Blake started out scribbling in cards over 30 years ago. Though his handwriting is mostly unchanged, the content has improved.
What to Write on a Sympathy Card
It is difficult to know what to say or write to a grieving person. You can use the examples on this page and decide which way to go. Read though while thinking about the person your message will go to. Figure out a tasteful way to acknowledge the loss without offending.
Sometimes the most effective messages are short, simple, and sincere. Write naturally, like you are talking to the person. Read over your message and imagine getting it and reading it. Use these lists sympathy messages, quotes, and sympathy words as examples to help you write in your card.
I am sorry for your loss. I will cherish my memories and be grateful for the time I had with such a special person.
Messages for a Loss
These are examples of what to write to people who have lost a family member or friend. The surviving person may feel strong emotions about the loss. Keep your message simple and supportive unless you have a very close relationship.
- Life is complex, and so is death. The feelings that follow a death can be easier to navigate with a friend. Please let me know if you want someone to listen.
- I want you to know that I am sorry for your loss. Please accept my sincere condolences.
- We can celebrate together and honor the lives of those who have passed, but we need each other for support. Don't hesitate to call anytime.
- I'm available if you need to talk. Expect me to call you soon if I don't hear from you first.
- I would like to send my condolences to you and your family. I'll keep you in my prayers.
- I will always have fond memories of _________. (He/She) will be greatly missed.
- There is almost an endless number of emotions to feel when someone you care about passes on. Those feelings can become intense. Let me know if you'd like someone to share the burden of your feelings with you.
- I am at a loss for words over your loss. Please accept my sincere condolences.
- I love you and want to let you know that I will help you in any way you think I can. Just name it.
- Those we lose continue on in our hearts and memories.
- I know loss can be difficult, so I'll be thinking of you and keeping you in my prayers.
- Please forgive me for my loss of words at this time. I will be praying for you and your family. My condolences.
- I want you to know that I am willing to help you in any way. I'll be in touch with you to check in on you and see how you are doing.
- You are in my thoughts and prayers.
- Losing a pet can be tough. Feel free to visit mine any time you'd like.
- I like to believe that when we lose someone close to us, they still live through us and give us strength. The time we have spent with those we've lost makes them part of us.
- I am glad to have known _______. I realize that you have lost a special person.
- No one will ever be able to replace _______. (He or she) was really special.
- I'm really happy for ________ because (he or she) feels no pain any more. Unfortunately for those of us left behind, we still feel the sting of loss.
- Words do an injustice in explaining how much we will miss _______. (He or she) will remain very alive in our memories and admiration.
- I have felt lucky to have known _______. I can't imagine losing a blessing like (him or her).
- I am not good with words. I hope you can find some comfort from my card anyway.
- I am sorry to hear of your father's passing. I remember him as a smart and kind man. I know that you have those qualities too and must have gotten them from him. Please know that you are in my thoughts, and you can expect me to call you in the next couple days to see how you are doing.
May your memories give you peace and comfort.
- I'm praying for you and your family.
- The saying, 'All good things must come to an end' just doesn't seem to be a fair rule.
- The more you are blessed, the more it hurts when you lose that blessing.
- Sometimes I question whether we deserved to be around a person of character like _______. I will continue to look in (his or her) direction for inspiration.
- Words cannot describe who ______ was. And so words also cannot describe the loss we are all feeling now.
- The body dies, but the love lives on. Love is everlasting.
- We are all on our own schedule to meet God. Too bad ______ was actually punctual for once.
- I wish God didn't have to make ______ an example of the saying, 'Life's too short.'
- We are all left with a large hole from our loss. We will have to trust God to fill it.
- This card isn't meant to do anything for you but let you know that I am thinking of you at this time. I am sorry for your loss.
Loss of Mother Condolences
- I am sorry you lost your mother. I know she loved you very much and that you will miss her greatly. I will remember her as a woman of great character.
- I can't imagine what you are feeling, but I want to express my condolences to you. Please let me know of any way I can help.
- My sympathies for the loss of your mother. You will be in my prayers.
- It was your mother's character that I admired most. Please accept my condolences.
- Now, God is taking care of your mother.
