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What can i write on a sympathy card

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What can i write on a sympathy card
September 16, 2018 Anniversary Wishes No comments

What To Write In A Sympathy Card: a loss of a loved one is one of the hardest experiences one will go through. Send sincere thoughts of comfort and care with .

One of the hardest things we ever have to do is figure what to write in a sympathy card. There’s finality about death that leaves even a professional writer at a loss for words.  How do you express sincere condolences without sounding maudlin or fawning? After all, it’s the loss of a loved one your reader has experienced, and you know that the reality is that nothing you say can changes the facts or aswage their grief.

There are a few tings to keep in mind when composing a note. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is the fact that no matter what you say, the fact that you took the time to say it will mean something to the recipient. If the old saw, “It’s the thought that counts,” means anything at all, it has the most meaning when writing a note or card.

The following is a brief guide to how to write a sympathy card that will bring the card reader some small measure of comfort in their time to grief.

What to Say When Someone Dies?

If you know the recipient of your card personally try to imagine you are talking to them face to face. Make a connection by referencing your relationship. If you knew the deceased but not the recipient be sure to let the reader know the connection you had to the departed. For instance, “We were college roommates who became life-long friends,” or “We were fellow interns at X Company for two years.”

A shared personal memory about the departed would be welcomed. Something touching or even humorous will be appreciated. Expressions of gratitude for knowing the departed will let the reader know that their loved one touched your life in a positive way and your acknowledgment of your loss will let the readers know that that their grief is sincerely shared.

Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts when writing a sympathy card.

Do Include:

  • Make it personal.
  • Keep it brief.
  • Be sincere.

IF you can’t be at the service, remember that your card is the only chance you will have to comfort the bereaved. What would you say to them if you could be there? Picture yourself in the greeting line. It’s your turn take their hand and look them in the eyes. You have only a few seconds to say what you feel. A well-written card can do this. It’s your chance to bring comfort, and that’s exactly what you want to do.

Try to convey how much the departed meant to you and how they touched your life. A good condolences card can be almost as good as a hug if you put the effort into it, and it will be well worth the effort to the reader.

Don’t Include:

  • Lament the circumstances of the death (they are well aware of it).
  • Rail against fate (it’s pointless).
  • Talk about your grief for another.
  • Say “I know how you feel,” you don’t.
  • Offer advice of any kind.
  • Ask about the will.
  • Mention a personal grievance of any kind.
  • Mention doctors or medicine.

A sympathy card is not the place to voice your opinion about death or the possibility of an afterlife. Try to keep in mind that the card is intended to bring comfort to the living. Keep your thoughts focused on the recipient and try to avoid any personal opinions.

If you offer support do be prepared to follow through. “If there’s anything you need, just call,” is a hollow sentiment if you’re not prepared to back it up.

Don’t include your favorite quote from scripture or philosophy unless you are certain the reader shares your belief. A sympathy card is not the proper place do discuss metaphysics. You may be well aware of the deceased beliefs on the subject, but unless you are absolutely sure the reader shares the same beliefs, a card that preaches will not accomplish your intention of support and my even become a source of added anguish.

If you plan to attend the service keep your card short and offer your condolences in person.

Can’t Attend Services

If you cannot attend the service, feel free to put your condolences in writing. Visualize yourself at the service, in the greeting line. What will you say when you are looking mourner in the eye? Your card is your opportunity to do just that. Put some thought and feeling into it. Be genuine and sincere. Always remember that all grief is personal and that you are offering comfort and support. You can’t make the situation better but you can let the recipient know that you are thinking of them and that you share at least some of their pain.

Words of Condolence

  • Sorry for your loss.
  • Will be missed.
  • Will be fondly remembered.
  • A large void in my heart.
  • Many good memories.
  • Bless to have had him/her for a friend.
  • Many acts of kindness.
  • Wonderful sense of humor.
  • A positive force.
  • A life well lived.
  • Always thought of others.
  • Generous.
  • Kind.
  • Loving.
  • Wise.
  • The many people he/she touched.
  • Good works.
  • Loyal.
  • Loving.
  • Honest.
  • Genuine.
  • Warm.

Sympathy Words and Phrases to Avoid

  • Will live on.
  • In a better place.
  • Did not die for nothing.
  • Sacrifice.
  • Eternity.
  • Not fair.
  • Not right.
  • So unjust.
  • So wrong.
  • Unbelievable.
  • Senseless death.
  • Unfair.
  • Wrong.
  • Crazy.
  • Senseless.
  • Unbelievable.
  • Useless.
  • Medical.
  • Doctor.
  • Meet again.

