The Do's and Don'ts of Writing a Sympathy Note

Posted by: Brigitte Ganger in Grief and Guidance, Funeral Advice | September 21, 2021

Writing a sympathy note is a thoughtful way to express your condolences when someone you know has suffered a recent loss. However, it is essential to strike the right tone and offer your sympathy with sensitivity. 

 

Use this list of do's and don'ts to guide you as you craft the perfect note of sympathy.


Do

  1. Write that note, even when you feel awkward. Skipping the note might be interpreted as a sign that you don't care about the family's sorrow. This is never the message you want to send.
  2. Send the note as soon as you hear about the death. The first days and weeks after a loss are often the worst. This is the time to offer your heartfelt sympathy.
  3. Send a stock-printed card if you barely knew the deceased or the family. If the relationship was closer, be sure to write a personal note or letter. When in doubt, send flowers along with your note.
  4. Remember the note is for the living, not the deceased. Even if you didn't get along with the deceased or didn't know the person at all, it's always appropriate to offer sympathy to the family.
  5. Tell them you're sorry they suffered a loss. This is the essence of your message. It doesn't need to be fancy, but it always needs to be said. Let them know they're in your thoughts as they struggle with their grief.
  6. Share a positive memory of thoughtfulness, warmth, or other positive qualities the loved one possessed if you were also close with the deceased. Gentle humor can be just what the family needs, so it's fine to share a funny story if it puts the deceased in a good light.
  7. Offer some help. If you're far away, you might say "I'm here any time you want to talk." If you live close by, bring a casserole, offer to walk the dog, or do some babysitting.

 

Don't

  1. Say "Let me know if you need anything." While this is a popular gesture, it's essentially an empty one. The bereaved is too busy and in too much pain to think of things for you to do. If you really want to help, offer something specific.
  2. Say "Mary's finally out of pain." Avoid saying anything that makes it sound like the death was a good thing.
  3. Express religious sentiments, unless you're sure the family shares those beliefs. To non-believers, these sentiments might sound empty and make them feel worse. 


Condolence notes can be a source of comfort and let sorrowing relatives know they are not alone. With a few simple words, you can let the bereaved know you care and brighten their day.

6 Comments

J

Jennifer woodson

April 15

Very special Lady I was lucky to have meet her.she was always helping someone.She had a heart of gold and she loved her family very much.Very proud of her children and grandchildren.If there is holes in the floor of Heaven she's watching over them.

b

bobby jenkins

February 24

Tim Schwab was one of my closest friends for well over 30 years. Everyone that knew him loved him, he just fit in . I already miss him terribly. May the peace of our Lord be with all his family at this difficult time.

J

JAMES C. VOWELL

January 12

COAL CREEK MASONIC LODGE #492, ROCKY TOP, TN- THE OFFICERS AND MEMBERS SEND OUR CONDOLENCES, GOD WILL BE WITH YOU.

C

Chris Wilson

December 21, 2021

To the para family I give my respects and condolences.tony was a good friend and great person may he rest in peace .and be on your memories as he will be missed and remembered.o remember when he hid me put on your motorhome after I got into trouble years ago he always made laugh and think positive .even when we worked on the cow farm at the mill NM moving the cow manure .Tony Sr I am so sorry to hear about your loss and your family Javier. Keep your head up I am very proud that I got to know your family .may peace find you and God be with you all in this though time .your friend always Chris Wilson

g

georgette Hendricksen

December 13, 2021

Joe Whalan, my dear friend and neighbor;
you are missed! Coolidge Condo is missing your presence. Rest in Peace!
Georgette Hendricksen

P

Patrechia Topelko

October 11, 2021

Auntie Jeannie learned to be generous and enjoy the gift of sharing. She shared her wardrobe with my oldest brother ( Roy ) on the farm as he was the only boy there and her parents could not effort to get clothes for a boy for working. On the farm. They were close in age and my mother was in Ontario for awhile. ( aunt Mary )they had unisex clothes before it was common. A story passed down by Auntie Anna,Auntie Mary, and my brother Roy. Patrechia ( Patsy Topelko )

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