What to write in a sympathy card: a definitive guide
Table of Contents
- Why send a sympathy card?
- Who to address a sympathy card to
- How to address a sympathy card
- Religion and sympathy cards
- Short condolence messages
- Sympathy for the loss of a mother
- Sympathy for the loss of a father
- What to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a wife
- What to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a husband
- What to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a sister
- What to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a brother
- What to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a child
- What to write in a sympathy card for a miscarriage and loss of a baby
- What to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a friend
- What to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a grandparent
- What to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a pet
- Quotes for sympathy cards
- How to end a sympathy card
- General tips for writing a sympathy card
- Sympathy card message examples
- What to gift alongside a sympathy card
- Follow up on your sympathy card
In this definitive guide, we take a deep dive into how to write a sympathy card — including why to send one, how to address it, and plenty of ideas for what you can write — alongside what’s best not to write.
Read through our detailed guide and learn how best to convey your condolences to friends, family and acquaintances when they lose a loved one.
You can express your sympathy to others in many ways, but nothing is held as close as a handwritten sympathy card during and after periods of such deep grief.
Why not bookmark this guide now, so you can refer back to it when you next come to write a sympathy card?
Why send a sympathy card?
If you are wondering if you can just text a sympathy message instead — the short answer is no.
Of course, you can send a text message to the grieving person or family, but make sure you send a sympathy card as well.
A quick message sent via your phone takes seconds and therefore doesn’t show you care as much as a card that has been chosen, bought (or made), handwritten and posted or hand-delivered.
Sympathy cards are often displayed around the home for weeks after a loss; a physical reminder of the love and support being offered by each sender.
Also, a sympathy card, note or letter will be read and re-read over time, providing lasting support during the recipient’s darkest hours.
Sending a sympathy card is an act of love that will be appreciated and remembered — more than ever in this digital age.
Who to address a sympathy card to
First things first, who should you address the card to? Do you address a sympathy card to the entire family or just one person?
This is a common question, so here is a simple guide for addressing your card.
If you knew the deceased well, address your note to the closest living relative or relatives – usually the wife/husband or eldest child.
If you didn’t know the deceased, but your friend or relative was a close friend or close relative of the deceased, write to them.
If a friend is bereaved, write to your friend.
Remember, you can always add an “and family” onto the end of your greeting if you wish.
Addressing a sympathy card to a widow or widower can create some confusion as the person the individual was married to has died; however, you should still address the person as Mr or Mrs — the individual is still a husband or wife and would almost certainly like to be addressed as such.
How to address a sympathy card envelope
Address the envelope formally, with titles and full names, using the classic rules.
Religion and sympathy cards
If you or the recipient are religious, then you may be wondering if it would be okay to send the bereaved a sympathy card or if you should include a religious message.
Bible verses for sympathy cards
If you or the card recipient are Christian, then perhaps a Bible verse or verses could provide comfort during this difficult time.
The same, of course, goes for other religions.
Here are some suitable examples from the Bible that might bring comfort to Christians:
- “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” – Matthew 5:4
- “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10
- “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28
- “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” — Romans 8:28
Can you send a sympathy card to a Muslim?
There can be confusion around religion from those outside of faith, and so, if you aren’t a Muslim yourself and were wondering if you can send a sympathy card to a Muslim, the answer is yes, absolutely; a note of condolence would be much appreciated.
Here are some Islamic condolences you might like to use:
- May Allah give him/her an easy and pleasant journey and shower blessings on their grave.
- May Almighty Allah give you patience and ease to pass through these trials.
- May the Almighty Allah expand his/her grave and give him/her eternal peace. Allah is always merciful towards people who believe in him.
- May Allah grant him/her eternal peace.
Can you send a sympathy card to a Jehovah’s Witness?
We have seen people online questioning if you can send a Jehovah’s Witness a sympathy card when they suffer a loss, and the answer is yes, certainly; just be careful to avoid sending a card featuring Christian imagery — such as a cross — or bearing a Christian message.
