When someone has lost a loved one, it seems impossible to find the right words to express yourself. There is absolutely nothing you can ever say that can make up for their loss. Because of this, you have to be thoughtful when deciding what to write in a sympathy card. Your condolences have to be sensitive, honest and empathetic. It will never make up for their loss, but it may make them feel like they are not alone. Obviously, you will also want to avoid some of the most cliched phrases because you want your message to seem completely genuine.
Thinking of what to put in a sympathy card is never easy. Your message is supposed to support and comfort a loved one, so you have to be careful about how you word them. We will go through different messaging ideas so that you can get started on writing your sympathy card.
The Best Things to Write in a Sympathy Message
Before we cover what you should never write, let’s talk about the right things to include in your sympathy message.
Use Your Feelings: If you have lost a close friend, you will naturally be depressed and grief stricken about it. Some people are afraid to express how they feel in these situations. If you can express what you are thinking and feeling, your sympathy card will ring true. It will make the receiver realize that you are as hurt as they are and they will feel like they are not alone in their loss. Be honest and try to express yourself simply. Don’t bother trying to relate to things that you don’t feel or overdo your message. Keep it simple and say how you feel.
Use Sympathy Words: When you start out your message, let the receiver know that you are sorry about their loss. This is also a good chance to mention some of the good attributes of the person who died. For example, you could say something like, “I am so sorry about Sarah’s passing. She was a blessing to everyone who knew her and one of my closest friends for many years. I always knew that I could turn to her whenever there was a problem. She was a kind soul who was always there for me.” Describing something positive about the person makes the receiver remember loving memories of the deceased. They also realize that they are not the only ones remembering the deceased and mourning their loss. This can help them to grieve.
Use Words of Support: This type of thing can seem cliche, but it is important in your sympathy card. Words of support help the receiver know that they are not alone, and you are there whenever they need you to be. You can say something simple like, “I would love to spend time with you soon. Just let me know if you need anything.” This type of message helps the receiver feel like they are not as helpless or alone as they thought.
Closing the Message: If you just stop writing, your message will look odd. At the very least, it will look less thoughtful than it actually is. Closing the message might be hard, but there are a few simple things that you can write. You can use a closing sentence like, “While I don’t know how I can help you right now, know that I am hear for you.” Then, sign off the message with words like “warmly,” “kindly,” or “love” depending on your relationship with the receiver.
If you are uncertain if your sympathy message is appropriate or thoughtful enough, ask a friend or a loved one to read through it first. They can help you figure out if your sympathy card will actually convey the love and support that you want it to.
What You Should Avoid in Writing a Sympathy Card
Obviously, you have the best of intentions in writing a sympathy card. Unfortunately, the way you word things could be seen as insincere or offensive. At the very least, your phrasing may appear to be cliche if you use overused sympathy messages. To help you out, we will cover some of the most common types of messages that are seen on sympathy cards, but should never be used if you actually want to convey sympathy.
It isn’t fair that ____ died. Why did he have to die? He didn’t deserve it because he was a better man than anyone else. It just isn’t fair.
This kind of sympathy message that focuses on the unfairness only reminds the deceased’s loved ones that it wasn’t fair. It will not help them to heal or feel supported because it only reminds them of how unfair their loss is.
Try to stay positive and put your faith in God. Everything happens for a reason.
This type of message is also a bad choice. It seems condescending at the very least. It also makes the deceased’s loved ones feel like you are minimizing their loss and telling them that it is fine. It is not fine. A loved one just died, and they know very well that the loss is unfair and did not happen for any fair or just reason.
He had a good life.
While your message could be worse, this is definitely overused message. It could also come off as insincere if he did not actually live a good life. Again, it doesn’t matter that he had a good life. What matters is that he is no longer there, and his loved ones are suffering.
I guess it was just his time.
This is entirely insensitive. No one knows when it is someone’s time to go, and his family certainly will not agree.
At least he lived a full, happy life. He lived longer than most people.
This is another message that is insensitive. No life is long enough to the people who have lost a loved one. This is the last thing that someone wants to hear when they are trying to cope with their grief.
I hated him anyway—we are lucky he is dead.
Obviously, this is a terrible message. Unless you have something good or supportive to say, don’t say it. If you can’t think of anything good to say, keep your message short, simple and sensitive.
I know exactly how you feel. It might not feel like it, but you will get over your loss. Time heals all wounds.
This should seem obvious, but no one cares if time heals all wounds. They are suffering and in grief. This is an insensitive message that will never console the person who receives it.
You will get over this in a few weeks. Before long, he will be a faded memory as you move on with your life.
No one wants to think that their loved one’s memory will fade. Having them gone is hard enough. Having to imagine forgetting a loved one and how they talked or laughed is even worse. This is not just insensitive. It is also extremely hurtful as it reminds the person of their deepest fear about losing the memory of their loved one as well as their loved one.
