A sympathy card can be one of the hardest cards to send, and knowing what to write in a sympathy card can be overwhelming and fraught with worry and uncertainty. But sending a sympathy card can also be a lovely way to both express sadness and offer support to a family member or friend who is grieving the death of a loved one.
So what should you write in a sympathy card? Is there a “good” or “best” thing to say? Or are there things you shouldn’t say or write, for fear of upsetting or angering the person you’re trying to console? When we work with families to plan funeral services in Pennsylvania, we often talk about how to console one another when a family member passes.
Like so many other topics in the realm of grief and mourning the death of a loved one, there are no hard and fast rules when sending a sympathy card. That said, because we’ve been helping families in Brookhaven and the surrounding area since 1950, we have a bit of insight into what can be most comforting. We’d welcome the opportunity to earn your trust, so we can be your funeral home of choice when you need our services. We’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and can be reached at 610-876-5237. But in the meantime, let’s look at a few different considerations that might help you as you find ways to reach out to those who are grieving.
What To Write in a Sympathy Card
The first thing to think about when you’re trying to think of something to write in a sympathy card is this: what is your intention in sending this card? Is it to acknowledge that you know of the passing of the recipient’s loved one? Is it to offer your condolences, or to share a memory of the person who has passed?
It’s also important to think about your relationship to the person who will receive the card. Are you close? Did you grow up together, but you’ve lost touch? Do you know them only in passing, but you were fond of their loved one?
All of these things matter when it comes to sending a sympathy card. For example, if you’re sending a sympathy card to someone you grew up with whose parent has just died, you might have memories to share; but if you’re sending a sympathy card to your boss, who you’ve only worked with for six months, you might simply wish to acknowledge their loss.
Let those considerations guide you in your writing. For example, if your friend’s parent has passed, you might write something like this:
I am so sorry to learn that Jane (or Mrs. Jones, or ‘your mother’) has passed. I have such fond memories of summer days when she’d bring us all lemonade when we played in the pool. You have both been an important part of my life, and I will always think of her when I hear (insert a song)/watch (insert a TV show)/taste (insert a food). I’m thinking of you and sending you love. If you want to talk, I’m here.
While this type of message might be well-received by a friend, it would certainly be too familiar to send to a boss. Instead, you might consider something like this:
I am saddened to hear of the death of your father. I know how difficult it can be to lose a parent, and I hope you feel surrounded with love as you mourn his loss.
This type of message can be shorter and less personal; but it can also be filled with sincerity and camaraderie.
Sympathy Card Messages
One of the things that we think is so hard about sympathy card messages is that everyone tends to say the same thing: I am sorry for your loss. While it’s sincere and true, it can start to sound cliché simply because of the frequency of use.
Instead of using that phrase, use a variation:
I am sorry for your sadness
We will miss her, too
Sending you love and holding space for your sadness
Keeping you in our thoughts
Holding space for you as you grieve
When Should I Send a Sympathy Card?
There is no one perfect time to send a card. Many people try to send a sympathy card as soon as they hear of a person’s passing. That’s fine. But know that if you choose to do so, your card might be one in a flurry of cards. It might also come at a time that the recipient can’t fully focus on what you send. The time immediately following the death of a loved one is filled with activity and raw emotion, and the recipient might be exhausted with logistics and other tasks that must be completed.
For those reasons, you might consider waiting a bit before sending a sympathy card. If you do wait, acknowledge that in the card (you can write something like I’ve been thinking of you since I heard the news, but wanted to wait to reach out. I remember how overwhelmed I was when (name) passed, and how hard it was to focus.). Being honest and acknowledging that the recipient has likely had much to deal with can be a relief for them.
What matters more than when you send the card is that you are thoughtful and intentional in what you send. Knowing that someone else is thinking about them and their loved one can be a comfort to those navigating grief.
We’re always here to help you and your family as you move through the loss of your loved one. Whether it’s through planning a funeral service or helping you decide between burial and cremation, we have earned the trust of families in Brookhaven and beyond. We’d be honored to earn yours as well.