What to Write in a Sympathy Card, How to Express Sympathy

I Am So Sorry for Your Loss, You Have My Deepest Sympathy

For sympathy starter writing prompts, scroll to bottom of page.

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The mother bent over the pen and card in her hand. She wanted to add something to the words on the card, since it said only "Deepest Sympathy in Your Loss." But it was so hard to find the right words. She wrote "We are thinking about you at this difficult time." That was good for a start.

The businessman heard that his partner's mother had just passed away. He saw the man every week, but now as he picked up the phone, he needed words to tell him how he felt. Yes, he thought, I will say "I am so sorry that your mother has passed away. May your memories comfort you."

The teenager placed her sympathy note in the basket at the school office. In the note she had written a few lines about the student who had died last week. The notes were for the memorial service, about friendship with the girl who had died. Each statement in her note began "I will always remember when" and described a memory she had of her.

It is polite in our society to express sympathy to the friends, family, and sometimes to the co-workers of a person who has died. Often the word "die" is not used, but the more gentle "passed away" or "passed on." Phrases may be short, "May you find comfort" or long "May you find comfort in the memories of your loved one in this difficult time." Your words might be informal "We are thinking about you in this time of sadness" or formal "Deepest Sympathy in Your Time of Sorrow". What is important is to show you care.

If both you and the person who is grieving believe in God and an afterlife, you might include the word "prayer" or "God" or "blessed." One expression might be "May you find comfort in knowing your loved one is with God," or the shorter "May God comfort you." Another phrase you might use is "We are praying for you at this difficult time," or the shorter "you are in our prayers." Another good phrase is "(Name) was such a blessing to us because" followed by a short description.

If the person who died was a good friend of yours, it might be comforting to include a few words about how important they were to you. You could say "(Name) was very special to me because she(or he) was always so" and then add a suitable word, "cheerful," or "friendly" or "helpful" or "considerate," and an example.

If the family has decided to have a "Book of Condolence" at the memorial service or funeral, or online at the funeral home web site, you might add a short story about a special memory you have about the deceased person. This may begin "I will always cherish" or "I will always remember" or "My special memory of (Name) is when we". When you attend the memorial, unless the family requests otherwise, you should wear black. That is a sign of respect, mourning, and sorrow. If the family is religious, or view the memorial as a celebration of the person's life, they may request no black. In this case, they may want people who come to the service to wear bright colors.

It is also common to offer to help the grieving family or friends, usually with the words "Will you let me know if you need anything?" or "Please tell me if you need any help." This is appropriate when there are many tasks to be done in the settling of an estate, like giving away clothes, and selling a house. Sometimes neighbors bring food to the house for the grieving family, especially when they will have out-of-town family coming to stay for the memorial service. You might be able to offer babysitting to parents who are grieving. If you know the family you might also call them a week or two after the memorial, and ask "How are you doing?"

Other common gifts are bouquets of flowers for the memorial service. If the family does not want gifts of flowers, the obituary in the newspaper will state "no flowers by request" or "floral tributes gratefully declined." It is always appropriate to give a gift of money to a charity in the deceased person's name. If you give the charity the address of the grieving family, the charity will send a note to the family telling them of your gift. The obituary will almost always suggest which charities were the choice of the deceased person (or their family).

In some areas of North America (Atlantic Canada, for instance) the grieving family always sends out thank-you notes in reply to sympathy cards they receive. In other areas, this is rarely done. The thank-you note might say "The family of (deceased's name) thanks you for your expression of sympathy", and would be signed by the spouse, child, or parent of the deceased. It is also appropriate to send a copy of the obituary from the newspaper, and a copy of the program from the memorial service or funeral in response to a sympathy card from out of town.

But whether or not you ever hear that your sympathy note or card was received, you may be sure that the family or friends you sent it to have been comforted. Offering just a few words or a simple action shows you care, lifts the sorrow a little, and brightens the dullest day.

Here are some phrases of sympathy to help you get started talking or writing about a person who has passed away:

Whenever I needed help, (name) was ready and willing.
Our family will miss (name) so much.
I remember when...
I always enjoyed (activity) with (name)
One of the fondest memories I have of (name) is when...
I will always appreciate the way (name)(action)
When I think of people I admire, (name) comes to mind because...
Once, when (name) and I were together, we...
(Name) meant so much to me because...
I could always rely on (name) to (action)
One of the happiest times in my life was when (name) and I...
(Name) was such a good friend because...
Good friends are the sweetest treasure. I will always treasure my friendship with (Name) because...
I am so glad I knew (name). She/He was the best...
I loved spending time with (name) because...
May you treasure (name's) many accomplishments. He/She was so gifted.


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English students click mp3 to hear this article.

For more ideas, phrases, and adjectives for rememberance books, eulogies, and cards:
Speak Read Write Tips for Writing an Obituary

For original sympathy poems, verses, and sayings to use on cards and notes, or in memorial books and eulogies: Speak Read Write Sympathy Card Poems, Verses, and Sayings

To go to the home page of our Free Greeting Card Verses, click to go to:
Speak Read Write Free Greeting Card Poems, Verses, and Sayings

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