Condolence Message – What to write in a sympathy card

Writing a sympathy card is often a daunting task. When someone who is dear to us is suffering a bereavement or experiencing adversity, we yearn to comfort them. But despite our best attempts to craft the perfect condolence message, the right words can evade us. We want to ensure that our sympathy message has meaning, but we worry about saying the wrong thing or not sufficiently expressing our concern.

In today’s world, there are countless and ever-increasing means of communication and expression. But these more modern means can feel inappropriate for a message of condolence. This is why a handwritten sympathy card feels all the more thoughtful and caring. Sympathy cards can act as a physical token of the love and comfort you have to offer and will be appreciated all the more in a world gone digital.

Yes, writing a sympathy card is rarely easy, but it is very necessary to reach out and support those struggling with a loss. The small but heartfelt gesture of a sympathy message can help ease someone’s pain simply by acknowledging it. This is why we have a compiled a list of tips and techniques that will help illustrate what to write in a sympathy card intended for your grieving loved one.

Simplicity can have the most impact

When writing a sympathy card, it is best to keep things relatively short, sweet and simple. You are not writing a letter or newspaper article and the meaning of your words may diminish if you use too many. The last thing you want to do in a sympathy message is ramble or inadvertently convey a tone of confusion or uncertainty. The recipient may be feeling enough of those emotions already.

A handful of well-chosen, sincerely-felt words can make the most impact and have the most capacity for comfort. Verbose or long-winded sympathy messages can appear insincere or glib. Poignancy lies in honesty and an honest, heartfelt condolence message should be expressed succinctly and simply.

Sample condolence messages for a sympathy card:

You have been in my thoughts ever since I heard of (loved one’s) passing. It was a joy to know him/her. I will miss him/her dearly.

I am truly sorry to hear about the loss of (loved one). If there is anything I can do to make this painful time easier, please reach out to me.

As you grieve, please know that we will always remember (loved one) with great warmth and love. We miss him/her so much.

We are so deeply sorry for your loss. We are all wishing you as much peace and comfort possible in this very difficult time.

Sincerity is not the same as perfection

Don’t spend too long labouring over your sympathy message or dwelling on the use of the exact right words. It doesn’t have to be poetry to have power. The most important thing you can do is show that you care and that the person suffering is in your thoughts. Perfect grammar or stylish eloquence does not necessarily equate to sincerity or heartfelt emotion.

The best thing you can do is to ensure that your sympathy card is received soon after the loss has occurred, when a person may need it most. Although, this is not to suggest that a sympathy card can only be appreciated in the immediate aftermath of a death. Receiving a condolence message after a long time has passed since a death can also be very touching.

If you spend too long considering the structure and content of your sympathy message, you run the risk of having it sound formal or emotionless. Any condolence message that is expressed genuinely and warmly will be seen as perfect by the one who needs it.

Sample condolence messages for a sympathy card:

Words cannot convey how truly wonderful (loved one) was and so words cannot convey the enormity of his/her loss. Please know that we are all thinking of you.

Though it may be hard to feel in the midst of such pain, please know that you are surrounded by love and support. We will all miss (loved one) enormously.

I have been holding you close in my thoughts since hearing of your loss. I am so grateful to have known (loved one) and will remember him/her always.

I am so deeply saddened to hear of (loved one’s) passing. If you ever need help of any kind or someone to talk to, please let me know.

Share your own experiences with grief

A condolence message can show empathy as well as sympathy. Sharing your own experience with loss and grief can help make people feel less alone in their suffering. For example, if a person has just lost their mother, you could briefly express how you too once lost your mother and how difficult you found that time.

However, you should only empathise in this way when appropriate and fitting. If your experience with loss didn’t affect you in a similarly significant way, you may unintentionally trivialise or devalue their pain. You may even offend or insult them.

Empathising in a way that is proper and respectful can make their pain feel clearly recognised and understood, which may help ease it. Sharing your own experience can tacitly demonstrate to those mourning that this period of intense pain and grief will, eventually, come to an end. Adding such a personal touch can also help prevent your sympathy card from seeming generic or cursory.

Sample condolence messages for a sympathy card:

When my father died, you were always there for me. I intend to do the same for you.

When I lost my sister, I couldn’t imagine a life without her. Slowly, I learned to live a life where her memory will always be with me instead. The memory of (loved one) will always be with you, and so many others.