He is finally getting rest. He no longer feels the pain and is in a better place.
It doesn’t matter if the receiver believes in heaven or not. When they are grieving, they do not want to hear that their loved one is in a better place. They don’t want to hear the bright side that he is out of pain. They want to be with their loved one, and this type of message is overused and potentially hurtful.
At least you are still alive and have the rest of your loving family to support you. You should be grateful for what you have.
You should never focus directly on the receiver. Focus on their relationship with their loved one and their mourning. When you try to focus on the receiver like this, it only comes across as offensive or hurtful.
General Ideas for What to Write in a Sympathy Card
If you are uncertain about what to write in your sympathy card, here are a few ideas to get you started. You can also modify these ideas to make them fit your exact situation more precisely.
1. Please know that you are always in my thoughts and prayers. I just wanted to offer sincere condolences for your loss. I will never forget about ____.
2. I know that ___ was loved and respected by everyone who knew him. He had an amazing heart and a great character.
3. I am at a complete loss for words. There is nothing that I can say to make this great loss easier. All I can do is send my love and support. I hope you understand that I cannot put the depths of this loss into words.
4. I wanted to offer my deepest condolences to you during this difficult time. You are not alone in your loss. If you ever need someone to talk to, please reach out and I will always be there to help you.
5. We wanted to let you know that we will always be here if you need anything. Even if you just want to talk or eat dinner with us, we are here. Expect us to call us soon—and if you want to come over, you are welcome any time.
6. Those we love never truly go away. I know that this is a dark time for everyone who knew ______, but he is still with us in spirit.
7. I am so sorry and saddened to hear about this loss. If you ever need anything, you are not alone. I am always here for you if you need me.
8. These types of messages are never easy to write. With a heavy heart, I offer my support and condolences to you during this difficult time. I am here if you ever need anything.
9. Losing a loved one is never easy to us. I hope that all of your cherished memories of ___ will bring you some light during this difficult time. I just wanted to extend my deepest condolences.
10. Love knows no bounds. While ____ may not be physically with us, his spirit is still all around us. You have my deepest condolences.
11. May all of your cherished memories of ____ bring you comfort during this dark time. I hope that all of the amazing memories you have of ___ will bring you solace during this time.
12. You have my sincere sympathy for your loss. He will be missed by everyone who knew him.
13. I have never been good at writing sympathy cards, but I didn’t want to let that stop me from letting you know the deep sadness and sympathy I feel at this time.
14. There is no suffering or pain in heaven. We all grieve our physical loss, but are comforted to know that he is away from pain now. Each day, the memory of his laughter and kindness are an inspiration and a reminder of the type of person we would like to become. He was an inspiration for everyone who knew him.
15. Our sympathy is with you during your great loss.
16. I just wanted to extend my heartfelt sympathy to you and your family during this dark time.
17. I am praying and thinking of you during this time. Know that we are all here for you if you need support or a shoulder to cry on.
18. I wanted to offer my heartfelt condolences to your family during this time of sorry. You are always in my thoughts and prayers. I am here for you whenever you need me.
19. I cannot imagine how you are feeling right now, and I will not pretend like I can even begin to understand your loss. I just wanted you to know that you are never alone. I am only a phone call away if your ever need someone to talk to or spend time with.
20. I was so upset to hear about _____ passing. I pray that you and your family can find strength during this time of loss.
21. I hope that the love and support of the family around you will bring you some peace during this difficult time. My heartfelt condolences for you.
22. I have never written a sympathy card, so forgive me if this does not sound right. There is nothing that I can do to change what happens. All I can do is offer you my love and support right now. I wanted to extend my heartfelt sympathy to you and your family.
23. I hope that the love and support of those closest to you will bring peace during this time. I wanted to offer my heartfelt sympathies to you.
24. I wish that the love and support of your friends, family and me will help you get through this hard time. You are always in my prayers.
Messages for Close Family and Friends
For close friends and family members, the types of sympathy card messages you send will be a bit different. To help you get started on writing these messages, we have a few basic ideas that you can use as is or modify.
1. He was always such a generous, kind person. As a recipient of his kindness, I will miss him greatly.
2. I will never forget all of my wonderful memories of _____. H was one of the most fun people I ever met and made everyone around him happy just to be near him.
3. ____ is a part of many of my favorite memories. Knowing that he is gone has left us in grief, but his memory will never be gone. My deepest condolences during this time—know that I am always here if you need someone to support you.
4. ____ always made me smile. Whenever I think about our memories together, I still smile. Many sympathies for your loss.
5. Whenever I was lonely, ____ was always there. Now, I will always know that his spirit is always with me. He felt the same way about you. When we experience such a loss, the only thing that helps is to know that our loved ones are always with us in spirit. I know that this sounds cliche, but it is true and brings me comfort to think about it. I hope that his spirit can bring you comfort as well.