Expressing Condolences: What to Write in a Sympathy Card

Does anyone actually know what words to say to someone who has just experienced the loss of a loved one? Not really. Even still, it’s important to express your condolences to let the person know you are thinking of them during this tough time in their life. 

Writing a message in a sympathy card is difficult. Even if you’re worried about saying the wrong thing, sometimes just saying something is all that matters. During the weeks after their loss, the family will be focusing on funeral arrangements, estate management and other next-of-kin duties. While you can step in to help clean the house or cook a meal, sometimes delivering a card with a handwritten note and some flowers can speak volumes. To a grieving family, those little things make all the difference. If you’re sitting down to write a sympathy card, consider including these messages. 

For the Loss of a Mother

condolences for the loss of a mother

Losing a mother can be a family’s most difficult loss to bear. Mothers nurture, guide and gracefully parent – even during the toughest of times. Mothers are seen as the backbone of the family unit, and when they are gone the family sometimes doesn’t know what to do. Show them you care by including a message or two like this:

  • “Your mom was a beacon of light to all who spoke with her. I am truly sorry for your loss.”
  • “I have no idea what you must be going through – your mom was an important woman in so many lives.”
  • “Nothing will take away the pain of losing your mom, but please know that I am here for you whenever you need me.”
  • “I don’t know if there’s anything I can say that will take away the pain. Your mom touched so many lives in such great ways – I know that she is smiling down on us all.”

Don’t forget to add a small gift with your card, such as a floating memorial candle or another type of personalized memorial keepsake

engraved memorial candle vase

For the Loss of a Father

condolences for the loss of a father

When a father passes, the loss hits differently. Fathers have a different impact on lives than mothers do, so it can be difficult to come up with the right words to describe the man who has passed. Here are some messages you can write in a sympathy card to the family that just lost a father:

  • “Your dad cared about everyone who came into his presence. I know this is a tough time right now, but please know that your father was so loved – and I am here for you, too.”
  • “I remember when your dad took me fishing for the first time. He always radiated joy and positivity!”
  • “Your father shaped me into the man that I am today. Thank you for sharing him with me for as many years as you did – I know you might be feeling the loss right now, and I hope you know just how much impact he had on everyone around him.”
  • “Your father wasn’t just the man who taught me how to change a tire or replace the oil in my car. He taught me patience, love and hope, too. I will miss him, but please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you need anything.”

When you send the card, remember to include a thoughtful memorial gift with it. Focus on finding something that has sentimental value but also represents the father who has recently passed. Some great ideas include personalized photo frames, memorial flags to place in the front yard or a garden stone. These things are ways the family can memorialize their father.

For the Loss of a Spouse

condolences for the loss of a spouse

Losing a spouse is one of the most difficult losses imaginable. For many, their spouses are the light of their life, providing intimacy during many important life stages. Losing a spouse – regardless of age – can leave a lasting impact and grief that compares to nothing else. If your friend has recently lost a spouse, here are some messages you might consider including in a sympathy card:

  • “Remember all the wonderful memories the two of you have made in this time of sadness and celebrate all the good things that came from your union. I am here if you need anything.”
  • “Your husband was one of my best friends and always held love in his heart for you. I am so sorry to hear about his passing – I am holding you in my heart right now as you go through this difficult time. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.”
  • “I loved every moment I spent with your wife – she was kind, caring and always knew how to have a good time! My deepest condolences to you for your loss of an amazing woman. Stay strong – you have a support system who will always be there for you.”
  • “Losing a spouse is one of the most difficult things to experience. Your love for each other was present every time I spoke with either of you. Our family is grieving with yours – if you need anything please let me know.”
  • “I know there’s nothing I can say that will ease the grief you are experiencing right now. I thought some photos of my time with your husband might make you smile at the man he was. Please know that my heart hurts for you, and I am always a phone call away if you need me.”

For the Loss of a Pet

condolences for the loss of a pet

Pets are children to a lot of families. They bring joy to a family’s life, and losing them can be hard. Here are some sympathy messages to include in a card to a family who just lost a pet.

