your last name when signing the card.

When and How to Give the Sympathy Cards
• If you are attending the wake or funeral, you can give the card to the family at that time. The funeral home usually has a dedicated holder for everyone to place their cards.
• If sending the card via mail, write the mailing and return addresses by hand to make the envelope more personal.
• Some people are able to visit the bereaved in person and like to bring flowers or food to help the family during this difficult time. Sympathy cards can accompany these gifts.
• The sooner the better, so your card reaches the person grieving when needed most. However, it is never too late to share your condolences.

Types of Sympathy Cards and Thinking of You Cards
• A nice touch would be to select a design that honors the deceased. For example, if she loved going to the beach, an elegant card with seashells or peaceful ocean scene would be appropriate.
• If the deceased or the family is religious, a card with that theme would be well-received.
• “Thinking of You” cards can be considered instead of traditional sympathy cards. These designs and sentiments are just as appropriate.

Sympathy Cards are the Ambassadors of Solace

Some people are born with the gift of bringing comfort to those in need; most of us must depend on sympathy cards. Many of us use the clichés that seem to be appropriate, but don’t require any real thought. We are often afraid to say something too personal or too spiritual, thereby making the recipient uneasy.

For the giver of the sentiment, it is important to evoke a “thinking of you” concept to the person who receives the card. That is really what sympathy cards are all about. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of a sympathy card will most likely say that the gesture itself is an act of consolation that is much appreciated.

The card that one selects should be representative of the beliefs of the recipient, not the sender. If there is no way to know what those beliefs are, it is best to rely on the “thinking of you” concept. Of course, the design of the card should also be given some consideration. For instance, if you knew the person well, and they had a passion for a certain type of art or color or flower, etc. you should look for something reflective of that interest. When choosing a card for someone that you don’t know quite as well, it is best to choose a card that will be simple yet elegant.

The bottom line is that whether sending a sympathy card or a thinking of you card, the act of sending one that you have thought about reflects your sincerity.

Thinking of You Cards Cover a Variety of Happenstance

When you have an occasion to send business get well cards, you don’t really want it to look like a corporate get well card. I mean, it should be friendly and attractive as opposed to stodgy and bland. When I look at design #222AY, Victorian Wreath Thinking of You Card, I see a soft and caring motif with the simple “Thinking of You” next to the stunning loosely woven wreath. The delicate mauve roses and ecru berries are discreetly interwoven with the pastel blue ribbon. Not only can this design serve as a business get well card, but “Thinking of You” are words that can cover a variety of happenstances. One could use greeting S4, “Thinking of You at this Time,” or leave the card blank and express a personal message. While my inclination would have been to write the words in blue rather than green foil, it doesn’t merit changing because it is still very appealing in the green foil.

Design #222AY - Victorian Wreath Thinking of You Card
Design #222AY - Victorian Wreath
Thinking of You Card

For design #049AY, Thinking of You Lilies Greeting Card, I love the pastel hues used in this design. The choice of the sandy rose pink and mossy green is both appealing and soothing. Even the way the lilies are nestled upon the curling leaves draws you to the flowers, which will evoke feelings of comfort. Flowers symbolize many different things to many different people. That is why there is only the need to say, “Thinking of You.” In times of distress or sorrow, when words don’t always come to us easily, one can never make a mistake by saying, “Thinking of You.”

Design #049AY - Thinking of You Lilies Greeting Card
Design #049AY - Thinking of You Lilies
Greeting Card