Likewise, be mindful of what you write inside the card; if you are unsure of what to write regarding the Jehovah’s Witness religion and are worried about writing the wrong thing, then keep your message entirely free of the mention of faith.
Short condolence messages
Below are some short, generic messages that convey your condolences. If you weren’t close to the deceased or aren’t particularly close to the bereaved, then a concise message is ideal.
If you are wondering what to write in a sympathy card to someone you don’t know very well — such as a client at work, a co-worker, or a neighbour — then the below phrases could be just what you are looking for.
Alternatively, these ideas can be combined with personalised messages and quotes to result in a longer piece.
- I’m thinking of you
- I’m thinking of you during this difficult time
- You’re in my thoughts
- I am so sorry for your loss
- You are in my prayers
- My deepest sympathy
- My sincere sympathy
- Please accept my condolences
- With warmest condolences
- With heartfelt condolences
- My heart goes out to you at this difficult time
- My heart goes out to you at this time of sorrow
- I am deeply sorry to hear about the death of [insert name]
- I am deeply sorry to hear about the passing of [insert name]
- Wishing you peace to bring comfort, courage to face the days ahead, and loving memories to forever hold dear in your hearts
- With love
- With love and hugs
- With love at this sad time
- Sending you and the family love
- With thoughts of peace and courage for you
- I will miss [insert name] very much
- May you be comforted by the outpouring of love surrounding you
- May your heart and soul find peace and comfort
- I was very saddened to hear that [insert name] passed away
- I am missing [insert name] along with you
- I am sharing in your sadness as you remember [insert name]
- Thinking of you as you celebrate [insert name]’s life
- Thinking of you and hoping you are doing OK
- God bless
- Wishing you peace
- Wishing you healing
- With you in sorrow
- I am sharing your sadness
- Sending caring thoughts your way
- [Insert name] will live in my memories forever
- [Insert name] will be sadly missed
- Words cannot even begin to express my sorrow
- Please remember that you are not alone, and I am always here for you
- May your happy memories give you peace and comfort during this challenging time
- My heart is aching for your loss
While a short message is perfectly acceptable for a sympathy card addressed to someone you aren’t close to, bear in mind that just writing “Dear Brian, from Simone” isn’t really enough and could come across nonchalant or uncaring.
Sympathy for the loss of a mother
The bond between mother and child is often unique and unbreakable.
Often, a mum’s presence in a child’s life doesn’t waver; they support their children through thick and thin with love and guidance — and this doesn’t end when the child reaches adulthood.
The loss of a mother is devastating. Here are a few ideas of messages to include in a sympathy card for someone who has lost their mother:
- When I think of your mother, I think of a strong, confident woman who would have done anything to protect her children and ensure their happiness.
- Living without the one person who had loved you unconditionally all your life – even before you were born – must be so difficult. I am sending my most sincere condolences on the loss of your beloved mother.
- Words cannot begin to express the pain you must be feeling at the loss of your mother, the irreplaceable woman who brought you into the world and loved you unconditionally throughout your life.
- I was so sorry to learn of your mother’s passing. She was a wonderful woman who will be truly missed by many.
- Mums remain in our hearts forever, even after they pass away. I am so sorry for your loss.
- It takes a special person to be a Mum, but it takes an extra special Mum to bring up a wonderful child. Your Mum was clearly one of the best. I am so sorry for your loss.
- Mothers carry their children in their hearts, and children carry mothers in their hearts too. Keep your Mum there, and carry her memory with you always. She was a wonderful woman, and I am so sorry for your loss.
- Please accept my sincere condolences for the loss of your mother. From all I heard about her, she was a wonderful woman to be admired. What wonderful memories you must have of her.
Sympathy for the loss of a father
Losing a parent changes children (and adult children) immeasurably.
Whether the death was expected or not, nothing can ever prepare someone for their dad’s death, and they will feel that loss forever.
