Acknowledging a Loss: What to Write in a Sympathy Card
By Lucas Gajewski
When someone you know experiences the loss of a loved one, it can leave you without words. At the same time, you want to extend condolences, so you carefully select a beautiful sympathy card to send. When you sit down to sign it, you might worry about saying the wrong thing or start to think nothing you say will matter. It can certainly be a frustrating situation for you at a time when you would rather put your energy toward those who are grieving.
However, the most important thing is that you say something. To put it bluntly, the journey through grief is awful. It feels good to have others validate this fact and acknowledge your pain—in a real and gritty way. Grief requires support, and writing a heartfelt message in a sympathy card is a simple way to show you care. If you are stuck and in search of a little guidance, the list below offers a few basic options. You can use these suggestions as they are or edit them for a more personal touch:
- Our thoughts and prayers are with you during this impossibly difficult time.
- There are no answers or actions that can remove your heartache, but please know you are not alone. We are thinking of you during this sad time.
- You can cry with me any time.
Honestly acknowledging that you do not know what to say is completely acceptable, and a genuine approach is often greatly appreciated:
- During times of loss, we realize how limiting words can be. Just know that we are thinking of you.
- Words cannot do justice to the heartache you and your family are experiencing. We are so very sorry for your loss and are thinking of you during this sad time.
Knowing the positive impact a loved one has had on others can be therapeutic for those left behind:
- Although she will be greatly missed, I know her spirit will continue to shine through those whose lives she has touched.
- The world is a better place because of your mom’s generosity and kind heart. Her legacy lives on.
- Your father was such a wise, caring, and humble person. It was a privilege to have known him.
It sounds so simple, but it is comforting for the family just to know others care about their loss. Often times, a handful of direct, sincere words can be more effective than going overboard with commiseration:
- Our thoughts are with you.
- Please extend my sympathy to your family and know that we are sending love your way.
While what you choose to write in a sympathy card might largely depend on the relationship you have with the person you are sending it to, there are a few things you should always avoid saying. Messages that compare sorrow or messages that force the recipient on a specific timeline for healing are unhelpful because everyone will grieve in their own way. Even if you have the best of intentions, it is also not the right time to give advice. Humbly offering genuine words of support, no matter which ones you end up choosing, will show you care, and that is, after all, why you bought the sympathy card in the first place.