Greeting cards most often bring about thoughts of celebration. Wishing happy birthday, sending congratulations, or even just to say "I'm thinking of you!" Unfortunately, not all greeting cards are cause for celebration. One particular type may be a bit more difficult to write than others: sympathy and condolence cards. Expressing your feelings and finding the right words of sympathy to offer support and comfort can be a challenging and intimidating experience. We know how important it is to lend a piece of your heart and pay your respects, while being thoughtful, mindful, and open with your condolences.
Sympathy vs. Empathy vs. Condolences
What does empathy mean? Empathy is figuratively putting yourself in another person's shoes. It is seeing the situation through the eyes of the griever and channeling your emotions in a way that the griever would experience it.
What is sympathy? Sympathy is simply compassion. It is an emotional understanding of the griever's feelings. You are able to provide support by being sensitive to the situation.
How about condolences? Condolences are intangible offers of comfort. It is not quite involved as being empathic but it is an active gesture of going out of your way to provide emotional comfort and support to the griever.
Sympathy is an easier feeling because of the flexibility you have in the ways you can be supportive. Don't feel obligated to take the empathic step. What's great about sympathizing with someone is that you can be supportive while still being yourself. Sometimes the griever just wants the positive energy from others to get through their situation. And you do this best just by being yourself and expressing your self.
Tips for writing condolences and sympathy messages
1. Be present in your sympathy messageDon't just say, "Hey, it gets better." Rather, let them know that you are aware of the grief they may be feeling and that you want to offer that emotional understanding. Example: "Hey, I know that you're going through a rough time, but I want you to know that you aren't alone in this and that there are people here for you even if only to offer a smile."
2. Craft your message based on the person’s personalityIf you are crafting a condolence card message for someone that is close to you, consider their personality in the crafting of your message. If the person is a jokester or loves shoes, find a way to tastefully weave something about them into your message. A normally funny person may be aching for a good chuckle. Sometimes light humor can ease the grief, but add it into your sympathy message with caution. Example: "Your grandma was the best baker I've ever known. How about we look through her old cookbook and make some of her favorite dessert recipes in her memory?"
3. Offer assistance (if possible)If you would like to offer some help, don't be afraid to offer. There is often so much to do after the passing of a loved one that making something as simple as dinner can prove to be a difficult task. Mention specific ways you would be available to help. Here are some suggestions:
- "In this stressful time, please let me know if I can help in any way. I would love to... (make a meal for your family, baby sit your children, house sit, dog/cat sit, mow your lawn, etc.)"
- "Though I cannot take the pain away I want you to know that in me you have a shoulder to lean on and an ear for listening. I may be far away but never hesitate to call me if you need."
4. Offer a specific time to follow upIn your condolence card message state you will follow up with them in a month in the future to see if they need anything. One to three months is usually a good time to check back up on the person. This is the window during which the cards and help have dwindled off and the person is left picking up the pieces, sometimes alone. Mention the things you love to do together, offer a date to do that thing when they feel up to themselves. Losing someone can consume a person, a reminder of their life before tragedy hit is a tasteful way to remind them that eventually life will go on and they will be fine.
5. Add a personal touch in your sympathy card
Nothing soothes grief more than knowing that person was loved. All of the things you may have encountered with that person or things that were shared with you about that person are likely the things that will be missed the most.
Sending a sympathy message that includes mention of a fond memory of the deceased is a wonderful way to highlight how he or she affected the lives of people around him or her. It doesn't even need to be a specific event, you can simply mention a particular quality or personality trait that you most admired or enjoyed. It provides a precious keepsake for the bereaved to look back on for years to come. For example:
" ________ was one of the best golfers I had ever met. His/her dedication to the sport was unmatched and I was honored to have played along side him/her. They will be truly missed."
"I will always remember how your mom/dad made us smile. He/she was always ready with a funny story or joke. I will remember them with the fondest of memories."
"________ will be greatly missed but his/her warmth, kindness, and gentle spirit will be remembered forever."
40 meaningful sympathy and condolence message starters
Here are 40 meaningful messages to inspire an intimate, heartfelt offering of sympathy and compassion. Consider them starters to help your personal note flow. They may inspire you or you can use them as guidelines, but remember the most thoughtful messages come from the heart.
From a family member:
- I am thankful to have shared memories with _____. I will miss him/her and his/her impact on our family.
- Our family will not be the same without _______. I hope we can find comfort together during this difficult time.
- No words will ever do justice to the impact ________ has left on our family.
- The legacy ______ has left on our family is unmatched by any words that can be written.
- I will miss _______ and will carry our memories together for the rest of my life.
- _______ made a difference in so many lives. I am thankful to have been a member of his/her family, learning and growing from him/her.
- Where lives pass, memories carry on forever.
- I am saddened to learn of the loss our family has suffered and hope to move through this difficult time together as one.
- I hope we can celebrate the life _______ lived, remembering the good times we’ve shared as a family.
- Our family will forever remain strong together and will share in the journey to finding peace after this difficult loss.
From a colleague
- Please know we are thinking of you and your family during this difficult time.
- We are so lucky to have you as a member of our office and are saddened to hear of your loss. Please know you are in our thoughts.
- Wishing you peace and comfort during this hard time.
- We are so sorry to have learned about your loss. We are here for you however needed.
- The office is with you in your thoughts during this time of healing.
- We are saddened to learn of the loss you’ve had, please let us know how we may help you heal.
- I hope this card finds you surrounded by strength and compassion.
- Please accept our warmest condolences, we are deeply sorry for your loss.
- Our hearts are saddened to learn of your loss, please know we are with you.
- We hope you know we are by your side during this time of sorrow.
From a friend:
- Wishing you peace and comfort during this difficult time.
- Please know you are in our thoughts, and in our hearts.
- Words fail to express my sorrow for your loss. Please know I am with you through this difficult time.
- My heart goes out to you and your family.
- The joy _____ brought to our lives will not be forgotten.
- Please know I am here to listen, comfort, and lean on during this difficult time.
- I hope it brings you comfort to know that I am celebrating the life ______ lived and am thankful for his impact on my life.
- Please accept my deepest sympathy for your loss.
- Please know we are only a phone call away.
- Hoping these words will help you find comfort during this time of sorrow.
From all of us:
- We are deeply sorry for your loss.
- May you find comfort in knowing you are not alone, you are surrounded by those who care for you.
- Please remember that we love and care about you and will be here for you always.
- It was truly a pleasure to have gotten to know ______. He/she will be missed dearly.
- We hope this card finds you surrounded by love and compassion.
- May time help you heal and bring you peace.
- The loss of a loved one is never easy, but know we are with you through your grief.
- We are thankful to be a part of your life and hope we can offer comfort and strength during your time of need.
- We hold you close in our thoughts and hope you know you can lean on us for whatever you may need.
- Sending you lots of love and comfort, we are so sorry for your loss.
Don't forget! The stationery you use is just as important as the message itself. You want to choose a card that is respectful, appropriate, and unique. If you're looking for something that is a special as the person you're honoring, check out Lovepop's collection of stunning sympathy pop-up cards. Our cards are blank and there are many designs to choose from so you can pick the perfect design for the recipient and his or her memory of their loved one.