- Mothers are amazing people, and your mother was a great example. We will miss her.
- Your mom was an angel. I am blessed to have known her.
Suicide Sympathy Messages
According to the CDC, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death. It's not just the rate of suicide that makes it especially difficult. This is an especially sensitive situation due to the stigma placed on suicide and mental illness in our culture. These are examples of what to write when someone has intentionally taken his life.
- Emotions can become overwhelming at times like these. If yours ever start getting the best of you, let me help you through them. There's no reason for you to face a challenge like this alone.
- I am deeply saddened about the unexpected and tragic loss of your loved one. I will pray for your family and others who are grieving.
- I will keep you and your family members close in my heart as I pray for you to find peace in this challenging time. I am available to listen anytime you want to talk. You have my number.
- It's difficult to put into words the thoughts and feelings I have for you in the wake of your loss. I feel strong loss and love for everyone involved. We will need each other as we heal from the pain.
- I'd like to let you know that it's okay to be feeling whatever you are feeling. Feelings don't always make sense just like the events we experience don't always make sense and the things people do don't always make sense.
- Please allow me to send my sincere condolences to you and your family. I will keep you all in my prayers.
Words to Use
Sympathy messages usually contain certain common words. The following words are commonly found in sympathy messages. Use these to help get your thoughts and feelings conveyed on paper.
These words can be added together to create your own message. Here are a few you could choose: "sorry, warm, thoughts, peace, remembered."
Here is an example of how the words can be pieced together:
"I am sorry to hear of your recent loss. I want to send my warm thoughts your way. I have fond memories when I think of her. She will be remembered as an amazing woman. I pray for you and your family to feel peace during this time."
Quotes to Celebrate Life
Quotes can sometimes be used to convey a thought in an eloquent way. Use these to help you make your message better:
- "Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim." —Vicki Harrison
- "Perhaps they are not really stars in the sky but rather openings where our loved ones shine down to let us know they are happy." —Eskimo legend
- "Maybe I can't stop the downpour, but I will always join you for a walk in the rain."
- "Missing someone is a part of loving them. If you're never apart, you'll never really know how strong your love is."
- "The greatest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude." —Thornton Wilder
- "We never lose our loved ones. They accompany us; they don't disappear from our lives. We are merely in different rooms." —Paulo Coelho
- "Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing the monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward." —C.S. Lewis
- "When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure."
- "Sometimes memories sneak out of my eyes and roll down my cheeks."
These are totally original so I apologize for not being famous or especially witty:
- "Sympathy is what people give when most people need empathy."
- "Sympathy is not about using your words to comfort the mind. Sympathy is about using your ears to comfort the heart."
- "Acting the way you usually would is the best way to show sympathy toward a friend. They can always let you know if they need anything else."
Tips for Writing a Sympathy Message
These are some tips to help you write your condolence message. If nothing else, they might put your mind at ease if you are feeling anxious:
- Be brief. The more you write, the more likely you will run out of thoughtful words or say the wrong thing. Sometimes a simple, "I am sorry for your loss," is most appropriate.
- Religious sympathy messages will probably not offend. If someone is an atheist, he or she might not be upset if you say you are praying or if you write a comforting Bible verse. He or she will probably understand, as long as you don't write something ignorant like, "God has passed judgement on your sinner of a dad."
- Stay as positive as possible even though things seem terrible. Use words of encouragement. Don't focus on the obvious things that suck about losing someone. For example, don't write, "You must be feeling awful and hopeless." Instead, focus on positives about the person who died.
- Offer specific support. If you want to really help, offer to mow the grass, make soup, or watch the kids. This is much better than saying, "I'm here for you."
What Not to Write in a Sympathy Card
No matter what else you say in the card, saying any of the things below will sound awful. Avoid writing meaningless sympathy cliches or including other personal business.
- "I know how you feel." (No you don't.)
- "It's time for you to move on with your life." (Thanks for the advice, jerk.)
- "It was his/her time to go." (Who are you, God?)
