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How to Address Sympathy Cards - Etiquette

Updated April 17, 2017

Sending a sympathy card to a person who's mourning the loss of a loved one is a thoughtful way of letting that person know that he is in your thoughts as he goes through the painful grieving process. Many people find themselves at a loss for words when composing a bereavement message because they're not sure what to say, and are uncertain about sympathy card etiquette in general. Typically, a bereavement card message should be short and simply stated while expressing your heartfelt concern for the card's recipient.

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  1. Sign the card with not just your name but also a simple, personalised message or anecdote about the deceased person, if you knew the deceased well. If you did not know the deceased well, keep the card simple and brief.

  2. Include your last name when signing the card because the recipient may have friends, relatives or business associates with the same first name as yours. Even if the recipient knows you well, include your last name, just to be on the safe side.

  3. Get each family member to sign the card before you mail it, if you're sending a card on behalf of your family.

  4. Address the card to the closest relative of the deceased. If you didn't know the family of the deceased person, address the card to the spouse or the oldest adult child. If you're sending the card to a friend who has experienced the loss of a relative or friend, send the card directly to your friend.

  5. Use blue or black ink when addressing the card. Include the proper title for the recipient, such as Mr. or Mrs., and the person's full name.

  6. Print your return address on the card in the upper left-hand corner, so that the recipient will have it on hand when he or she mails thank you cards.

  7. Tip

    Proper etiquette is to mail a sympathy card within two weeks after a death. Refrain from writing a phrase such as "It was his/her time to go" or any similar sentiments, which may not be at all comforting to the recipient.

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Things You'll Need

  • Sympathy card
  • Envelope
  • Stamp
  • Pen

About the Author

Kelly Masi

Kelly Masi, born and raised in upstate N.Y., has been writing professionally since 2009. She has been writing for various instructional websites since November 2010 and has also written for the website CafeMom. She received her associate degree in early childhood education from Fulton Montgomery Community College.

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