Sympathy card propped next to a small vase with eucalyptus branches

What To Write On A Sympathy Card: How To Sign A Heartfelt & Sincere Condolence Card

No one wants to need a sympathy card. But there will be times when writing a sympathy card is necessary. So, at a time when you need to share your condolences – and may be struggling yourself:

Tips for what to write on a sympathy card.

Hopefully – ideally – we don’t need to write a sympathy card very often. But, when we do, it can feel like a really big thing.

What do we say? How do we say it? Is there specific etiquette about sympathy cards that we need to follow?

I think that sympathy cards don’t have to follow a specific format. Writing heartfelt, sincere condolences will look different in different situations. That said, it might still be helpful to have some ideas as you approach writing a sympathy card. Here we go…

Actually say something

It’s really easy to get caught up in wanting to say the right thing, so that you don’t say anything at all. So just send a card!

Grief and loss make people want to withdraw from the world, so any outreach or connection you provide is good. If you are also personally feeling the loss, or having a hard time, it might feel good or helpful for you to have a moment to remember, appreciate, and acknowledge the person who has passed.

And, if you’re an acquaintance, a coworker, or someone who doesn’t know the person grieving very well – send a note anyway. It’s a small expression of care and thoughtfulness, and a way for the grieving person to see how many people knew, cared, and appreciated the person who passed.

Share a photo or memento.

If you have a photo or memento (that you are okay parting with), include it in the card.

At a time when things feel unmoored and difficult, a sentimental object to hold and touch can be grounding. If you have some great photos on your camera roll, it’s easy and inexpensive to print photos. Two easy options are to use an online photo printing service or a pharmacy or drugstore photo printing service.

Tell stories and share memories.

You might have stories and memories that your grieving friend hasn’t heard before.

Or, you may have memories about all of you that you can share. It’s a gift to hear how other people knew and experienced someone you loved – so share that gift with the person you’re writing to. It may also be healing and part of your process to think back on your memories and shared time with the person you’re grieving.

Avoid the usual phrases.

We’ve all heard the phrases, “Our deepest condolences,” “My heart goes out to you,” and “I’m sorry for your loss.”

But “loss” feels so inadequate. And saying “your loss” doesn’t allow you to share in the grief, or signal to your friend that their burden is not solely theirs to bear. So, say what you’re feeling – chances are, your friend is feeling similar ways, and knowing that someone else is going through it feels so much less isolating.

Offer specific support.

It’s easy to say “let me know how I can help,” or “let me know if you need anything.” I’ve certainly done it! When we say that, though, it puts the onus on the grieving person to reach out. 

Instead, just do something: 

  • “I’m going to the grocery store & I’ll grab some prepared meals for you.” 
  • “I’ll take care of mowing the lawn each week.” 
  • “I’m coming by to clean and help with whatever chores you have.”
  • "I'll take the dog for a walk each morning."

    Check back later.

    Yes, send a card right away. And then, check back in one, two, six months – maybe also a year.

    After the flurry of acknowledgement and initial outpouring of support has come and gone, the grief is still there. So, check in again.

    Ideas and examples of what to to write on a sympathy card:

    Here are a few ideas of what you could say instead of the usual things to say in a sympathy card:

    Slightly more conventional:

    • I hope happy memories heal your heart.
    • I’m sorry you’re going through this.
    • I’m sorry you’re going through this. I’m here for whatever you need.
    • You have my sympathy. And my empathy. 
    • I’m so sorry.
    • With sympathy.
    • I hope you find comfort in happy memories.
    • You are not alone.
    • I’m here for you. 
    • Sending you strength and love.
    • Holding you in my heart.

      Slightly less conventional:

      • This is a shit time. I’m here for you.
      • Let’s go do something fun so we can forget about how much this sucks right now.
      • Your misery has company: we can feel awful together.
      • It hurts worse than stubbing a toe. Like, one million times worse.
      • Well, shit.
      • This is totally shitty.
      • Nothing makes sense.
      • We’re barely hanging on, but we’re clinging to the edge together.
      • Hope this card is a bright spot in an otherwise miserable time.
      • I won’t tell you, “It’s going to be okay.” It’ll be how it is and I’ll be here for that (and you).

        And, here are some ideas for signing condolence cards when you don’t know the person as well, but still want to send a card.

        For a coworker, distant relative, or acquaintance:

        • Sending you comfort and healing.
        • I wish you moments of ease and peace as you navigate this.
        • Sending you strength, comfort, and peace as you remember and celebrate [name].
        • We are holding you in our thoughts and sending our care and support to you and your family.

        Sympathy cards don’t have to follow a specific format. Grief is wild and weird, and your condolences can be, too.

        Looking for frank, supportive cards to help you express yourself? Take a look at the Queen Fayzel Encouragement & Support collection.