Losing a Loved One

Death is one thing all humans have in common. We are all going to die and we will also all experience the death of others. How react to death is up to us.

If you want to offer true comfort to one who is grieving make sure your words are genuine heart felt. Imagine the recipient is sitting in front of you. What you write should be just exactly what you would say in person.

If you make a promise, be prepared to keep it. Everyone says, “If you need anything, just call.” Be prepared to receive that call and make good on your promise. Chances are you will not get that call, but if you do it is up to you to fulfill the pledge.

The note or card that is sent when you cannot be at the service should be more specific than a card you send when you do attend the service. Keep it personal and warm. Focus on your relationship with the survivor while honoring the life of the deceased. Remember, the card is for them, not the dead.

Try not to focus on their pain. You don’t share it. You can’t share it. Let them know you are there for them and tell them exactly how your life has been enriched through the friendship of the deceased.

Sharing good memories of yours will allow the recipient to know that their loved one really did touch your life and perhaps even bring a smile. This is a true condolence; a reminder that their loved one lived and was loved.

What to write in a sympathy card Meme

A Few Specific Circumstances

What to write in a sympathy card may differ based on your relationship with the deceased and the family. A note to a close friend should very greatly from a note to a fellow worker or an acquaintance. When it comes to family your duties go beyond a simple note.

Here are some specific situations and some suggestions to help you compose a note that will let the reader know that you are thinking of them in their honor of grief.

Close Friend

In this instance you probably have some kind of relationship with the departed’s family. A good memory, a funny story or a personal tribute is a good solution. Be specific and include as much detail as you can. Share with the reader a bright moment in your relationship with their loved one.

By sharing good times you will help the reader overcome their hard time, Death may be final, but good memories live forever. Share them.

Family Member

A card is a small part of your duty when a family member passes, but it is essential one is sent. In this instance do not be afraid to share your most intimate feelings.

Even though you will be attending all services and even helping with logistics, it is important the principal griever has a written record of your condolences. Don’t be afraid to let your feelings show. Families that support each other during hard times are strong and resilient. This is your opportunity to add your strength to the family structure.


A simple statement of condolences works effectively in the case of the death of a co-worker . It does not have to be an elaborate outpouring; a short, simple sentiment will be sufficient.

Expected Death

When a death through long illness occurs, try not to dwell on the circumstances or say something like, “in a better place,” or “released form the pain”. Focus on the whole life of the departed rather than dwell on the last few months or years.

Unexpected Death

This is the hardest note to write, particularly in the case of the death of a child or young person. It is important in this instance to avoid statements about unfairness or tragedy in the case of unexpected death. Don’t rail against the unfairness of universe. The family is doing enough of that on their own.

Here is where offers of support are very meaningful. The grieving will need your support and will likely call upon it. Here is where you offer that support; be prepared to give it.

What to Write in a Sympathy Card Image


Writing a good, comforting note should not be a chore. Be honest, warm and make yourself available. Offer support and be ready to give it. Celebrate the departed but remember, the card is for the living and they should be the focus.

The most important thing to remember is:

That while death is universal; grief is personal.


You’re on What to Write in a Sympathy Card.

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what can i write on a sympathy card

What to write in a sympathy card

The complete guide to writing your condolences

"Such a simple thing as knowing what to say in a sympathy note, and then actually sending the note, would make a real difference in the bereaved person’s life and if everyone knew how to do it, a real difference in society. "

- Dennis Klass Professor emeritus, Webster University


  • Basics
    • What is grief?
    • Always say something
    • Feel proud, not awkward
  • Message
  • Writing to:
    • Family
    • College Student / Young Adult
    • Friend
    • Child
    • Workplace / Professional relationship
    • Casual / Weak
    • Men
  • Reason for Message:
    • Loss of Parent / Grandparent
    • Loss of Spouse
    • Loss of Sibling
    • Loss of Child / Miscarriage / Stillbirth
    • Loss of Pet
    • Loss of Friend
  • Conclusion
By: Gina Florio
15 minute read

This post is a comprehensive guide to how to send supportive messages to people grieving in a variety of circumstances. Whether you read the entire article or just the parts you need, we are confident you will walk away ready to say the right thing to someone grieving a loss.

You will also gain an understanding why it is always better to say something rather than nothing and that it is never too late to send a sympathy message to someone that experienced grief over a loss.

