June 20, 2019

What to Write in a Sympathy Card

By Sarah Sorrentino-Noble
What to Write in a Sympathy Card

When a friend or loved one is grieving, it's easy to get intimidated or confused about how to support them. Often, we let that keep us from showing our care and concern. But with a little effort, sending a thoughtful sympathy card can be all that's needed to let your loved one know you care. 

If you're at a loss for the right words in your friend's time of need, don't stress - here are a few pointers for navigating the waters of sending uplifting condolences, as well as some example sympathy card messages to use as a guide. 

Gather your thoughts

It's helpful to begin by gathering a few thoughts on a notepad before you sit down to write the actual sympathy card. Try to list a few things that stand out to you about the deceased, if you knew him or her. Remember things that the survivor loved about him or her, or special stories that you've been told. If you didn't know the deceased, consider how your loved one talked about him or her. All of these can inform your note and make it feel more personal and heartfelt. 

What to send and when

It's best to send your note in a sympathy greeting card, blank card, or on nice stationery. This is not the time to send a text or an email. Try to send your note as soon as possible after learning about the death. 

What to include in your sympathy message

This is a particularly vulnerable time, so try to ensure that your message is personal and from the heart, even if it is brief. Don't rely on generic messages that don't show much personal concern. Your message need not be perfect - it should just be personal and sincere. Try to include one or two of the following, at least:

  • I'm praying for you and your family
  • You and your family are in my thoughts
  • A positive memory or brief story about the deceased
  • The impact the deceased has had on your life
  • A specific offer to help and plan to follow up later
  • What you will miss about the deceased

Example Sympathy Card Messages

Dear Mallory,

I am truly sorry to hear about the loss of your mother. Her generous spirit was such a blessing to me every time she welcomed our family into her home. I know there is nothing I can say to lessen your grief in this moment, but please know that I'm here to listen if you'd like to talk. 

With deepest sympathy,


Dear Jim,

Words cannot express my sorrow after hearing about your wife's passing. Charlene was such a vibrant soul and she brought joy to everyone around her. I'll always remember her willingness to host sleepovers for the kids and those legendary chocolate cranberry cookies. She will be missed by so many.

I'd like to offer to bring a meal to you and your family next week. I'll reach out over the weekend to arrange for the best time for me to drop it off. 

In the meantime, please know that my prayers are with you all. If you need to talk, or if there is anything else at all that I can do, don't hesitate to call. 

All my love,


Dear Tammy,

Thank you for reaching out to let us know about your brother's passing. I'm deeply sorry for your loss. I know how much you cherished your relationship with James, and that he felt the same bond with you. I will be thinking of you and your family during this difficult time. 

With love and sympathy,