Published January 28, 2011 by
When you know someone who has recently lost a loved one, you want to send a sympathy gift or card. But often, the task becomes monumental because you don’t know what to write or how to approach the subject. Here are some ideas to get you started so you can get your card in the mail right away.
Be direct and sympathetic. Don’t try to cover up the reason why you’re writing. It will only make the recipient feel worse. Start off with how you found out about the sad news.
“I just found out from my mom this afternoon that Derek passed away,” is appropriate.
Next, mention how sad you are about the death. Trying to hide your feelings to make the recipient feel less sad isn’t going to work. Say something like:
“I am shocked, as I am sure we all are, that his passing was so sudden.”
You’ll want to offer something nice about the deceased or mention one thing that really was unique or special about them. You could say,
“Derek was such a great dad to the boys. I remember seeing him at every Little League game even if it was raining.”
Offer to help if you can. Don’t make any outlandish promises that you can’t keep. You might try something like:
“When you are feeling up to it, I’d like to take you out for coffee. Please call me any time. I am always available to you.”
Make sure you mean what you say. Don’t offer to make a future date and then not keep your word. If you have no time to meet with the bereaved in the next few weeks, omit any mention of a meeting. If you do intend to meet with your friend, be sure to write a date on your calendar when you will follow up with her. Chances are she’ll be too grief-stricken to want to reach out and set a date.
The final part of your note could be a scripture verse or a favorite inspirational quote. Search online for appropriate sympathy quotes if none immediately come to mind. Be sure you put the source in case the recipient wants to look it up (say in the Bible).
Lastly, end with a heartfelt word such as, “Thinking of you in your time of grief.” Be sincere and don’t try to be overly flowery. Saying, “You are in my prayers” is far better than trying to skirt around the issue of the death and getting long winded. Make it short but sympathetic.
Other ways you can close your letter include:
“You are in our hearts in this time of deep sorrow.”
“Praying that your good memories will be a comfort to you at this tragic time.”
“Sharing in your grief,”
“May you find the peace of Jesus in your time of great sorrow.”
Anything is appropriate if it is heartfelt. Don’t feel you have to say you’re praying for someone if you’ve never said a prayer in your life. And don’t feel you have to make reference to religion or spirituality at all if it makes you uncomfortable.
Always sign your full first and last name. Your card may get separated from the envelope and you may leave the bereaved wondering if the card was from Susan at work or Susan her cousin from New Jersey.