Company Introduction

Welcome to Mendokino, our technology allows you to upload your handwriting through your phone and we have robotic devices that translate what you type into your handwriting written with an actual pen. We use this to help you send greeting cards anywhere in the world directly through your computer or smartphone. Our best offer is our Blink subscription product that lets you send unlimited cards for a flat monthly rate. Check out Mendokino now

Sections (click to jump to section)

  • Basics
    • What is grief?
    • Always say something
    • Feel proud, not awkward
  • Message
  • Writing to:
    • Family
    • College Student / Young Adult
    • Friend
    • Child
    • Workplace / Professional relationship
    • Casual / Weak
    • Men
  • Reason for Message:
    • Loss of Parent / Grandparent
    • Loss of Spouse
    • Loss of Child / Miscarriage / Stillbirth
    • Loss of Pet
    • Loss of Friend
  • Conclusion


What is grief?

The Mayo Clinic defines grief as “a strong, sometimes overwhelming emotion for people, regardless of whether their sadness stems from the loss of a loved on or from a terminal diagnosis they or someone they love have received.”

You’ll notice someone can experience grief even if the person affected by a tragedy has not died. When thinking about sending a sympathy card, we think it is appropriate to include the grief involved if someone is affected by a permanent mental or physical injury / diagnosis as well.

Stroebe, M.S. & Schut, H.A.W. (1999). The Dual Process Model of coping with bereavement - Rationale and description. Death Studies, 23 (3), 197-224

Always say something

The most consistent conclusion from we found in research articles or speaking to those affected by grief was, “always say something.” Sometimes we feel like we are intruding into someone’s personal space, but as this article in Psychology Today mentions, “Check in on them rather than wait for them to reach out to you.”

Our technology makes it easier than ever to send a card right from your computer or smartphone. You can also send a real card to someone with their cell phone number or email address so even if you aren’t sure of their actual address you can use our site to get a real physical card to them.

Feel proud, not awkward

One piece of feedback we hear from our customers is that it feels uncomfortable to reach out to someone grieving. However, when you reach out to someone in grief you serve an important function of telling them their feelings are real and valid.

Neuroscientist Dr. Dean Burnett Author of Happy Brain: Where Happiness Comes From, and Why said to us, “When you've lost someone important, knowing that there are still others around who care can make all the difference.” Whether you are a friend, coworker or simple acquaintance you can feel confident you are doing the right thing sending a message even if you didn’t know the person.

“Allowing someone to display grief and showing that you empathise with their experience and sadness, is a vital part of human bonding, reassurance, and often helps people process and eventually move on.”

Dr. Dean Burnett @garwboy


You type your message and Mendokino delivers your handwritten card right to them

Quick Finds

How do you express condolences?

What do you write in a bereavement card?

What do you write on a sympathy card for a funeral?

How do you write condolences?

Once you've decided to send a card, the next question is “what do I write?” Dr. Robert Neimeyer of the Portland Institute for Loss and Transition was kind enough to share a step by step guide for what to write in a condolence letter from the forthcoming New Techniques of Grief Therapy: Bereavement and Beyond. Authors Lisa Clark and Jessica Sawyer offer a 7 step process to a write a sympathy note:

  1. Acknowledge the death, while avoiding euphemisms, and refer to the deceased by name.
  2. Express heartfelt sympathies and avoid cliche sentences.
  3. Share special qualities or traits that characterized the deceased.
  4. Share a favorite memory of the deceased person.
  5. Remind the bereaved person ( the person you are sending the card to) of his or her personal strengths and special qualities.
  6. Offer to help in a specific way.
  7. End with a thoughtful hope, wish or expression of sympathy.

You’ll notice that no one else can write this note for you. Almost all of the advice you’ll find online for sympathy cards unfortunately revolves around cliche sentences, quotes and platitudes. Most of the experts we spoke with stressed the importance of avoiding these types of messages.

Dr. Ken Doka author of Grief Is a Journey: Finding Your Path through Loss told us not to “offer platitudes but simply acknowledge the loss and offer support - the more tangible the better.” This article mentions similarly, “true support reflects the needs of the one facing the challenge and not the helper. Platitudes reflect a one size fits all approach to caring and are best avoided.”

For step 6 "Offer a specific way to help" it is easy to offer something that is not actionable which ends up not being helpful to the person grieving unfortunately.

We had a chance to speak to Robert Zucker author of The Journey Through Grief and Loss: Helping Yourself and Your Child When Grief Is Shared who told us, “Don’t ask the bereaved person to call you if they need anything - that’s too vague.” He instead suggests to offer something specific in your message, “I’m going shopping at Whole Foods on Wednesday and can bring over that rotisserie chicken you like so much.”

For some occasions, you may not know the deceased / injured person, child or pet. In these situations we suggest you still use this 7 step framework above, but skip steps 3 and 4 on sharing memories of the deceased. You will still be able to create a thoughtful, supportive message and offer to help them in a difficult time in their life.

