How to word a sympathy card for a colleague

Expressing sympathy to a colleague, co-worker or professional acquaintance can be an uncomfortable and unfamiliar thing to do. Giving the bereaved a sympathy card that is written in a professional, concise way, however, can get your point across without overstepping any boundaries.

Read on to gather some tips on how you can write a meaningful, yet professional, sympathy card.

Determine the relationship between your co-worker and the deceased (i.e. father/son, brother/sister-in-law). Factor in any relevant details of the death, noting elements like whether this person was very old, suffered from a pre-existing condition or was taken very unexpectedly. These details may not make it into your sympathy card, but it can help you empathise with your co-worker and what they must be feeling.

Determine the type of relationship you have with your co-worker. Do you talk regularly? Hang out on the weekends? Acknowledge each other only when necessary? Partner up consistently on projects? Evaluating your level of interaction allows you to determine how close you are and, therefore, what kind of response may be appropriate for you.

Choose a sympathy card from a greeting card store that is simple and straightforward. Avoid anything with flowery, overly dramatic language, bible verses (unless you know they're religious and would appreciate the sentiment) and positive, look-on-the-bright-side-they're-not-in-pain-anymore types of clich├ęs. Remember, this is a professional colleague, not your best friend since kindergarten.

Write your sentiments in a private place, away from your other co-workers. Your desk may work just fine as long as it isn't in a very public place. Remember that this card is for your colleague, not to show your co-workers that you're a great guy for going the extra mile.

Write a concise, yet sensitive message that states the following: you're sorry to hear about his loss, you wish him all the best in getting through this rough time, you're here if he needs to talk or needs help picking up any slack at work (if applicable).

Place the card on your co-worker's desk chair. If he's not in the office you can mail it to his home address if it's available. If you end up giving the card to your co-worker face to face, simply state that you know he's going through a rough time and just wanted to show your support. Hand them the card and give them a quick, yet heartfelt pat on the back. Walk away.