Login
Password

Forgot your password?

How to Write a Compassionate Letter of Sympathy

By Edited Feb 6, 2015 1 7

Condolence Quotes

And Loving Sympathy Cards

When a friend has lost a loved one, sending them letter of sympathy or writing a personal condolence note is a thoughtful gesture. Over the years, many of your friends are inevitably going to lose loved ones. Death is as much a part of life as birth, yet it naturally makes us feel much more uncomfortable. When our friends lose a family member, it forces us to have to face up to our own mortality, or the mortality of our own family members. When a friend you care about loses a loved one, there is no better way to show your concern than to write a sympathy note or letter of condolence. What can you say or do that will bring them a tiny bit of comfort?

Graves in Old Graveyard

A Simple Preprinted Sympathy Card Can Help

If you don't know what to say, you can always purchase a preprinted condolence card or sympathy card at your local card shop. They usually contain thoughtful messages that have been professionally written and designed to be tasteful and considerate. If there is a line in the card that seems especially appropriate, underline it before signing your name. You can always add a sentence or two about the deceased, if you knew them. If you didn't know the deceased, simply sign and send the card so your friend will know that you are thinking of them.

Everyone may wish to keep a few condolence cards on hand to they are prepared to send out a card in a timely manner.  If you are interested in ordering a few, you may want to use this

Use this Link to beautiful assortments of condolence cards from Amazon.com.

Write a Condolence Note on a Blank Card

If you feel comfortable, and prefer not to use a preprinted card, you can always write a condolence letter on your own stationery. Either decision is correct. The important thing is that you don't postpone sending a note because you forgot to purchase a card at the store.

When you write your note, begin by stating how sorry you are for your friend's loss. Let them know how sad you were to hear of the death of their loved one. The next part of the note will depend on how well you knew the deceased. If you didn't know the person who died (for example, if the deceased is the parent of a friend), mention what you remember of any conversations you may have had about that person. For example, you might say, "I remember how you laughed when your mother sent you a gift labeled with your sister's name!" If you do not have any such stories, simply tell your friend that you are sorry for her loss, and you are thinking of her. You might also offer to visit or go to lunch with her, when she is ready.

If you did personally know the deceased, mention a fond memory you have of that person, such as "I remember the fabulous cookies your mom used to bake when we were young."

Finish your note by saying you know how much your friend will miss having their loved one active in their life. You may also want to add a statement such as:

"I cannot imagine what you are going through. Please know I am here for you when you are ready to talk."

"My heart goes out to you and your family during this difficult time of loss."

Condolence Quotes

Sometimes, you don't know what to say, and would like to use a quote from the past. Here are a few that you might want to use:

"When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight." Kahlil Gibran

"Death leaves a heartache no one can heal; love leaves a memory no one can steal." Engraved on a headstone in Ireland

"A human life is a story told by God." Hans Christian Andersen

These quotes are all a thoughtful way to begin a personal note to your grieving friend. They are also a gentle way to introduce some of the wonderful memories you have of the deceased.

Allow your Friends Time to Grieve

Avoid including negative memories in your condolence note. Also, avoid making broad statements such as "I know what you are going through," or "I understand what you are feeling." Even if you are sure this is true, the grieving person may feel that no one else really understands the depth of their pain. This is also not the time to say, "Your mother has moved on to a better place," or "You'll be feeling back to normal before you know it." Friends and relatives should wait several months before suggesting to their grieving friends that they should begin to "get out of the house" or "go to grief counseling." It may take them some time to get back to normal, and you will need to be patient.

Attend the Memorial Service

The primary reason we go to funerals and memorial services is not just to show our support for the person who had died, but to lend our support to those who have been left behind. They need to know that they are not forgotten and alone. If it is at all possible, make every effort to attend the memorial service and speak to the grieving family members. You do not need to say much. Tell them how sorry you are for their loss, and give them a hug if it seems natural. Your presence and your words will mean so much.

Later, do not be surprised if they cannot remember seeing you at the service. Grieving family members are often in shock and overwhelmed, and they may not be thinking as clearly as normal. Do not be insulted. Instead, be loving and supportive.