Below are a few ideas for what to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a dad:
- Your father was one of the nicest people I knew, and I know that he was a great dad too. I am so sorry for your loss.
- My condolences to you for the passing of your father. He was a wonderful man, and there will never be another man like him.
- Your father was always talking about you and bragging about how wonderful you were. I hope you know that you meant the world to him. He was a great man and will be sorely missed.
- I am so sorry for your loss. Your father was a great man, and I know how close you were to him. He will be missed by many.
- I am sorry to hear of your father’s passing. I will remember him as a kind, funny man who would do anything to help anyone. You are in my thoughts at this difficult time.
What to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a wife
Losing the woman you chose to spend the rest of your life with is absolutely heartbreaking.
The grieving partner will require lots of support from friends and family in the coming weeks, months and years — but firstly, you might want to think about sending the bereaved a sympathy card or note.
Here are some ideas of messages to include when writing a sympathy card for the loss of a wife:
- Your wife was a dear friend and a truly special person. I can’t find the words to express how hard this is. I’m sending my most heartfelt condolences; my thoughts are with you and your family at this difficult time.
- I’m so sorry for your loss. Your wife was much more than just a colleague; she was a true friend, and I will miss her dearly.
- I’m so sorry to hear of your wife’s passing. I know what an unbreakable bond the two of you had, and I can’t even begin to understand how difficult this must be for you.
- My heart goes out to you during this terrible time. Your wife was a wonderful woman, and I’ll never forget her and all she taught me.
- The world was a better place with your wife and mother in it, and I will never forget her zest for life and cheeky smile.
- Your wife’s passing is absolutely devastating, and I’m sending you my sincere condolences.
What to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a husband
When a husband passes away — unexpectedly or otherwise — their partner is left alone to deal with a whole host of emotions, including loss, fear and loneliness.
If you’d like to know what to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a husband, we have some suggestions below:
- I was so saddened to hear of your husband’s passing. He will be sorely missed at work — he was a very popular member of the team thanks to his sense of humour and caring nature.
- You are in my thoughts at this terrible time. Your husband was a wonderful man, and will never be forgotten.
- My heart goes out to you and your family on the loss of your dear husband. [Insert name] was one of the most generous and kind-hearted souls I ever met, and I’ll never forget him.
- I’m so incredibly sorry for the loss of your husband and father. Please know that he will live on in all of our fond memories. For example, I will never forget the time he went on that rollercoaster at Thorpe Park!
- Your husband will be sorely missed. It was an absolute honour to have known him, and my life was better for him being in it—my deepest condolences.
What to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a sister
The bond between siblings is magical; a childhood shared and a million memories.
Siblings are sometimes referred to as ‘forgotten mourners’, as a lot of the attention goes to the parents when their child dies.
However, the passing of a sister is traumatic, and siblings need support too, so here are some ideas for what you can write in a sympathy card for the loss of a sister:
- Your sister may have passed, but her memory will live on in my heart and mind. She was and is loved, and I’m extremely sorry for your loss.
- She was your sister, and she was my ‘sister from another mister’. My heart is broken at the loss of [insert name]; I will miss her dearly, and I’m so sorry for your loss.
- I know you and your sister were close, and you are in my thoughts at this devastating time. She was a wonderful woman with a heart of gold, and there will never be another [name].
- Your sister was the strongest person I ever met — mentally and physically. I will miss her every day, and I am sending you and the rest of the family, my deepest condolences.
- I am deeply sorry to hear about your sister’s passing. I thought the world of her.
What to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a brother
The passing of a brother is a truly heartbreaking life event, but it can be tough to know what message to send their sibling.
Here are a few ideas on what to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a brother:
- I wish you and the family peace and comfort as you grieve the loss of [insert name]. Your brother was a great man; please know that he will forever live on in all of our memories.
- Only those who are lucky enough to have a brother can understand the bond between them and the pain of losing them. My heart is broken for your loss, and I wish I could carry some of the pain on your behalf.