- "I have a friend who died just like _______. The doctors told him that he would live a lot longer. One night I was talking to him and all of a sudden I looked over and noticed that the rocking chair had stopped moving. I don't know how, but I knew he was dead. Those dang doctors don't know what they are talking about, do they? Sorry ______ died earlier than you thought." (Way too much information.)
- "I owed _______ ten dollars. Who should I give the money?" (Forget the ten dollars.)
- "We all have to die some time." (Not at all comforting.)
- "Just remember the good times" (Insensitive and meaningless.)
- "______ said I could have his/her guitar when he/she died. Let me know a good time to pick it up." (This is a greedy.)
- "I am sure you will find someone out there for you just as good as ________." (Boy that makes me feel better.)
- "We saw it coming. I mean, what did he expect drinking and smoking like that all those years?" (How about a little sensitivity?)
- "All things work out for a reason. There must be a reason this has happened." (Go ahead and try to explain why this is good.)
- "Time heals all wounds." (Another meaningless cliche.)
Leave Your Own Ideas
Lucille on October 31, 2016:
I'm glad I found this hub. Many times I've struggled trying to find the right comforting words. Thank you for the thoughts!
LeKesh Pettis on November 17, 2015:
Thanks for this. Loss is a difficult topic to address at times. I recently lost a sibling and I was also confused on what you say in return. Very insightful.
DinoMommy on April 30, 2015:
What a great article, thank you for writing it. Sympathy can be such a tricky emotion to express in words.
Blake Flannery (author) from United States on April 12, 2015:
Thanks. Sympathy messages are one of the toughest types of card messages to write. You can't necessarily just write what you think you would want to hear, because people respond to loss in many different ways. Our differing values and beliefs about life, death, the soul, and religion add another layer of complexity. If you have a specific circumstance that you need help with, leave a comment here. I, and other visitors to the page, can try to help you with crafting the right words of sympathy.
Krzysztof Willman from Parlin, New Jersey on February 12, 2015:
Very imaginative and useful hub. I could definitely use some of these quotes and tips. It's not that simple writing a sympathy card because the person could be extremely sensitive to it if not written properly.
Lindsey A S from Delaware on February 06, 2015:
Great ideas, good hub topic!
moviesreviews on February 06, 2015:
One of the best hubs I have ever seen. Great advice!
Eileen from Western Cape , South Africa on January 13, 2015:
What a useful hub I would like to book mark . I'm always at a loss for words ; your suggestions are much appreciated !
Free Macon on January 11, 2015:
I'm going to have to mark this page, one thing I've never been good at is expressing my condolences. Thanks!!! great hub!!
Doris H. Dancy from Yorktown, Virginia on January 11, 2015:
What a useful hub you have penned. Thank you for so many helpful suggestions for times when we really don't always know what to say. I also love your suggested quotes that can give a person grieving something to remember and hold on to for a long time.
Deborah Morrison from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada on January 04, 2015:
Very helpful hub, since it is so difficult to know what to say that will bring comfort to those who have lost a loved one through death. I especially like all of the examples with words of sympathy, since at these difficult times we can end up feeling lost for words. Well written and researched hub that provides practical advice.
Amie Butchko from Warwick, NY on October 09, 2014:
What a thoughtful and useful hub! I will come back to read again and again.
Blake Flannery (author) from United States on October 04, 2014:
I agree with you. Don't feel obligated to say anything. Just give the person a hug with your ears by listening. This still involves asking how the person is doing though, not just ignoring the person.
Linda F Correa from Spring Hill Florida on October 02, 2014:
Well thought out ideas. Some people just don't know what to say. So you have given some great thoughts to use. Sometimes it's better not to say anything at all. At least these ideas will help those who just don't know what to say
Laura Smith from Pittsburgh, PA on July 01, 2014:
This is so helpful. I'm a terrible card writer. I usually just sign my name or draw a picture, but that's not usually appropriate with a sympathy card. I love the quotes.
Amie Butchko from Warwick, NY on February 27, 2014:
Very useful and thoughtful hub that I am sure I will be returning to...
Yoleen Lucas from Big Island of Hawaii on July 14, 2013:
Thank you so much for this hub. The mother of my favorite high school teacher died recently, and her funeral is today. I will use your suggestions to write her a bereavement card.