Though pre-printed sympathy cards are acceptable, writing
personal sympathy messages is something to consider. The Emily
Post® Institute advises you to follow one rule: Say what you
- Let the family know how much you will miss the deceased
- Let them know how dear he or she was or how they inspired
- Recall a fond memory, share a lighthearted story (but keep it
- Express your regrets in the card or letter if you can't attend
- Always ask if there is something specific you can do to help -
run errands, make food, etc.
- Dwell on the details of an illness or death or ask for details
- Imply that death was for the best
- Tell the family what to do - "you have to be strong," "stay
- Make religious references unless you know those sentiments are
felt by the family
Following are two examples of short but appropriate sympathy
SYMPATHY MESSAGE EXAMPLE
We were so sorry to hear about
Henry. If Mark or I can help by walking the dogs, running errands
or in any other way, please don't hesitate to call us. We would be
honored to be of assistance. You and your family are in our
thoughts and prayers.
With deepest sympathy,
MESSAGE EXAMPLE 2
Dear Mr. Smith,
I want you to know that we are
thinking of you and your family at this difficult time. If we can
help by making a meal or watering the garden, please call. We would
love to be of assistance.
Your mother was such an
inspiration to me. She always had a smile and was ready to share a
kind word. My son adored her coffee cake. She was a special woman
and we will miss the presence of Carol Smith very much.
With deepest sympathy,
Whom to Address a Sympathy Card
Here are some guidelines when sending a sympathy card or
- Address the card to the closest relative of the deceased. If
you didn't know the family, address the card to the spouse, the
oldest adult child, or parents
- If you're sending the card to a friend who has lost a relative,
send the card directly to your friend
- If the deceased is the parent of a friend, your note should be
sent to the friend, rather than the surviving parent.
- If you're sending a condolence letter to children who've lost a
parent, address their names on separate lines: Miss Ann Wolfe (the
daughter), Mr. John Wolfe (the son) underneath. Your card's
salutation should say "Dear Ann and John"
- If a friend's ex-spouse dies, and the couple maintained a close
relationship, you can write a sympathy card to your friend and to
any children the couple had
Timing for Sending Condolences
A sympathy card or letter of condolence should be sent within a
week after learning of the death. But it's a wonderful idea to
write again weeks - or even months - later to let the grieving
family member know you are still thinking of them.
Trying to put your thoughts into words is difficult, and it's
understandable if you have put off writing the card. Keep in mind,
your sympathy card doesn't have to be very long. Just let the
family know you've been thinking and praying (if appropriate) for