  • “I know nothing will take away this pain, but please know that you can call me at any time for comfort.”
  • “Your pet was always willing to let me give him infinite belly rubs and head pets. Please know that I am thinking of you and your family during this time.”
  • “We never truly understand how much of an impact a pet has on our lives until they pass. Please accept my condolences for your loss.”
  • “I’m so sad to learn about the loss of your best furry friend. As the only person your cat would come near when visitors came to your house, I feel a strong connection to your feline and want you to know that I am by your side during this time of need.”
  • “I will miss the days I got to watch your cat jump from the TV stand to the top of the cat tower with ease and prowess. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do for you during this time of your loss.”
  • “Your dog adored you more than peanut butter – which is saying a lot. I know she is jumping around in doggy heaven, watching as you live your life to the fullest.”

Did you know families can receive unique sympathy gifts to memorialize their pet? In fact, these are the best things you can give a family who is grieving their pet. Personalized photo frames and engraved ornaments are perfect for a family who has just lost a pet and wants to have something to remember them through the years. 

For the Loss of a Child

condolences for the loss of a child

Children should never pass before their parents. When they do, families and communities mourn. If you are sending a sympathy card to a family that just lost a child, consider including one of these messages.

  • “Your son fought through his cancer like a true champion. I am so sorry for your loss.”
  • “The bond you shared with your daughter was evident in every photo you shared. Please accept my deepest condolences for your loss.”
  • “There’s nothing like the light your son brought to a room. I am so lucky to have experienced life with him and I am thinking of your family during these times.”
  • “There is nothing I can say that will ease any of the pain of the loss of your child. I am holding you tight in my thoughts, and please lean on me if you need anything.”

For the Loss of a Coworker

Even if you only passed by each other in the hallway during the day, a loss of a coworker is felt immediately. Consider sending a sympathy card to your coworker’s family. If you’re unsure who to send it to, contact your company’s HR reps for guidance. They should be able to pass the card along without creating any privacy or confidentiality issues. 

  • “May (name) rest in peace. It was a joy to work with him during his days at the company.”
  • “(Name) worked with me from my very first day until her last. I enjoyed the projects we worked on together, and I am going to miss her deeply. My condolences to you and your family during this time.”
  • “I am thinking of you and your family during this time of loss.”
  • “I am so sorry for your family’s loss. (Name) was a great coworker and an even better person.”

For the Loss of a Friend

Losing a friend is never easy. Focus on writing a card that includes messages like these:

  • “(Name) was the best friend I ever had. I will cherish the memories I made with him – and I know that you all will reach out if you need anything. I am here for all of you.”
  • “(Name) was the very first friend I made when I moved here years ago. She showed me all the best places to eat around the city and where to get the best coffee. She meant so much more to me than just that – I will miss her every day.”
  • “Sending all of you love during this trying time. Know that my family stands with yours and that we are here for all of you.”
  • “I know you and (Name) were very close friends. Please accept my condolences for your loss.”

General Tips on Finding a Sympathy Card

If you’re still not too keen on writing your own message in a card, that’s okay! There are plenty of cards available with pre-written messages in them. Look for cards in the sympathy section that have messages which stand out to you. Try and find a card with the colors and images you think best represent the person who passed as well as the person you’ll be giving the card to. 

  • Think Simple: Not everyone wants a card loaded with heavy font, bright colors and many images. Sometimes, a simple card with minimal details will be perfect.
  • You Don’t Have to Forgo Humor: One of the most common misconceptions about sympathy cards is that they have to be somber. Laughter is the best medicine! Sometimes the family is overwhelmed with messages that, while supportive, remind them of their loss. You can go a different route and include a funny card that the departed family member would’ve laughed at. You never know, your card might be just what the family needs. 

General Tips for Writing a Sympathy Card

You don’t always have to write a long message in a sympathy card. A simple ‘Thinking of you during this time of your loss’ or ‘May (Name) rest in peace’ can mean just as much to a grieving family. 

If you’re sending flowers, understand that you’re typically bound to word or character limits on the accompanying card. Include a brief message, such as ‘May these flowers give you some joy during these difficult days.’ You want to recognize that the family is going through something, but also mention the flowers’ purpose: spreading a little light in the darkness. 

If the grieving family is religious, feel free to include a card or message with Bible verses or relevant religious references. Sometimes, the family will really appreciate the sentiment or inclusion of their faith.

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