The American Psychological Association lists talking about the death as the first way to move on with your life. In your message you can offer to talk about the death if you feel comfortable.

Get started on sending a thoughtful sympathy message on Mendokino by searching for empathy cards on our homepage.

Relationship to Recipient


This may be the most common reason we send a sympathy card to someone. A family member experiences a loss and we want to say something encouraging to them. As a relative you should feel confident that your words of sympathy are welcome. Refer to the sections below on the reason for your message for greater clarity on what to say.

Q: What if I had a complicated relationship with the deceased or their family?

Death can make us reflect on regretful interactions we had with another person. Our discussion with experts and our research makes us believe drawing inward and not sending a message when someone you know is grieving is not a good idea.

You should always be authentic and if you think it is worth it to mention the nature of your relationship, then you can use phrases like “I know we didn’t see eye to eye” or “we didn’t always agree.” Remember to never frame the death as something positive.

Q: What if I did not attend the funeral?

Sometimes tragic events strike and it is too difficult to travel and attend an event that happens suddenly. Sending a card with an authentic message and heartfelt support is always a right idea however. If you feel the need, you can mention in your card that you wanted to attend, but were unable to as well.

Q: What can I do in addition to sending a card?

It is important to do as much as we can for family when they are experiencing grief. In your message in your card, think about including offering a ritual you can do with them if you feel comfortable.

Dr. Alan Wolfelt Ph.D. Founder Center for Loss and Life Transition in his forthcoming book Grief Day by Day offers a variety of group rituals that you can do alongside the person that is grieving. Dr. Wolfelt says rituals, “give us something to do with our grief. Simple everyday practices can give structure to our grief.”

College Student / Young Adult

College can be an anonymous place to feel grief

Quick Finds

What to write in a sympathy card for a college student?

What to write in a sympathy card for a young adult?

A traumatic event or death can have extremely powerful emotional effects on college students. We had a chance to speak with Fran Solomon founder of healgrief.org who shared some of the difficulties college students go through dealing with grief. Most peers in college do not have any experience dealing with grief and she told us unfortunately, “the general response from those who have not experienced grief is to ignore the experience.”

College students are typically in a new social environment with less of a social structure than they grew up with. The long term effects of not handling difficult emotions constructively can result in “the trajectory of their lives changing forever because they can’t deal with the grief.”

If you know a college student that experienced a loss you should write a message to them and make sure you offer to help in a specific way. Refer to the sections below on the reason for your message for greater clarity on what to say.


Quick Finds

What to write in a sympathy for a friend?

Sometimes we are unsure if we are overstepping boundaries by reaching out to a friend who experienced a loss. Maybe we saw something on Social Media, but aren’t sure if we are in the inner circle who is “supposed” to send a card.

We spoke with Shasta Nelson author of Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness and she said, “I’ve found that simply validating the pain is what so often matters.” Refer to the sections below on the reason for your message for greater clarity on what to say.

Q: What can I do in addition to sending a card?

For close friends we want to offer something in addition to a supporting message. We spoke with professional life coach Amber Rosenberg who said, “you can proactively set-up a time to deliver a meal or, if you want to take it a step further, you can contact several friends and family members and proactively set up a meal train.”

When someone experiences a loss we forget that most aspects of life must continue onward. It can be difficult to even think of “normal” life so it is a considerate move as a friend to help them keep parts of “normal” life on track.


Children are sometimes forgotten when a family experiences a death, but children experience grief as well. One of the most common first experiences with grief for a child is the death of a pet. As we mention in the section on pets below, the death of a pet is a frequently marginalized emotion in our society for both children and adults.

Consider it a good idea to write to a child in his or her own card expressing your sympathy to them for the death of their pet, grandparents and of course a parent. Refer to the sections below on the reason for your message for greater clarity on what to say.

Q: Can I reference death directly to a child?

According to Licensed Psychotherapist Heather Bass, “While it is common to want to shelter children from bad news, it is important to be honest with them.” She continues and says phrases like “she has gone away” or “he has gone to sleep” can confuse children as it attempts to mask the finality of death and may cause anxiety with regards to sleeping.

The better idea is to say in your message the person’s body “stopped working.” Remember, it is not your responsibility to explain what death is to the child - just to validate their feelings and make them feel loved.

Q: Should I send a card if the child is not old enough to read?

We think it is still a good idea to send a card if the child cannot read yet. Their parent or family members will be able to read and explain it to them when they receive it. We believe greeting cards are meant for messages that will last a lifetime. Giving someone a greeting card at a young age could be a treasured item they reflect on as they grow older.

