Do you ever wonder what to say after someone passes away? Whether it's the mother of a close friend, the spouse of a coworker, a friend's sister, or someone's father, the right words are often hard to find. Don't let fear keep you from sending a comforting message. It's important to take the time to write something to show you care.
If you've ever felt at a loss for words following someone's passing, you're not alone. You know that the family and close friends of the deceased are hurting, and no matter what you say, that pain won't go away. However, also know that expressing our condolences is the right thing to do, and it needs to have comforting words that show your heartfelt sympathy.
Prepare to Write the Sympathy Note
It’s always a good idea to write down a few thoughts on a separate sheet of paper before you begin. If you are sending flowers, you may want to jot an additional brief note to include with the delivery, but a separate message should still be mailed.
Remember that your words need to sound natural and heartfelt, so feel free to use the examples of one of the templates below but edit them to make them your own. Make sure your comments are personal. Your message doesn’t have to be long. Even a brief note will be enough to let the grieving know you are thinking about them.
Sympathy cards should be written by hand or printed on a sympathy card, blank card, or good stationery. It’s best not to send condolences in email or text messages. Try to send the note as soon as possible after the death, but there is no time limit. If you don’t hear about the person or pet’s passing until a year later, you should still send a note to show that you care.
Here are suggestions of thoughts, words, or phrases you may want to include in your sympathy note:
- Mention that you are praying for the individual or family.
- Acknowledge that you are thinking about the family during this difficult time.
- Share a brief, positive, personal story or memory about the deceased.
- Express how the deceased has impacted your life or the life of others.
- Extend an offer of help, a shoulder to cry on, or getting together just to talk.
- Close the note by expressing how the deceased will be missed.
Watch Now: What to Write in a Sympathy Card
Examples of Letters if You Knew the Deceased
Example of a Letter if You Didn’t Know the Deceased
Example of a Letter of Sympathy for the Loss of a Pet
Consider a Gift
If you'd like, you can attach a gift to your sympathy message. Or you can send the gift separately from your message. Besides the traditional gift of flowers, here are other ideas for meaningful and appropriate sympathy gifts to send to a person who is grieving:
- Charity donation
- Sympathy gift basket
- Memorial garden stone
- Memorial plant or shrub
- Encouraging book or journal
- Self-care basket or subscription box
- Photos of the loved one the family may not have
- Gift certificates for helpful services, such as housecleaning or lawn care