Make a Donation to a Charity

In addition to your personal note of condolence, there are other thoughtful gestures you may wish to consider. In lieu of flowers, many grieving families ask that you make a donation to a charity. If this is their desire, honor their request. It means a lot to the families to see that a number of people have donated to a favorite family charity. Even a small donation will often bring comfort to the family. Most charities will send notes to the family, acknowledging your donation, without mentioning the specific amount that you sent.

Flowers are Often a Thoughtful Gesture

If the family has not asked that you make a donation in lieu of flowers, it is perfectly acceptable to send flowers to most funerals. However, it is usually wise to ask your friend first. You will need to know specific information about the location and the time of the funeral. In addition, there may be reasons why they would prefer that you not send flowers, and they may have simply forgotten to mention it earlier.

Whatever you write in your letter of condolence, and no matter what other compassionate actions you choose to take, be sure to do something to acknowledge your friend's loss. It brings so much comfort to people who have lost someone to know that other people care about their suffering. The worst thing you can do is simply ignore their pain. Be sympathetic. Listen to them if they want to talk. In short, continue to be a friend.

You may also be interested in reading one of these articles:

Helping Kids Deal with Death

A Healing Meditation

Thoughtful Thank You Notes from Kids

How to Write Charming Thank You Notes

An Example of the Sympathy Cards Available from Amazon

Sympathy Card Assortment - 2 each of 5 designs, box of 10 cards & envelopes
Amazon Price: Buy Now
(price as of Feb 6, 2015)
There are many different sets of sympathy cards available from Amazon. To see more, simply click on the blue product name above and you will be taken directly to Amazon where you can look at the other choices. Or, you can use the link featured earlier in this article.
Advertisement
Advertisement

Comments

Jan 21, 2012 2:04pm
EGreen
I really like your advice about telling friends that you will be ready to listen to them when they are ready to talk. I also love the Kahlil Gibran quote you have included here. How nice. This is an article everyone should bookmark because it is hard to know what to say sometimes to even the best of friends when they are suffering through a loss like this. Great job. Excellent tips!
Jan 26, 2012 8:04am
Deborah-Diane
Thank you for your comment. I wrote this partly because I sometimes procrastinate about writing condolence notes, because I don't know what to say. I thought it would help me have a plan to ease things along. Sadly, this is something I have to do more often than I would like!
Jan 28, 2012 3:21pm
Introspective
This is good sound advice Deb, and it is so true that the last thing anyone wants to hear when they are grieving is the phrase "I know what you are going through," because they truly don't...everyone's experiences are different. One thing I've found is that people generally want to talk about their loved one who has recently passed-away and so you can ask the question "Tell me about your loved one" (mother, father, sister, spouse, etc.), or "Tell me more about__" Then really listen and let the person speak for as long as they wish. Compassion and friendship are what people need. As a Christian, one of the most helpful things anyone ever said after my Dad passed away was "He's not 'lost' because you know where he is!"
Jan 28, 2012 8:11pm
Deborah-Diane
Thank you so much for your comments. I love your suggestion that you simply ask people to tell you about their loved one. Listening to others is so simple and so powerful! I also agree that it really does help us to remember that we always know where our loved ones have gone! That is so comforting.
Jan 29, 2012 11:21am
Maxwell
Very nice advice for a sensitive situation. Keeping it simple and classy is the way to go.
Feb 1, 2012 10:24am
divaonline
Really nice article. My pet peeve is people who try to rush a grieving person back to normalcy with their comments as you mentioned. Introspective's idea to ask questions about the loved one instead of trying to come up with meaningless condolences is a gem.
Feb 6, 2015 9:52am
Deborah-Diane
We never want to rush a person who is grieving over the loss of a friend or family member. It takes time ... as much time as they need.
Add a new comment - No HTML
You must be logged in and verified to post a comment. Please log in or sign up to comment.

Explore InfoBarrel

Auto Business & Money Entertainment Environment Health History Home & Garden InfoBarrel University Lifestyle Sports Technology Travel & Places
© Copyright 2008 - 2016 by Hinzie Media Inc. Terms of Service Privacy Policy XML Sitemap

Follow IB Lifestyle