Secular Condolences and Non-Religious Sentiments to Write in Sympathy Cards

Updated on October 4, 2017
Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa is an American atheist with high-functioning autism trying to navigate a mostly religious world with no well-beaten path to follow

Non-Religious Ways to Sign a Sympathy Card; Not Just for Atheists and Agnostics!

Some people may think picking out which flowers to send to a funeral is the hardest part of the process of sending a sympathy arrangement or funeral spray. But in my eighteen years as a professional florist, I learned that the task most people have difficulty performing is composing messages to write on the enclosure cards that are stuck into the flowers.

The important thing to remember when offering condolences for a loss is that there really are no right words. Words will always be inadequate when someone is gutted by the loss of a loved one. But words do let people know you care about their grief and suffering, so it's important to say something, preferably something that comes from the heart. You probably can't make grieving friends or acquaintances feel better, but you can help them to see they are not alone and that their losses are recognized.

If you need help coming up with something to write in a sympathy card or on the little card that gets sent with funeral flowers or other bereavement gifts, I've shared some ideas below. I've also included some advice for creating your own, personalized messages appropriate for atheists, agnostics, or anyone else.

Since it can be difficult to know the exact beliefs of the deceased and those left behind, secular condolences are always appropriate, even for people who are not atheists or agnostics. Death and loss are universal to us all and the need to show others we care about their grief comes from being human rather than from belonging to a religion. Also, since religion-based wordings for condolences to sign cards with are extremely easy to find and do not apply in all situations, this page provides help with non-religious condolences and sympathy card messages only.

Sentiments for Your Close Friends, Family Members, and Other People You Love

Examples:

  • We love you and hope your pain becomes less in time.
  • I can't imagine what grief you are going through, but I know that it is terrible beyond words. You have my love and sympathy.
  • I hate that you are suffering and hurt and I'd do anything to ease your pain, but all I have are words. I love you and I'm here for you.
  • I'm grateful you had a person like ____ in your life and I'm so sorry you have to live with the void his/her passing has left.


Advice for creating a more personal brief message:

You can write a more personal message by touching on something you know about the deceased from experience with him or her or from stories your grieving loved one has shared.

Example:

  • While I never knew your father, your fond stories of your road trips out West together show me he was a joyful presence in your life. You have my deepest sympathies.

Words of Comfort for People with Whom You Share a Loss

Examples:

  • Words cannot express our sadness. Please know that we are with you in our shared grief.
  • I will always miss _____. I find comfort knowing we can share our memories of him/her and I hope someday, those memories will bring less sadness and more joy.
  • The sorrow we share is enormous, a painful reflection of how much love and joy he/she brought into our lives.
  • We will always cherish our memories of _____ and we cherish you as well as the part of him/her that still lives on in you.

Advice for creating a more personal message:

Share a fond memory of the deceased and recognize what he or she meant to the both of you in concrete or specific terms. Sharing something the deceased did for which you are grateful is also appropriate.

Example:

  • I will always remember our lazy Saturday mornings sitting around in our pajamas and watching cartoons with Dad as some of the best times of my life. He was a big part of both of our lives and he will be sorely missed.

Please keep in mind that this page is not intended to provide an exhaustive list of all the possible secular condolences one might write in a sympathy card or bereavement gift enclosure. It is intended only as a starting place to give people ideas when they are struggling to find the right words.

Messages for Acquaintances and Other People You Don't Know Extremely Well

Examples:

  • I don't know you that well, but I know that you are suffering and that I am thinking of you.
  • Our thoughts are with you during this time of sadness. We were sorry to hear of the loss of your _____.
  • Please accept my condolences on the death of your _____.
  • We were truly sorry to hear of the loss of your _____.


Advice for creating your own, personal message:

Find a way to recognize the grieving person's loss that validates his or her feelings.

Example:

  • No matter how old you are, you're always too young to lose your mother. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Expressions of Condolence for Business Associates and Others You Know on a Professional Level

Examples:

  • Our deepest sympathies go out to you and yours in this time of loss.
  • You have our sincere condolences on the loss of your _____.
  • We extend our deepest sympathies to you and your family during this difficult time.
  • The news of your _____'s passing has saddened all of us at _____, We extend our sincere condolences for your loss.

Advice for creating your own, personal message:

Use the name of the deceased in your message as well as his or her relationship to the grieving person or persons you are sending the card or bereavement gift to.

