What should you write in a sympathy card?



When someone important to you experiences the death of a loved one, it’s hard to know what to say and do that will offer comfort. Death and grief are awkward and messy. Almost everything about death is hard and uncomfortable. It can even be tough to pick out an appropriate sympathy card. When you do finally find one that works, get home and sit down to write something, sometimes your mind goes blank.

What should you write in that sympathy card?

Has this ever happened to you?

Before we get to what to write in the card you chose, kudos to you for even getting a sympathy card for your family member, friend, or acquaintance. Not that many people bother getting cards these days, which is kind of a shame, if you ask me. And I don’t know about you, but it seems when I look through the card racks, it’s harder these days to find an appropriate one — no matter what sort I’m looking for.

Or is this just me?

And then, there’s the cost. Cards are expensive! So again, good for you for making the effort to pick one out, buy one, write a thoughtful message, and send it off.

Sending a sympathy card still matters.

I admit, I have wondered if it did. After my mother died from metastatic breast cancer, I realized the cards I received mattered a great deal. And the ones that meant the most were the ones with personal messages that someone took the time to think up and hand write.

When my dad died, my appreciation for the thoughtfulness of others who sent cards was confirmed again. My siblings and I saved the cards, read, and reread them. Again, the ones with hand-written messages stood out the most.

So yes, sending a sympathy card matters. Sometimes quite a lot.

You might want to read: Does Sending a Sympathy Card Really Matter?

Okay, so you’ve got your card and now find yourself struggling with what to say. I get it. After all, you don’t want to say the wrong thing or repeat what’s said in every other card the recipient will receive. Plus, you don’t want to mess up. Because again, those cards are expensive!

So, what should you write in a sympathy card?

It depends on who the card is for, of course. What kind of card you choose and what you say in it will depend on your relationship with the person. Common sense, right?

If your card is for an acquaintance, co-worker, or someone you don’t know well, it’s probably best to keep things simple.

Say something like:

  • I’m sorry to hear that your husband (or whomever and insert name if you know it) died.
  • My deepest sympathies at this time of loss.
  • My heartfelt condolences are coming your way.
  • I am thinking about you and your family at this sad time.

If the person you got the card for is a family member, close friend or someone you know well, you can say the same type of things, but try to add a personalized message as well. A personalized message makes it obvious you took extra time and that you cared enough to do that.

Of course, sometimes you know the card recipient well but not the person who died. Some of these suggestions will work, some won’t, and some will need to be adjusted accordingly.

A few suggestions for things to write in a sympathy card for someone you know well are:

  • Write about a fond memory you have of the person who’s died. Be specific and use a bit of detail. Specifics and details are comforting to grievers.
  • Include a poem that means something to you and that seems fitting, or write your own.
  • Share a quality or attribute the person who died had that stuck out to you.
  • Share about a kindness the person showed you — even if long ago.
  • Tell why you admired their person. Again, be specific.
  • Share an inspirational or comforting quote, but only if you are pretty sure it’ll be received as comforting. Don’t assume.
  • If you have one to spare, tuck in a meaningful photo of the person who’s died. If you’re in it too, even better.
  • Explain why their person mattered to you and why you’ll always remember him/her.
  • Avoid platitudes! Don’t say, their person is in a better place, has received their wings or stuff like that.
  • Also, avoid “at least” type statements. Don’t say, at least she’s no longer suffering. At least she had a long life — that sort of thing.
  • Avoid saying things like, call me if you need anything. Most people won’t call.

Instead, if you mean it and are able to follow through, offer to do something specific along with your condolences. Mention you’ll stop by next Thursday and drop off a meal. Offer to pick up milk (or whatever) at the store, come over to walk the dog next Saturday, or whatever you’re willing and able to do.

  • Sign both your first and last names. Grievers are sometimes forgetful. Especially if they haven’t seen you in a while.

Other suggestions to keep in mind:

  • Another tip is to first write out your message on scratch paper. Seems pretty obvious, but I have messed up cards more than once and could’ve avoided it if I’d done this.
  • If you’re wondering if it’s okay to send a card late, the answer, or my answer anyway, is yes.

There is no such thing as too late to send a card to show you care. Besides, sometimes it’s lovely to open the mailbox and see a card weeks or even months down the road. After all, grief has no end date. So when in doubt, send it. Those “thinking of you” cards are perfect anytime. Even years down the road, especially on certain dates or times of the year. Again, when in doubt, send the card!

After all, who doesn’t like to receive an unexpected, thoughtful card and/or note?

  • It’s worth mentioning that you needn’t send a Hallmark-type card. A hand-written note in a blank card, on stationery, or even plain paper works too.
  • You are not obligated to put in money, but of course, if you want to, it’ll be appreciated. A donation to a favorite charity of the person who’s died in their memory is thoughtful as well.
  • It’s entirely appropriate to send a card when a person you care about is grieving for a beloved pet. After all, pet grief is real grief too.

I hope these suggestions are helpful. The main thing is to say, write, send, or do something to show you care.

Grievers are hurting. Your kind words might ease their hurt more than you know.

Be sure to share your ideas for what to write in a sympathy card or what to do to offer support to someone who’s grieving with a comment below.

If you like this post, thank you for sharing it!

You might want to read: Things People Say at Funerals and/or I Feel Lost.

What words of comfort should you write in a #sympathy card anyway? #grief #loss #death #bereavement #condolences

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