Dr. Virginia Simpson, Bereavement Care Specialist and author of the award-winning The Space Between: A Memoir of Mother-Daughter Love at the End of Life, confirmed this and said to us, “over time, the child will have few memories, and you will have offered them another memory and perspective about the person they loved.”

Workplace / Professional

Grief in the workplace can be overwhelming

Quick Finds:

What to say in a sympathy card for coworker

When a coworker experiences a death in their personal life, an overlap between personal and professional life will unexpectedly emerge. This will touch a level of emotion that is uncommon in the workplace.

As Management Consultant Anna Ranieri mentions in this article, “Grief will take on a type of expression that is not common in the workplace.” Consider it a good idea to write to a coworker experiencing grief surrounding the death of a family member or pet.

After a coworker returns to the office it can still be a good idea to send a sympathy card if you have not already. Coming back to the office with bereavement is difficult. Global CEO coach and keynote speaker Sabina Nawaz says here, "Expect to be surprised. Support and lack of it can come from unexpected sources. Death and grieving are difficult topics at best." Sabina told us that "saying you are available to support" someone grieving can be a helpful and professional message to encourage someone to be open with you in the office.

Letting someone know you recognize their grief and that they can be open with you could go a long way in helping someone handle heavy feelings in the office.

Q: How can a manager support a grieving employee?

Sloane Davidson notes in this article on grief in the workplace, the first thing a manager should do is go through the employee’s workload and distribute what you can and cancel and reschedule meetings. She also notes to have “everyone sign a card with short, personal notes.”

Mendokino allows multiple people to write inside a card together from anywhere in the world. You can have everyone in your local office and any remote or distributed team members write inside a card and send it directly to the grieving employee. Even if you did not know the person they lost, you can still write a supportive and helpful message. Refer to the sections below on the reason for your message to gain greater clarity on what to write.

Q: How can I support a grieving teammate?

Jennifer Moss, the author of the bestselling Unlocking Happiness at Work notes in this article about grief in the workplace, “Don’t ignore the elephant… give the person grieving room to be authentic and honest about how they feel.”

Jen told us in an email, "Grief can travel a lifetime, so don’t stop asking how that person is doing... It’s ok to ask someone how they are doing even if it’s years later."

Refer to the sections below on the reason for your message to gain greater clarity on what to write. Even if you did not know the person they lost, you can still write a supportive and helpful message to your coworker.

Casual / Weak

Quick Finds:

What to write in a sympathy card for someone you don't know well

What do I write in a sympathy card to someone I don't know well

Perhaps you see an acquaintance from high school post about a loss on Facebook or someone you met briefly in a conference post about a loss on LinkedIn and want to send a sympathy note, but are not sure whether it is appropriate or not. Our research and conversations with experts confirmed that saying something and validating someone’s grief is better than saying nothing.

In your message, start by briefly introducing yourself so they have better context for how they know you. E.g. “Hi Jane, this is Sally from high school. I saw on Facebook you posted about losing your dad to cancer…” Refer to the sections below on the reason for your message for greater clarity on what to say.

Q: What if I have no idea where to send the card?

Our technology allows you to send a card using just someone’s email address or cell phone number. After you select a card you will have the option of using an email address or phone number instead of a traditional mailing address as a destination.

Writing to Men

Men need sympathy cards too

Men experience grief and loss even though in many cultures men might feel restricted from expressing how they feel. We spoke with Dr. Dale Lund Professor of Sociology, California State University San Bernardino and he said, “men have more in common with women in grieving than they differ.” It is important to reach out to men you know that are grieving and make sure they feel their emotions are validated and recognized.

We spoke to Mark Oborn, a father of four who lost his wife when she was 43 years old, and he told us, "their impact on our lives remains as strong as ever and we WANT to remember them and keep that impact alive." Refer to the sections below on the reason for your message for greater clarity on what to say.

Q: What if the person I am writing to very rarely expresses any emotion?

Even if the person you are writing to does not “usually” express emotions, the loss of a pet, spouse, or certainly a child is not a “usual” experience. You should take the opportunity to send a message and give them the opportunity to express more if they need it.

The worst case scenario for someone grieving is to feel alone. Sending a simple message and being available if you are comfortable does your part in helping them feel heard and validated.

Reason for Message

Loss of Parent / Grandparent

Quick Finds:

what to write in a sympathy card for loss of mother?

what to write in a sympathy card for loss of father?

This is one of the most common reasons we find ourselves writing a sympathy card to someone. A death of a parent may force someone to feel critical of how they treated them or regret how little time they spent together. Refer to the 7-step Message section above for a step by step guide to creating an authentic and supportive sympathy message when someone is grieving for a parent.

