How to write a condolence card

Posted by AK Lander | On August 20, 2019 14:05

Finding the right words to say to someone who has recently lost a loved one can be difficult. Read our easy guide to help you write a condolence card.

When someone has recently lost someone they love, it can be hard to find the right words to comfort them. The bereaved will most likely be dealing with their own pain whilst planning the funeral, picking the churchyard gravestone and comforting their family, but a small token of support such as a condolence card can mean a lot in such a difficult time. Although there are no formal rules as to what you can write in the card, our guide can be a helpful reference for those struggling to find the words.

What card do I pick?

Yellow flower

When shopping for a sympathy card, you’ll notice a wide variety on offer, something which can seem overwhelming. Choose a simple card, perhaps one with a flower or a heart on the front and try to avoid picking a card with a generic paragraph of condolences inside, as a handwritten note will mean a lot more to the recipient. Cards that simply have ‘with sympathy’ printed on the front or inside are often the best ones to choose. Remember to trust your instincts, for instance, if you know they’re not religious stay clear of any cards with heavy connotations of this.

Acknowledge the loss

Couple hugging

Don’t overcomplicate the beginning of your message. Start the card with a simple condolence such as “I’m so sorry for the loss of (name)” or “I was saddened to hear that (name) passed away”, which could be followed by “I can’t imagine the pain of losing a (family member)” or “my heart breaks for you and your family.”

If you only knew the deceased by not the recipient of the sympathy card, then it’s also a good idea to mention your connection to the person who has passed, for instance, “I was a colleague of theirs at (name of work)”.

We spoke to Laila, an artist and founder of Lullabye Condolences, where you can find unique and beautiful baby loss sympathy cards. Laila tells us what a condolence card should include for pregnancy and infant loss: “Use the baby’s name, if they were given one - it confirms their existence and importance.

“Write to them as a family and refer to them as parents. Express your condolences and your support, without directions or presumptions. And finally, write neatly, as sometimes condolence cards become treasured keepsakes for a lifetime.”

Laila has shared an example of what you can include in a sympathy card:

“To the beautiful Smith Family,

I am so sorry that your sweet baby died. I can’t even imagine what you are going through. I know Junior was, and still is, so loved and he will always be a part of your family. Please know that I care for you all and I’m here for you.

With sincere sympathy,

Your friend”

Share a memory

Woman writing on a sofa

It can be comforting to a person to hear a fond memory you shared with their loved one. If you knew the deceased well, writing down a memory you hold close to your heart will be much appreciated by someone who was also close to the deceased. If you didn’t know them well, a small mention of what you liked about their personality or a time they made you smile, will mean a lot.

Remember to keep the message short and sweet. Here are some examples of how you can begin sharing your memory:

  • I cherish my memories with (name), especially when they would go above and beyond to make every day cheerful.
  • From all the times I have spent with (name) I could tell they adored you.
  • Mourning the passing of a good (wo)man with you.
  • (Name) touched the lives of many. I’m glad I had the chance to know them as a colleague and a friend.
  • I feel privileged to have known (name).
  • (Name) was an amazing person who I feel so lucky I got to know.

We spoke to Lucy from The Pen Company, a stationery business who also offer corporate gifts and engraving, to find out her advice, she says: “I feel that including a fond memory about the deceased is always a nice touch that the recipient will genuinely appreciate. If I were the recipient, I would certainly love to read peoples’ memories of my loved one, whether they are heart-warming or funny.”

Offer to help

Couple holding hands

At some point in the message, it is a kind gesture to offer your help during this difficult time. It can be tempting to write “if you need anything you know where I am” or “just call if you need me”, however, people are unlikely to take you up on this offer. Instead, try to be more specific so that the person can see you really mean it, whether this means that you help them with washing, bringing over some dinner or walking the dog.

Lucy from The Pen Company continues: “I also like to offer some practical help when I write a condolence card, such as dropping some cooked meals around for the bereaved or looking after their kids.”

To word this, you can simply write “I would be happy to babysit at any time” or “I know this is an extremely difficult time, please let me know what I can do to help, perhaps you’d like me to walk the dog for you.”

What to avoid

Pencil and notepad

Although they will most likely know your words are coming from a good place, there are a few things to avoid saying to a bereaved person. Firstly, try not to mention how their loved one died and make sure if you offer your help, you have full intention on delivering. Lucy from The Pen Company mentions: “Don’t write opinions, blame, and advice. Think instead about what you would like to read in the circumstances and write that."

As a bereaved mother, Laila from Lullabye Condolences continues to tell us what to avoid putting in a card:

  • “Everything happens for a reason/maybe it’s for the best/it was meant to be.
  • You’ll be a mother/father someday
  • He/she is in a better place
  • At least you already have a child/you’re young/you can have another baby - previous or subsequent children are definitely blessings, but they do not diminish the love we have for our angel babies or make us forget they existed.
  • At least you weren’t further along – there is no formula that tells us who loves their baby more or when an acceptable time is to lose one is.
  • I know how you must be feeling - Even if you have experienced loss, everyone loves and grieves differently.

If you or someone you know has recently lost someone, we are always on hand to make choosing the memorial or headstone as pain-free as possible. Contact us today to find out how we can help.