Messages for sympathy cards can be very difficult to write.
Even though they want to avoid saying the wrong thing, people often end up saying nothing or saying something that isn’t very helpful. Here are some examples of what to write in sympathy cards and what not to write.
Let’s go over some tips for writing condolence cards, and then we’ll look at an example of a good condolence card.
What to Say
- I’m sorry for your loss. Though a standard line, it is a sincere expression of sympathy.
- I’m here if you need me, but only say it if you mean it. Some people want to be there, but may feel uncomfortable doing so. If you do not feel like you could pick up the person who is grieving and take them for coffee without feeling overwhelmed then do not make this offer.
- Short stories of how the person who died touched your life or a light, funny memory is a wonderful thing to include in a sympathy card.
- If the person is religious, and you understand the tenets of their religion, then it is appropriate to include a scripture or other religious quote.
What Not to Say
- If you need anything just call. You should instead make a specific offer. Say, “if you need me to pick up the kids after school, just let me know.” When you write, “if you need anything, just call”, most people won’t call. A specific offer makes it easier for them to reach out when they feel overwhelmed.
- I know how you feel. It does not matter if you suffered a similar loss. You don’t know how a grieving person feels. In a way, you minimize what they are going through when you say that. Every person grieves and feels differently. As a result, you cannot know how someone else feels.
- S/he is in a better place. Although meant to comfort, this is actually insensitive. Even the person who suffered the loss can feel guilty for wanting them back here with them.
- At least you had so many good years together. I find this to be very insensitive. How much time is enough when you love someone? Will there ever be a day when you would say, “OK, God. You can have them now. We’ve had many good years together”? No, of course not!
- At least you’re young. You can have more children. When someone loses a child it seems that it opens a sort of floodgate of people saying the wrong things, and this is one of them. You can’t replace one child with another.
Sample Sympathy Card Message
After discussing the dos and don’ts for the wording of a sympathy card, let’s examine an example of a message offering condolences.
I was saddened to hear of your recent loss. I know that this loss cannot be easy, and I want you to know that you are in my thoughts. David was a special person, and I'll always remember his quick wit and ability make people laugh. If you need me to do some grocery shopping for you or take you to a doctor's appointment just let me know.
Especially if you are not sure what to write, simply buy a card that reflects your feelings and sign that you are thinking of them.
It would be better than writing something hurtful. Even so, a personal note can mean a lot to someone who is hurting, so write something that will be meaningful to the person who suffered the loss.