It’s an easy thing to write a letter of congratulations for a happy event, like a wedding, graduation or birthday. But writing a sympathy letter or note of condolence is totally different! At the end of this page, I have a sample letter of sympathy for you, so you don’t have to start from scratch.
You probably feel uncomfortable and awkward when faced with a bereaved friend or acquaintance, and just don’t know what to say in a letter. So you might just keep putting it off until the proper time to write has elapsed.
Although you might feel relief at not having to deal with the situation, your friend will know that you didn’t acknowledge their great loss. They may feel hurt or abandoned, just because you were afraid of saying the wrong thing.
The mere act of writing a sympathy letter, even if it isn’t perfect, shows that you care, and can provide more comfort than you realize. The one thing newly bereaved people need more than anything else is the support and understanding of other people. And they can also be disheartened and depressed if they feel abandoned by friends and acquaintances.
Actually, writing a letter or note of condolence should be easy if you just speak from your heart and avoid the dreaded “sympathy platitudes”. Just write out your genuine thoughts and feelings. You might be able to express what you want in just a few sentences, or it might be appropriate for you to write an entire page in order to lend proper support.
If you find it easier to accompany your note with a gift, here are a few sympathy gift ideas.
Or, create a personalized sympathy card, if you are crafty: that an elegant and classy way to bring it all together, painlessly (and cheaply). Of course, if you’re not artsy, you can always send a sympathy card (I keep this set on hand).
Guidelines For Writing a Sympathy Letter
Try to keep it fairly short. Bereaved people are often too distraught to deal with a long narrative.
Try some of the following sentences to see if they “fit”:
- “We were so terribly sorry to hear that Mike has died”.
- “We will miss June very much; she touched our lives”.
- “I am so saddened by the news, I hardly know what to say to you”.
- “He was such a (sweet) (thoughtful) (funny) (creative) person, and we will miss him very much”.
Then add a few sentences about times you spent with the deceased, or how you treasured your relationship with them.
You might tell a short story of something that happened or an occasion you shared together that reveals something new about them their loved one might not even know. Exposing some new talent or a thoughtful gesture the deceased made, will become a treasured memory for them. It will help promote the healing process.
How to end your letter:
- “With much love and sympathy for your great loss”.
- “I will call you next week to check on you”.
- “I will check in on you soon to see how I can help”.
- “I will keep you in my prayers” (only if sincere).
A Sample Letter of Sympathy
Here is an example of an effective and comforting sympathy letter:
Kevin and I were so very saddened and devastated by the news that Susan
Susan was such a caring and talented person, and she truly touched our
Such a sweet and inspiring soul, I will miss that smile very much. We
Please, Gary, let us know if there is any way we can help you and the
Our love and support will always be here for you in your time of need.
Our love to you and the kids,
As hard as you might find it to write a letter of condolence, please do so. Just give it your best effort. Use our sample letter of sympathy to get you started.
Your friend will appreciate the show of support, even if you didn’t use “just the right words”. When it comes to expressing sympathy, it truly is “the thought that counts”.