What to Say in a Sympathy Card

Writing a Proper Sympathy Card


Often people don’t know what to write in a sympathy card so they don’t send one at all. Today I am giving you a few suggestions so you can make sure never to neglect this important gesture after a friend loses a loved one.

The key to sympathy cards, unless it’s a really close friend, is to keep it short and sincere. The grieving party is probably not ready for anything more than that. Your purpose in writing a sympathy card is not to console, but to simply give your condolences.

In other words, it’s probably not the time to write things like:

“This was God’s will.” 

“He/she is in a better place.”

“At least he lived a long life.”

“You will most like remarry and be happy again someday.” (Uh, no!)

“I know how you feel.” (Remember, it’s not about you.)

Here are things that a proper sympathy card should say:

  • Give sympathy for the loss of their loved one.
  • Acknowledge what a special person he/she was.
  • If possible, recall a memory of this person.
  • As generic as it might be, remind them they are in your thoughts or prayers.

Need an example? Here’s one:

Dear Julie, 

I am so sorry about the passing of your sweet father. My heart just breaks for you and your family. I know you and your dad shared a special bond, with memories you will carry for the rest of your life. 

You will be in my prayers during this difficult time. 


(Sign name)

In the above scenario, I didn’t write a memory because in this case I didn’t know her dad well. But I do recall a meaningful card we received after my grandmother’s passing last year that shared memories the right way.

It was from a college buddy of my uncle. When he heard that my grandmother had died, this man wrote the most heartfelt note, recalling how he would look for any excuse to go home with my uncle because my grandmother was known to be the best cook south the Mason Dixon. He remembered how sweet she was to him, giving us specific details of how my grandmother treated him like her own son, and how much that meant to him.

When my uncle read this letter to us we all sobbed (in a good way!). That this man, who hadn’t seen my grandmother in probably 30 years, had taken the time to write down those memories meant the world to us. So if you have memories like that of your friend’s mother or sister or brother, the most gracious and thoughtful thing you can do is record those memories for them in a sincere and heartfelt manner.

So how close should you be to a person to send a sympathy card? If the person is a friend or someone with whom you are currently working (at your job or even on a PTA project) it is kind to send one. If it’s the latter, and you don’t know them that well, err or the side of keeping it short so as not to sound insincere. The gesture speaks louder than words.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t love most drug store sympathy cards. They either seem to give empty platitudes or seem rather bland. So if I can’t find an appropriate card I will sometimes use my own stationery.

I also recently came across the letterpress Scripture card shown above. It is from Southern Stationery ($6.00 for 2 cards; or a mixed set of 10 Bible verse letterpress cards is $30). It is nice to have cards like these on hand so I think I am going to order a few to keep on hand.

What do you say in a sympathy card? Please share your thoughtful tips below!

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9 thoughts on “Writing a Proper Sympathy Card

  1. That’s so cute! I have a thing for snowmen. But you’re in Florida. Shouldn’t he have a litlte puddle under him?I didn’t make anything on Make Something day, which is ironic, because I make something most days of the week! I went shopping instead, to buy stuff to make stuff.