There’s no easy way to write a sympathy card. The grieving family has just experienced tremendous sorrow. What can you say that will make the pain go away?
You already know that nothing you say will take away the sting of loss. But you also know it’s important to reach out and show solidarity, empathy, and love. After all, you’re hurting for them. You’re just at a loss for words.
Is there anything can you write in a card to express your sympathy that won’t sound trite, cliché, or thoughtless?
Maybe. Here’s the key: As long as you write something, out of genuine love and concern, the very act of sending a sympathy message will convey the sympathy and goodwill you have towards your grieving friend.
Still, the words you use are important. Let’s talk about what to write in a sympathy card, starting with some helpful tips.
How Write a Sympathy Card
Say something. You need to acknowledge their loss. Writing a sympathy card is a great start, and you can also call and leave a voicemail, send a text, talk to them the next time you see them in person. At the very least, taking the effort to acknowledge their loss tells the grieving person that the person they loved so deeply matters to you.
Hand-write a note. Go beyond whatever sentiment is on the card and put in the effort to say something in your own words. It can be a very brief line expressing love and sympathy or you can fill up the card. Pick up a pen and write your own sympathy note, it shows the recipient that you care.
Say the decedent’s name. For some reason, people can be hesitant to say the deceased person’s name around mourners. Perhaps it is an effort to avoid stirring up unpleasant memories or bringing up intense emotions. But there are few things better to a grieving person’s ears than to hear their loved one’s name. And there are few things better than to see their loved one’s name written out on a card.
Include a photograph. One of the few things that might be better than hearing the decedent’s name is to receive a previously unseen photograph of their loved one. It is a great gift, which some describe as almost like getting one extra moment of their life. A new photograph is a treasure. If you have a photo of the departed loved one, print it out and include it in the card with a note that says “I thought you might like this photo of [name].”
Tell a story or memory. If you have shared special times with the deceased, write out a brief memory or story. A funny story, or something that illustrates the person’s kindness, creativity, or passion. Perhaps include it on a separate sheet of paper if it is longer than a few lines. This is another way that you can share an “extra moment” of their life, and it will be treasured more than you know. Stories are often found to help in the grieving process.
N.A.I.L. it. Use this acronym to cover the basics:
- Name the decedent
- Acknowledge the loss
- Identify with their grief and pain
- Let them know you care
What to Write in a Sympathy Card
25 Meaningful Sympathy Messages
Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Since there is no magical phrase that you can say to make it all better, the best thing you can do is simply say something. Let these sympathy quotes provide inspiration for your card.
1. I don’t know what to say. Just know that I love you and my heart goes out to you.
2. [Name] was a wonderful person. My condolences to you and your family.
3. I am so deeply sorry for your loss. You have my deepest sympathy.
4. Our hearts go out to you and your family in this difficult time.
5. I miss [name] too.
6. Sending this card along with our prayers for you as you grieve this great loss.
7. Words cannot express the sorrow and sadness we feel at the loss of your [parent, spouse, etc], [name]. Please accept our deepest condolences and know that we are thinking of you.
8. I am so sorry to hear about the loss of [name]. As you mourn [him/her], please know that we are grieving with you while at the same time honoring [his/her] memory.
9. It was a gift to know [name].
10. I’ll always remember how [name] would [insert story or characteristic here].
11. There are no words. Just know that I love you and will also miss [name].
12. I want you to know that I am going to be there for you, no matter what.
13. I just wanted to let you know that it’s ok to cry, it’s ok to be sad, it’s ok to remember [name] and love and miss [her/him]. I love you and am here for you.
14. May the memories of your beloved [father, brother, wife, etc] provide you with comfort during this difficult time.
15. We are grieving [name’s] death and celebrating [his/her] life with you.
16. We are missing [name] along with you.
17. I didn’t know [name] very well, but my thoughts and prayers are with you in this time of sorrow.
18. Our hearts ache for you. We all miss [name] very much.
19. [Name] will be greatly missed. Our most tender condolences to you and your family.