Q: What if they had a "bad" relationship with their parent?

What you may consider “bad”, the grieving may consider “complicated.” If you are sure they are grieving over the loss, you should send a card and be careful not to mistakenly characterize the death as a good thing. Stay away from phrases like “they are in a better place” or “they are with God now.” Just offer support and keep judgements out of it.

Loss of Spouse

Quick Finds:

what to write in a sympathy card for loss of wife

what to write in a sympathy card loss of husband

what to write in a sympathy card for loss of husband

what to write in a sympathy card for loss of spouse

A spousal relationship is one of the most important and special relationships someone experiences in their life. Whether the death is tragic and unexpected or the result of a long battle with an illness - you should offer your sympathy.

Remember, it is always better to say something rather than nothing when you know someone is grieving. Refer to the 7-step message section above for a step by step guide to creating an authentic and supportive sympathy message when someone is grieving for their spouse.

Q: What if the couple was divorced?

Not every scenario is the same so we encourage you to exercise your judgment about whether it is appropriate and meaningful to send a message to an ex spouse, especially if at least one partner remarried for a significant period of time or the two divorced several decades before the death.

We believe greeting cards contain messages that people will want to keep for a lifetime, this may not be appropriate if a relationship has been permanently removed from someone’s life for a good reason. If you do get an indication that they are experiencing grief, then take it as an opportunity to share your sympathy.

Loss of Sibling

Quick Finds:

what to write in a sympathy card for loss of sister?

what to write in a sympathy card for loss of brother?

A sibling bond is one of the closest relationships a person has in their life and losing a sibling can certainly create a deep level of sadness and grief. We spoke with Paolina Milana founder of Madness to Magic who lost her sister unexpectedly when she was 46 years old.

Paolina told us that even if it’s not an experience the message creator is familiar with, just saying, “I don't know what to say, but I do know how to listen” would have been helpful after her sister’s death.

Refer to the Message section above for a step by step guide to creating an authentic and supportive sympathy message when someone loses a sibling.

Loss of Child / Miscarriage / Stillbirth

Quick Finds:

what to write in a sympathy card for loss of son

what to write in a sympathy card for loss of daughter

One of the most devastating experiences a person can go through in life is losing a child or seeing their child permanently injured. It can be especially challenging to reach out to someone in such a tragic time and we are understandably afraid to say the wrong thing. However, it is always better to say something rather than nothing when you know someone is grieving.

Refer to the 7-step message section above for a step by step guide to creating an authentic and supportive sympathy message when someone is grieving for their child. Stay away from phrases that paint the death in a positive light, do not say for example “God needed another angel” or “everything happens for a reason.”

Q: What is the best way to reflect on the child when writing a sympathy message?

This research paper suggests one positive way to look at the child is as a role model. We also had the chance to ask Nora Wong, Executive Director of the NORSE institutelost her son at the age of 22 . She shared with us “the messages I appreciated most were stories about him, the best were specific in detail that showed something that I never knew.”

You can look at your message as an opportunity to share a positive story you remember about the child that others may not remember. A story you feel is insignificant might be a story the parent has never heard before.

Q: What should I say if the cause of death for the child was drug addiction or suicide?

When it comes to affirming the parent, we asked Audrey Hope, an addiction counselor at Seasons Rehab, about condolences around addiction and she shared with us, “Every person is on their own soul path, don't blame yourself for the choices of another.”

This article also notes that parents of a child that commits suicide may blame themselves. We had the chance connect with Danny Huerta, Vice President of Parenting and Youth at Focus on the Family. He told us, "many times, the parents of a child who has taken their own life often feel afraid to bring it up with others, because of the shame and sorrow they feel."

Even if it seems uncomfortable, when writing your message you should make sure you say what happened is not their fault - they are not responsible for choices others make. Make a real effort to reach out to them and help them feel less alone in addition to sending a card.

Q: What should I say in the event of a miscarriage or stillbirth?

The most important piece of advice is not to diminish the lifespan of the child. The organization HealGrief says, "no matter how brief your baby’s life, you have just as much right to grieve as any other bereaved parent." Even if they didn’t “know” their child in a traditional sense, they may have planned an entire future for the child. There is real grief associated with this type of loss.

Q: What if many months or years have gone by since the death?

We spoke with Paula Stephens founder of Crazy Good Grief and a mom who lost her son. Paula told us, “Don't ever be afraid to talk about the child. We never forget our child and feel immense joy when others share memories or say they remember him/her. Even if we cry a little, it's ok.”

