Sympathy Messages

Sad woman frowning
Show sensitivity when expressing sympathy for the loss of a loved one. JGI/Jamie Grill/Blend Images/Getty Images

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, but you want to offer condolences. Most people have the same problem, but it's important to show that you care.

Keep it Short

You don't have to write pages and pages. Just remember that a short, well thought out message is better than a long one that rambles.

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

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 your sympathy.

Make it Personal

You should always mention the name of the person or family in the opening. For example, you can write "Dear Chambers Family" or "Dearest Susan."

Examples of Comments for a Sympathy Message

Here are some brief but heartfelt comments you can add to a worded greeting card 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.
  1. Losing a loved one is difficult. I'll keep you in my thoughts and prayers.
  2. I'm thinking of you during this time of sorrow. Don't hesitate to call if you need me.
  3. My heart aches for you and your family. I'll never forget your father's generosity and graciousness.
  4. 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.
  1. My thoughts are with you during this difficult time of loss. Please let me know if there is anything I can do.
  2. Your husband was such a valuable asset to our company, and we'll all feel the loss very deeply. Please accept our condolences and know that our thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time.
  3. 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.
  4. I'm sorry you're going through this difficult time, and I'm praying for peace for you and your family.
  5. 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.

Accompanied by 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."

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 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