Example:

  • All of us here at Gruldak Industries wish to extend our deepest sympathies on the loss of your mother, Karen.

All-Purpose Secular Condolences

Examples:

  • You have my deepest sympathy.
  • Wishing you peace and comfort during this difficult time.
  • Our thoughts are with you.
  • It really sucks that _____ died. I'm so sorry for your loss.
  • I'm so sorry your _____ died.
  • May you find comfort in your loving memories.
  • We are saddened by your loss.
  • With deepest sympathy, [signature]
  • You are in our hearts and thoughts."
  • Our hearts go out to you in this time of sorrow.
  • We are remembering you in your sorrow and honoring the memory of _____.
  • I can't imagine what you are feeling, but I want to express my condolences.


General Tips for Signing Sympathy Cards

  • Don't worry too much about finding the perfect words; they don't exist. Anything honest, respectful, and heartfelt is good.
  • Avoid rhyming bits of verse. It is fine on the printed card itself, but a rhyming signature comes off as trite, like you're putting more effort into sounding clever than into expressing your condolences.
  • Keep it simple and brief. The place for longer condolences is in a letter.
  • Rather than offering to help with anything the bereaved are in need of help with, be specific and be sure you mean what you say. Be certain you are capable of following through with any such offers of assistance.
  • Write your card message and signature by hand unless it isn't possible, such as when ordering funeral flowers over the phone or online. Many people see a hand-written message as a bit more personal.
  • Don't say you understand how grieving person feels; it can come off as patronizing even though it isn't meant that way. No one understands how a specific loss feels for someone else.

Questions & Answers

    © 2015 Kylyssa Shay

    Please Share Your Ideas for Non-Religious Signatures for Sympathy Cards

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      • steve03301 profile image

        steve03301 

        14 months ago

        Thank you very much for this article!! I never know what to write in condolence cards that others haven't already written, while also avoiding the cliche "thoughts and prayers" line (being non-religious, I wouldn't use that anyway). Even though it's just one little line in a card, you bailed me out of a case of writer's block :-D

        I'm going bookmark this article for future reference.

      • Kylyssa profile imageAUTHOR

        Kylyssa Shay 

        3 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

        @Denise W. Anderson

        I think it's a very loving thing to teach children how to express sympathy. How sweet that all those dear little people showered your husband with caring when he lost his mom. It can feel like love itself is dead when someone we love dies and such acts serve as reminders that the love lives on. Thank you for sharing your story.

        @Catherine Giordano

        Thank you. I hope this collection grows with time and that readers add their ideas to the guestbook.

        @vocalcoach

        I hope you find them useful, at least to get some ideas flowing should you need them. I hope you don't have much cause to need them. Thanks for reading.

      • vocalcoach profile image

        Audrey Hunt 

        3 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        A marvelous and helpful hub filled with an array of perfect choices during a very difficult time. I voted across (not funny) and will share with others. Saved your hub for the times I find myself at a loss for words. Excellent and thank you!

      • CatherineGiordano profile image

        Catherine Giordano 

        3 years ago from Orlando Florida

        This is absolutely great. Everyone says, "You are in our prayers" and "I am praying for you." As a non-religious person, I accept those expressions of sympathy because I know they are meant kindly. I usually try to say "You are in my thoughts." People should not send a note with religious sentiments unless they know what the religious beliefs of the bereaved are. You have done a great service in providing alternatives. voting up ++ and H+.

      • denise.w.anderson profile image

        Denise W Anderson 

        3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

        When my mother-in-law passed away, the children in my husband's school made sympathy cards for him. They were sweet and innocent, and although we could tell that they were coached on what to say, the thoughts they expressed came from their hearts. We were moved to tears! I put them in a notebook with the rest of our condolences, and they are a cherished possession!

      • Kylyssa profile imageAUTHOR

        Kylyssa Shay 

        3 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

        @BillyBuc

        Thanks for the praise and thanks for stopping by.

        @Jack Burden

        I hope you find these suggestions useful. I've found secular sentiments the safest route when I have very little idea idea of what beliefs the grieving family and the deceased hold or held. Getting across that you care without filtering it through a specific religious lens works for just about any such situation.

      • Jack Burden profile image

        Jack Burden 

        3 years ago from Columbus, OH

        I always have a difficult time knowing what to say, particularly with professional relationships where I don't have an intimate understanding of their faith or belief system. Thanks for putting this out there.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        3 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Very useful suggestions here, and a unique approach. Nicely done!

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