10 Short and Respectful Sympathy and Condolence Messages

You Can Respect Faith and Values and Still Keep It Personal

a short sympathy card

 The Spruce

Social media, text messaging, and email have made it quicker to reach out to friends and loved ones, still the impact of a thoughtful, handwritten note far exceeds an emoji of a sad face and a few characters of text.

So when someone you know has lost a family member or close friend, a heartfelt sympathy note might be the tangible thing that person needs in that moment. Whether you send a card when the death happens or later, a sincere message demonstrates that you care and that you are thinking of the person who is still grieving.

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What to Write in a Sympathy Card

Loss for Words

Even if you typically have the gift of gab, you may be at a loss for what to write in a message to survivors after someone they care about passes away. This is almost always difficult because you don't want to say the wrong thing, even though you want to offer condolences.

Most people have the same problem, but it's important to show that you care. Remember that a sympathy message can provide quite a bit of comfort to the survivors.

Keep It Short

It isn't necessary to write pages and pages when you are trying to convey your sympathy. Just remember that a short, well thought out message from the heart is better than a long one that rambles.

The survivors are grieving, and they probably don't have the time or desire to read everything you're thinking. There is no need to go on about how much you'll miss the deceased. Make your message succinct but heartfelt.

Respect Faith and Values

When you write a sympathy message, make sure you don't step on anyone's toes. A Christian or Jewish family will appreciate knowing that you're praying for them. If you don't already know about the family's faith or values, keep the message strictly focused on missing the deceased and offer some kind words of sympathy.

Make It Personal

You should always mention the name of the person or the family in the opening. For example, you can write "Dear Chambers Family" or "Dearest Susan." If you know the name of the deceased, it's good to mention that as well. If not, you can say, "your mother," "your father," "your brother," "your sister," or whatever the relationship was.

sympathy message etiquette illustration
Illustration: The Spruce / Ellen Lindner

10 Recommended Comments for a Sympathy Message

Here are some brief but heartfelt comments that you can add to a preprinted card's message or write on blank stationery.

  1. I just heard of your uncle's passing, and I am deeply saddened by your loss. Please know that I am here for you if you'd like to talk.
  2. Losing a loved one is difficult. I'll keep you in my thoughts and prayers.
  3. I'm thinking of you during this time of sorrow. Don't hesitate to call if you need me.
  4. My heart aches for you and your family. I'll never forget your father's generosity and graciousness. He was always so kind to me.
  5. Our family is deeply saddened by the loss of your grandfather. He was such a wise man who never seemed to mind sharing his knowledge with anyone who asked for advice.
  6. My thoughts are with you during this difficult time of loss. Please let me know if there is anything I can do. If you need help with housework, let me know, and I'll come right over.
  7. Your husband was such a valuable asset to our company, and we all feel the loss very deeply. Please accept our condolences and know that our thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time.
  8. I'm heartbroken about your loss. If there is anything I can do, please let me know. In the meantime, I'd like to deliver a meal so you won't have to worry about cooking. I'll be calling soon.
  9. I'm sorry you're going through this difficult time, and I'm praying for peace for you and your family.
  10. I'll always have fond memories of your mother. Her quick smile and positive attitude always cheered me up. Everyone who knew her will miss her.

Accompany the Message With a Gift

If you are sending a sympathy gift, you may mention that. You can add something like, "Here is a gift basket filled with some of your favorite teas. I hope this provides some comfort during this difficult time."

You may also choose to attach the note to some flowers or a live plant. There is no need to get too creative or cute with what you send. Sympathy gifts are simply a way of expressing your condolences in a more concrete manner.

What You Don't Need to Say

Sometimes people feel the urge to say much more than they need to, and that often leads to saying the wrong thing. Here are some things you don't need to mention.

  • Anything negative about the deceased
  • Justifying the person's death
  • That the survivors will be better off without the deceased
  • A rehashing of the gory details of the deceased person's final days
  • Encouragement to "cheer up"
  • Anything about the person's will or estate

Add an Appropriate Closing

After you jot down your brief message, add a closing that further expresses your sympathy, without being redundant. Here are some examples.

  • Office friends and coworkers: Our deepest sympathy, John, Susan, Amelia, and Edward 
  • Family friends: With sincere condolences, the Andersons 
  • Close family friends: From your loving friends, the Smith family
  • Close personal friend: With much love and many heartfelt prayers, Jenna

Importance of Showing Sympathy

Losing a loved one taxes the emotions of most people. A sympathy note shows that you're thinking of them, and it may provide some comfort when they need it most. They can also look back at it when they need to be reminded that they're not alone.