Proper words for a sympathy card

Written by michelle renee
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Proper words for a sympathy card
Comforting grieving friends requires a certain sympathy card etiquette (Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Knowing the right things to say to friends and family members during times of grief can often times be difficult. Sending a sympathy card is a good way to organise your sentiments on paper to express your sympathy without awkwardly stumbling for the appropriate words. Following a few simple guidelines can help you compose the proper words for a sympathy card.

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What To Say

The main point when adding a personal message to your sympathy card is to sound genuine and not cliché. You should politely get to the point in a gentle manner, expressing your sadness for the loss and sympathy for the family; such as "It pains me to hear of Joan's passing" or "Our prayers are with you at this difficult time." You can also bring light to your sentiments by briefly summarising a fond memory or well known character trait of the deceased; like "I'll never forget when Louis ..." or "I'll always remember Sandra's love for animals".

What Not To Say

Though it may seem like innocent conversation, at time of grieving certain topics, comments and remarks are inappropriate. A sympathy card is not the place to bring loved ones up to date on what is happening in your life or ask questions about theirs; keep the message brief. You should not bring up any topics related to money, property or any personal issues with the departed or offer advice about how to "get over it." Your message should be limited to words of comfort and support.

Acknowledging Illness Or Injury

Though you do not want to bring up specific details of the cause of passing, if the deceased had suffered a tragic accident or endured a long battle with a fatal illness, you may vaguely acknowledge their struggle. Phrases like "Take comfort in knowing she's not suffering" or "The news of your tragedy has shocked and saddened us all" are suitable for acknowledging the circumstance without elaborating on painful details.

Offering Assistance

If you are able and willing to help loved ones of the deceased, be delicate in the manner that you offer assistance. At a sensitive time, offering cash can be misconstrued as an implication that money can buy peace of mind or replace a loved one; never include cash in a sympathy card. If you would like to offer assistance, simply let them know that you are available should they need to turn to you for help.

Popular Comforting Quotes

When you are truly at a loss for words it is completely acceptable to use someone else's. A short opening like, "Beth and I were saddened to hear of your loss" followed by a quote from the Bible or an inspirational author poet can express your own heartfelt feelings through familiar literature. Choosing a passage from a favourite book, poem or author of the lost loved one is an ideal way to honour them and comfort their survivors.

How To Sign and Address Sympathy Cards

You should close a sympathy card with a thoughtful sentiment and sign your full first and last name to clearly identify yourself; your recipient may be receiving exorbitant amounts of mail at this time. Always use blue or black in and hand write the content in the neatest penmanship possible. Hand address the envelope to the closest known relative that you have contact with, and include your return address to receive any applicable thank-you cards.

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