How to Write an Appropriate Sympathy Card

Updated April 17, 2017

There are no words to take away the pain and suffering that comes with death, but an appropriate sympathy card can show the grieving person you care, even if you can't be there to support her. Receiving your sympathy card in the mail can bring some comfort during this experience. It's not always easy to put your feelings into words, but the words should reflect your sorrow for the person's loss and respectfully offer your condolences.

Decide how close you were to the deceased. Writing to your uncle after the death of your aunt will be different than writing to a co-worker who lost a parent. If you knew the person well, think of a few fond memories.

Purchase a blank sympathy card, one with a respectful poem or piece of prose, or make one out of appropriate stationery. You don't want to choose something too bright or with inappropriate images, like balloons.

Write or type a brief message of sympathy. Use a phrase like, "Our thoughts and prayers are with you," "With heartfelt condolences," "I am sorry for your loss" or "[Name of deceased] will remain in our hearts forever." If you knew the person well, express how much she meant to you. Include a respectful poem or mention one short, wonderful memory. But if you didn't know the person well, keep it short and simple, like "Our thoughts and prayers are with you, and we are sorry for your loss."

Write or type your last name when signing the message. Even if you are sending the card to a family member who knows you, your last name clears up any confusion. Another family member or friend might have the same first name as yours.


Keep the message brief. Write the message by hand to make it more personal.


Avoid insensitive phrases like, "Time heals all wounds" or "It was his time to go." Don't use any disparaging remarks about the deceased.

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About the Author

Anthony Szpak started writing professionally in 1998 as an undergraduate. He has sold television pilots to Castlerock, FX and 20th Century Fox. He has also inked a development deal with Paramount Television and his fiction has been featured in the "Rockhurst Review" and on He received his Master of Fine Arts in fiction from Columbia University.