This research paper confirms that the effects on a parent after losing a child can last 7-9 years so it is never too late to send a message, no matter what. As this article states, if a few years have passed since the event, consider sending a card on important days for the child like a birthday or the day of death to the parents.

Don't overlook unexpected reminders of the loss as well. Angela Miller founded the award-winning community @ABedForMyHeart and is the author of the bestselling book You Are the Mother of All Mothers, a gorgeous gift book for grieving moms.

She shared her pain during the back to school season in this post. Angela writes, "It hurts that the world goes on without skipping a beat. Without calling. Or sending a card. Or saying his name. Today might be just a tad bit more bearable if one person would take the time to remember."

Mendokino allows you to keep track of important dates by adding them to your personal calendar so you can let them know their child is not forgotten every year, consider sending a card on important days for the child like a birthday, back to school, the Holidays, Halloween or the day of death to the family.

Loss of Pet

Pets count too

Quick Finds:

what to write in a pet sympathy card

Losing a pet is one of the most misunderstood and poorly handled cause for grief in our society today. Guy Winch Ph.D., Psychologist and author of How to Fix a Broken Heart said in this article in Scientific American, “as a society, we do not recognize how painful pet loss can be and how much it can impair our emotional and physical health.”

We also spoke with Chelsey Hess-Holden Assistant Professor in Counseling at the University of Southern Mississippi in who confirmed, “today’s culture pushes people to get over it and move on from the loss of a companion animal.”

One issue that makes pet grief challenging is the concept of “Disenfranchised grief”. This occurs when a person feels restricted from expressing their mourning in society. Pet loss is one of the most common disenfranchised grief experiences in our culture.

Pet-loss.net states its first question people ask themselves, “Am I crazy to hurt so much?” The first thing author Jen A Miller mentions in her article “Things I Wish I Had Known When My Dog Died”, is, “Most people will say the wrong thing.” In your message you should say the right thing to those grieving - no its not crazy to feel sad about losing your pet.

Refer to the 7-step Message section above for a step by step guide to creating an authentic and supportive sympathy message for someone is grieving for their pet

Q: What should I write for a difficult circumstance like Euthanasia?

Ginny Brancato founder of RainbowBridge.com (an online community dedicated to grieving pet loss) told us, “# 1 thing most people want to hear is some kind of confirmation,” and that they "did the right thing by letting them go.” Another point to keep in mind based off this research paper is that the effects of grief are not correlated by the length of time the owner had a pet so feel confident sending a message even if the pet was a new addition to someone’s life.

Loss of Friend

A friendship can be considered a vague bond between two people. Being “friends” with two different people on Facebook does not indicate that you are equally close to both. If you get any indication that someone is experiencing grief over the loss of a friend

Mendokino makes it easier than ever to send a card. If you aren’t sure how close two people were as years moved by, we encourage you to use your best judgement. We believe greeting cards are meant to carry messages that people will save for a lifetime, you want to make sure you’re sending a card that is appropriate for the relationship someone had with the deceased.


Thank you for taking the time to read this guide to writing a message of sympathy. Death affects everyone and we are not always sure the best way to best approach the subject. We hope you now have an idea of what is helpful to say and what to avoid no matter what your relationship is to the person receiving the card and what the conditions of the loss were.

Saying something appropriate is always better than not saying anything at all and with Mendokino saying something has never been easier. If you know someone that experienced a period of grief after losing someone important (pets count too!), reach out to them today with a card by looking at our Sympathy and Empathy cards on our home page.

“The depth of grief cannot be appreciated until you’re a part of it. Grief is normal and not depression, a healthy grief recovery exists.”

Fran Solomon founder HealGrief.

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Funeral Card Messages: What Do You Write In a Sympathy Card?

what can i write on a sympathy card

Finding the right words to say after the loss of a mother can be difficult to form. Having the right phrase and words that communicate your deepest sympathies is a great start. Here is a look at some great examples of what to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a mother.

I am at a loss for words over your loss. Please accept my sincere condolences.

I am sorry you lost your mother. I know she loved you very much and that you will miss her greatly. I will remember her as a woman of great character.

I can’t imagine what you are feeling, but I want to express my condolences to you. Please let me know of any way I can help.

I know loss can be difficult, so I’ll be thinking of you and keeping you in my prayers.

I love you and want to let you know that I will help you in any way you think I can. Just name it.

I want you to know that I am sorry for your loss. Please accept my sincere condolences.

I want you to know that I am willing to help you in any way. I’ll be in touch with you to check in on you and see how you are doing.

I would like to send my condolences to you and your family. I’ll keep you in my prayers.

I’m available if you need to talk. Expect me to call you soon if I don’t hear from you first.