I won’t say I know how you feel, as no one knows this but you. But when I lost my husband, I found comfort in the love and support of those around me.

What you shouldn’t write in a condolence message

While your sympathy card doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel or stun in its originality, it shouldn’t be too general or commonplace either. Avoid the use of cliches or platitudes. These could include vapid, overused phrases such as: “He’s in a better place now’’ or “I know she’s smiling down on you’’. This can make your sympathy message seem overly conventional or trite, even cheesy. It can also make you seem unfeeling or suggest that this is only being done as an obligation without much thought.

You should also avoid phrases such as: “You’re strong enough to get through this’’ or “I know you’ll come out the other side of this’’. You don’t want to invalidate their grief or make them feel that they are expected to rush their period of mourning or conceal their pain. Don’t make them feel as though there is an expiration date on the amount of time they are allowed to grieve. Your condolence message should sensitively legitimise their feelings of sorrow and bereavement, but without making them seem insurmountable either.

Sample condolence messages for a sympathy card:

The grief of his/her loss may be with you for a long time, but the joy of his/her memory will stay with you forever.

Things will never be the same without (loved one), but we will always remember him/her.

I don’t know when this grief will leave you, but I know his/her memory never will.

I won’t say I know what you are going through, but I do share in the love and memories you have for (loved one).

Share memories in a condolence message

If you knew the deceased personally, it can be enormously comforting to share a fond, happy memory of them during better times. You should highlight their good qualities and unique traits. Show that this person made a positive impact on your life and you are better for knowing them.

For instance, you could describe a time in which this person helped you overcome a difficulty, showed kindness when you needed it or simply even a time in which they made you laugh or smile. A sympathy message doesn’t have to be too sombre or solemn. Expressing how the deceased brought happiness to others in ways their loved ones may not be aware of can be tremendously uplifting.

Sample condolence messages for a sympathy card:

Your daughter showed me great kindness during a very difficult time. I will never forget her.

I will always remember how much (loved one) made me laugh. My life is better for knowing him/her.

I will always remember the Summers your mother and I spent together as children. Whenever I remember those day, I will think of her.

Some of my best memories were spent with your brother. He was such a funny and kind-hearted person. I will miss him dearly.

I am so grateful to have grown up with your husband. The times I spent with him in our youth will remain a part of me forever.

I spent the past twenty years working with your father. He was a wonderful colleague and an even better friend. I will remember him for the rest of my life.

Hopefully, these tips and techniques will bring some clarity to the emotionally taxing experience of writing a condolence message. There is no one correct way to write a sympathy card and, ultimately, every loss or death requires its own specific message of support and comfort. But as long as your condolence message is sincere and simple, heartfelt and honest, it should be dearly appreciated by those who need it.

Condolence Messages in Irish:

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha – May they rest in peace

Ní maith liom do thrioblóid – Sorry for your loss

Mo chomhbhrón ort agus ar do mhuintir – My condolences to you and your family

Comhbhrón ó chroí – My deepest sympathy

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine – In the shelter of each other, people survive.

Suggestions of sympathy messages to include as part of a memorial tree gift:

This tree shall nourish the earth, as memories of (loved one) nourish our hearts.

As this tree takes root forever in the earth, memories of (loved one) shall take root forever in our hearts.

This tree will make a positive impact on so many lives, just as (loved one) did.

Just as (loved one) enriched our past, this tree shall enrich the future.

Let this tree help heal your heart as it helps heal the planet.

Just as (loved one) changed so many lives for the better, so too will this tree.

May this tree serve as a living and growing tribute to the memory of (loved one).

As this tree grows, so does (loved one’s) legacy.

May this tree stand strong and eternal as the memory of (loved one).

This tree is a symbol of how (loved one) left this world a better place.

Only the beauty of this tree could symbolise the beauty of (loved one’s) life.

Let his/her memory be as undying as this tree.

A part of (Loved one’s) heart remained always in Ireland, which is where this tree shall always be.

We plant this tree in honour of (loved one), so a part of them shall always be in Ireland.

We plant this tree in loving memory of (loved one), who was always so proud of his/her Irish heritage.

If you need further advice on how to support someone who is grieving, please click here.

Plant an Irish Oak Memorial Tree, in memory, as an enduring gesture to help heal the heart and the planet. Click HERE for more information. A handwritten card will accompany the Planting Certificate.

Article researched and written by Nicholas Collender.

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