20. I often think about you and [name] when I [walk by your house, am at work, getting up in the morning, etc]. I say a prayer each time. Just wanted you to know I am thinking of you and cherishing [name’s] memory.
21. The sun has set on an amazing life. Let all the happy memories wash over you even as you grieve.
22. Dear friend: This sucks. (Or, for a splash of humor, “This succs.”)
23. When I heard about [name’s] passing my heart broke for you.
24. We are sharing in your sadness as you remember [name].
25. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 – Though it may not feel that way now! I pray that God’s hand of comfort would be on you, and I want you to know that I love you and miss [name] too.
Easy Sympathy Card Message Template
Use this template to say something simple yet profoundly true and meaningful about the person:
[Name] was a [attribute #1] who [attribute #2]. He/she will be greatly missed.
Attribute #1: Who they were
- Devoted father, mother
- Caring husband, wife
- Wonderful person, friend, co-worker
- Delightful person, friend, co-worker
- Giving person, friend, co-worker
- Lovely person, friend, co-worker
- Thoughtful person, friend, co-worker
- Amazing person, friend, co-worker
- Incredible person, friend, co-worker
- Infectiously joyful person, friend, co-worker
- Compassionate person, friend, co-worker
Attribute #2: What they did
- Had an amazing laugh
- Loved everyone she met
- Always took the time to _____
- Always lit up the room with her smile
- Loved the Lord with all his/her heart
- Lived life to the fullest
- Did things the right way
- Was generous to all
- Had such a giving spirit
- Had such a patient and gentle heart
- Was a true poet at heart
- Could outdo anyone at the (racetrack, basketball court, all-you-can-eat-buffet)
- Knew how to party
- Had such an effect on my life
- Meant so much to me
- Could sing like an angel
- Worked hard yet always had time for family and friends
- Was a scholar and a gentleman
- Always made everyone feel special
- Baked the most amazing cookies
- I was proud to know
- Was a great role model
- I will tell stories about to my kids
What NOT to Write in a Sympathy Card
- I know how you feel
- I’ve lost a [parent, child, pet] too
- You’re going to grow in this situation
- You can always marry again / adopt / have another baby
- She/he was so young
- It was their time to go
- Sentimental and vaguely religious (but ultimately meaningless) quotes
- Anything that starts with “at least…”
- I didn’t make the funeral because…
Read all about why you shouldn’t say these things in our article on What to Say (and What Not to Say) When Someone Dies.
Tips for Sending a Sympathy Card
Remember, the very fact that you are writing a sympathy card means a lot to the grieving person. They may never show it, they may not find time or energy to respond in the midst of this difficult time, but they will appreciate the gesture and remember that you acknowledged their loss.
Keep it short; write by hand. You don’t need to write a book, or even a paragraph. But do hand-write something that expresses, in more or less your own words, that you care for them in their time of need.
If you offer help, remember to be specific. Follow through on your offer. If they don’t take you up on it, renew the offer in a few days, weeks, or months.
Do not get offended. Let them ignore your card or refuse your offer of help. Whatever they do or do not do, the last thing you should do as a caring friend is add more turmoil by getting upset.
Better late than never. Even six months later is all right, especially because by then most other people’s attentions will have moved on, and the grieving person will (likely) be feeling alone in their grief. Even if you do send a sympathy card right away, consider sending another one six or eight months down the road (or especially on the death anniversary) to remind them that you are still thinking of them and grieving with them.
Consider sending a sympathy gift. Sometimes you want to express more. So include a gift along with your card. Here are 29 thoughtful and creative sympathy gift ideas for someone who is grieving.
Read Next: Sympathy Messages for Grieving Coworker
Daniel has been working in the funeral industry since 2010, speaking directly to grieving families as they made funeral arrangements.
He began researching and publishing funeral articles on this website as part of his role as product and marketing manager at Urns Northwest.
Having written hundreds of articles and growing the site to multiple millions of views per year, Daniel continues to write while providing editorial oversight for US Urns Online’s content team.