I’m praying for you and your family.

It was your mother’s character that I admired most. Please accept my condolences.

Life is complex, and so is death. The feelings that follow a death can be easier to navigate with a friend. Please let me know if you want someone to listen.

Mothers are amazing people, and your mother was a great example. We will miss her.

My sympathies for the loss of your mother. You will be in my prayers.

Now, God is taking care of your mother.

Please forgive me for my loss of words at this time. I will be praying for you and your family. My condolences.

The more you are blessed, the more it hurts when you lose that blessing.

The saying, ‘All good things must come to an end’ just doesn’t seem to be a fair rule.

There is almost an endless number of emotions to feel when someone you care about passes on. Those feelings can become intense. Let me know if you’d like someone to share the burden of your feelings with you.

Those we lose continue on in our hearts and memories.

We can celebrate together and honor the lives of those who have passed, but we need each other for support. Don’t hesitate to call anytime.

Your mom was an angel. I am blessed to have known her.

Dealing with the loss of a parent can be a difficult thing. Here are some great tips from a Counseling Psychologist with advice of how to emotionally cope during this time of grief.

About the Blog Post Author
Natalie Regoli is a seasoned writer, who is also our editor-in-chief. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our editor-in-chief a message here.

Categories Messages

What to Say in a Sympathy Card. The hardest part of sending a sympathy card is that words do not convey well the depths of comfort you wish to send your.

How to Write a Sympathy Card

what can i write on a sympathy card

KNOWING what to say to someone going through a tough time can be hard.

A thoughtful way to let somebody who is grieving or struggling know that you're there for them is to send a sympathy card. But what exactly should you say? Here are our suggestions...

What to say to someone who's grieving

Grief is one of the most difficult emotions to deal with.

Trying to support someone who is grieving can be extremely difficult - people process grief in different and surprising ways and so there is really no "one size fits all" approach to supporting a loved one who is dealing with grief.

However, the best thing to do for someone who is grieving is simply to let them know that you're there for them and a great way to do this is in a sympathy card.

Let whoever it is know that you're there to listen - although you might not know what to say, one of the most cathartic exercises for someone who is in emotional pain is talking - so make sure to offer your ear, should they need it.

Here's some other things you can mention:

    • Don't be afraid to mention the person, thing or pet your loved one has lost. One of the best ways to keep a memory alive is to discuss it - offer to talk about good times and fond memories with your grieving friend, as long as they're comfortable with it.
    • Offer to help in practical ways. People underestimate how much emotional stress can affect you physically. Low mood and depression can greatly affect energy levels and motivation. Offer to help out wherever your grieving friend may need you to - as long as you can do it. Offer to bring round food or shopping, look after pets or help them out with around the house tasks that might be daunting in their current emotional state.
    • Make it clear that there is no set timetable for grief. Well-meaning loved ones' support can often wane after the funeral, or after a few months have passed, so be sure to make it clear that you will check in with whoever is grieving for as long as they need.

What to write in a sympathy card

Sometimes it's good to map out some examples of how to phrase what you want to say before you get to writing - communicating genuine empathy can be very difficult on paper.

Here's some useful phrases:

  • "Sorry for your loss"
  • "My/ Our hearts go out to you"
  • "We will remember [name]"
  • "Thinking of you at this difficult time"
  • "My/ Our condolences"
  • "Words can't express the loss of [name]"

What to say to someone who is having a tough time

For anyone having a tough time, support from friends and family will be greatly appreciated.

The simple act of sending a card and an acknowledgement that someone you love is struggling and that you're there for them will help to validate that person's emotions and make them feel supported.

The best thing to do is just to offer to help and to chat - but make sure you know how much they're comfortable with sharing.

What to say to someone you don't know well

Expressing condolences to someone you don't know very well can be tricky.

It's easy to become over-familiar with someone who is going through a rough patch and that could make them uncomfortable.

While it's tempting to pour your heart out to someone when expressing your condolences, the best thing to do is keep it appropriate to how well you know them - you don't want to add an extra lot of uncomfortable emotions onto someone who is already struggling.

Only offer to talk to the person about it if you're actually comfortable with doing so, and try to work out how much they're going to be comfortable sharing with you before you make any grand gestures of support.

The best thing to do is just to let whoever it is know that they're in your thoughts, and offer to help - but only if you can.

Debbie McGee gives out advice on grief on Celebrity Call Centre at Christmas two years after husband Paul Daniels' death

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Writing a sympathy or condolence card can be an awkward, uneasy thing to do and it can be hard trying to come up with the right words for a.

what can i write on a sympathy card
Written by Niramar
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