Signing a sympathy card isn’t easy. We search for words. We wonder what would be comforting to hear. We worry about saying the wrong thing…
But even though it’s not easy, it is important to reach out in sympathy. Our words can’t take away the pain of losing a loved one, but they can go a long way toward helping a grieving person feel loved and supported.
You should know right up front that you won’t find the perfect thing to write here. However, you will find ideas from seasoned Hallmark writers for good, helpful and hopeful things to write in a sympathy card.
We hope our tips help you relax, write and share your heartfelt caring with someone who is going through a time of grief.
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There are many good reasons for keeping your personal sympathy message short. It could be that the card has already expressed most or all of what you wanted to say. Or maybe you didn’t know the deceased well, or at all. Whatever the reason, you can absolutely be brief and still come across as warm and caring.
- “We are so sorry for your loss.”
- “I’m going to miss her, too.”
- “I hope you feel surrounded by much love.”
- “Sharing in your sadness as you remember Dan.”
- “Sending healing prayers and comforting hugs. I am so sorry for your loss.”
- “With deepest sympathy as you remember Robert.”
- “I was saddened to hear that your grandfather passed away. My thoughts are with you and your family.”
- “Remembering your wonderful mother and wishing you comfort.”
- “It was truly a pleasure working with your father for 17 years. He will be deeply missed.”
- “Thinking of you all as you celebrate your grandmother’s remarkable life.”
- “We are missing Anne along with you. With heartfelt sympathy,”
- “Thinking of you and wishing you moments of peace and comfort as you remember a friend who was so close to you.”
- “Our family is keeping your family in our thoughts and prayers.”
- “Holding you close in my thoughts and hoping you are doing OK.”
Writing tip: If you knew the deceased, but not the surviving family member(s) to whom you’re sending your card, it might be helpful to mention your connection to their loved one (from college, through work, etc.).
It can be a great comfort to a grieving person or family to hear that others thought highly of their loved one, too. If you knew and admired the deceased, be sure to let your recipient(s) know.
- “What an amazing person and what a remarkable life. I feel so lucky that I got to know him.”
- “What a good and generous man your father was. I thought his funeral service was a wonderful tribute to him and all he has done for our community. He will be missed.”
- “Your mama was an amazing lady, and I feel privileged to have known her. I know you will miss her deeply. I’ll be keeping you in my thoughts and prayers.”
- “Celebrating the life of a good man and mourning his passing with you.”
- “Your daughter touched so many lives for the good. I’m grateful I had the chance to know her as both a colleague and a cherished friend.”
- “Your mother blessed so many people with her faith and kindness. Praying that you’ll find comfort in your memories of her and in the knowledge that others are missing her, too.”
- “I have the best memories of staying with Aunt Edie as a kid. I don’t think I’ve told you this, but starting when I was about 10, she would take me to Becker’s for ice cream cones…and let me drive! Only Aunt Edie…I’m going to miss her fun-loving spirit so much.”
- “Nobody could tell a funny story like your mom. Remember at your graduation party—the story about the vacuuming incident? My face hurt for a full day after from laughing so much. I’ll always cherish those memories of fun times spent with her.”
Writing tip: Need a more specific word than “good” to describe the deceased? Consider one of these: kindhearted, talented, admired, unforgettable, fun-loving, funny, wonderful, well-loved, lovely, sweet, generous, one-of-a-kind, one-in-a-million, honorable, respected, caring, hardworking, strong, energetic, happy.
If you’re in a position to help your recipient with arrangements, meals, housework, yard work, childcare or something else, then feel free to include an offer to do so as part of your message. Just be sure to follow up and follow through.
- “I know I can’t make your pain go away, but I want you to know I’m here with a shoulder or an ear or anything else you need.”
- “Thinking of your family with love and wanting to help out in any way I can. I’ll call to see when would be a good night to bring over a meal.”
- “You’ve got so much on your mind and on your heart right now. We hope it will make one less worry to know that Kevin and I will be taking care of the yard for as long as you need.”
- “I know this must be a very difficult and demanding time for you all. We are keeping you in our thoughts and prayers. If there is anything we can do—from walking Max to picking up your dry cleaning, please let us know.”
Writing tip: In general, the more specific your offer of help, the better. And no task is too small.
When someone you know is grieving, you might want to offer ongoing messages of support in the weeks and months following the loss of his or her loved one. You can send these cards to note an occasion like the deceased’s birthday, a wedding anniversary, holidays or any other time when the grieving person may need extra support.
- “It’s been a while, but I know that the hurt doesn’t go away when the cards and casseroles do. I’m still here for you.”
- “Just wanted to let you know we’re remembering your mom on her birthday and sending lots of caring thoughts your way.”
- “I know Christmas won’t be the same without Sara, but I hope it helps a little to know that you’re in my thoughts and prayers, especially through the holidays.”
- “Hard to believe it’s been a year since we said good-bye to Bill. Couldn’t let this anniversary go by without letting you know that I’m thinking of you.”
Writing tip: You will find some cards specific to sympathy follow-up, but you might also choose to go with an encouragement or thinking-of-you card, or a blank card with a beautiful or lighthearted photo on the cover, depending on the tone you’re going for.
A warm, respectful closing is a graceful way to wrap up your sympathy message. Choose one of these, or create your own.
- With sympathy,
- With deepest sympathy,
- With heartfelt sympathy,
- With prayers and sympathy,
- With sincere sympathy,
- With warm thoughts and prayers,
- With caring,
- With love at this sad time,
- In caring sympathy,
- With you in sorrow,
- Sharing your sadness,
- Thinking of you,
- Caring thoughts are with you,
- God bless,
- God bless you and comfort you,
- Keeping you in our prayers,
- Lifting you up in prayer,
- Praying for you,
- Wishing you peace,
- Wishing you healing,
- My heart goes out to you,
- Please accept our condolences,
- My sincere condolences,
Here are a few thoughts and phrases to avoid in sympathy cards, because they risk either minimizing the recipients’ unique feelings of grief or actually making them feel worse.
- “I know how you feel.” We all experience and process grief differently.
- “She was so young.” No need for a potentially painful reminder.
- “What a terrible loss.” Avoid dwelling on the pain or difficulty of the loss.
- “You should…” Instead of advice, offer comfort and support.
- “You will…” Steer clear of predictions about how their grief journey will go.
- “This happened for a reason.” Even with the best intentions behind it, this thought risks assigning blame for the death.
Writing tip: If you’re still worried about saying the wrong thing, then keep your message very short. The simple act of sending the card lets your recipient know you care.
Find out the simple formula for crafting your own sympathy message and get some real life examples and watch-outs from Hallmark Senior Writer Cat Hollyer.