- “Sorry for your loss” doesn’t seem enough to convey how truly sorry I am to hear of the loss of the passing of your brother. My heart goes out to you as your process all of the emotions associated with such a devastating loss.
- I’m so glad I met your brother at university, and I was always proud to call him a friend. [Insert name] was a true friend who supported me through thick and thin, and I’ll never forget him. Please know I am here for you during this terrible time and beyond.
- [Insert name] was never one to talk about his emotions, but I know he loved and respected you greatly, and I hope that brings you some comfort during this terrible time. Your brother was the life and soul of the party, and his memory will live on. I’m so sorry for your loss.
What to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a child
Nobody ever expects their child to pass away before them, but sadly it sometimes happens and, when it does, it is tragic.
Knowing what to say when someone loses a son, daughter or young person can seem impossible.
Here are a few ideas for what to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a child:
- The shadow cast by his parents certainly allowed him to shine brightly in his world. Good for you both to have raised [insert name] to be his own man and yet so remarkably like his parents.
- If a woman is to be judged by her friends and family, [insert name] is to be judged at the highest level.
- I feel as though I was blessed to have been graced by [insert name]’s big heart and kind personality. It is truly the mark of wonderful parents. Every bit of my heart goes out to you during this most difficult time.
- I am truly sorry for your loss. The loss of a child is absolutely heart-breaking. My heart aches for you and your family. [Insert name] was a wonderful child, and she will be terribly missed by so many.
- Words cannot express the sorrow and pain I feel for the loss of your son/daughter. [Insert name] will be greatly missed. With my deepest sympathy.
What to write in a sympathy card for a miscarriage and loss of a baby
The passing away of a baby is unthinkable, but, sadly, it does happen — before, during, and after birth.
Around one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, for example — each one absolutely devastating for the parents.
Thinking of the right message to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a baby can seem impossible, so we’ve listed a few ideas below for you:
- My heart breaks for you as your grieve for the baby you never got to meet. I know how excited you both were to meet [insert name or him/her], and I’m so, so sorry for your loss.
- You’re both in my thoughts as you navigate the grief of losing your baby.
- I’m so sorry for your loss. Please know that each new life, no matter how brief, forever changes the world. I hope you find comfort in that thought.
- You and your baby are in my thoughts as you process this devastating loss.
- I love you, and I’m so sorry you are going through this terrible pain.
- No words are enough to convey how sorry I am to learn of the death of [insert baby name]. Your world must be in pieces right now but please know I am here for you. Take all the time you need to grieve and look after yourselves and each other.
Remember to address your card or note to both parents in the case of a miscarriage; sometimes, the non-pregnant partner gets forgotten when they are grieving the loss of their baby too.
What to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a friend
The loss of a good friend can be as heartbreaking as the loss of a family member.
If someone you know has recently lost a friend, they would certainly appreciate a sympathy card from you.
Here are some ideas for what to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a friend:
- I’m sharing in your sadness as you remember [insert name].
- I know [insert name] was your favourite person, and I can’t imagine what you are going through right now as you grieve [his/her] passing. I’m so sorry for your loss.
- I cannot imagine how much you will miss [insert name]; I know how close you were, and the pain of this loss must be unbearable.
- My heart goes out to you for the loss of your dear friend, [insert name]. I can remember the two of you in that school play like it was yesterday, and I hope memories of the happy times you shared will carry you forward through your grief.
- I don’t need to tell you how wonderful [insert name] was, so I know you will be in pain right now. Please accept my deepest condolences on the loss of your friend. [He was/she was/they were] the kindest person I knew and an incredible entrepreneur.
What to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a grandparent
The loss of a grandparent is often the first death that an individual faces in their lifetime; it is shocking and incredibly painful.
At this sad time, grandchildren who are teenage or adult tend to lend support to their parents and younger siblings when they also need support themselves.
Lend your support through a sympathy card for the loss of a grandparent:
- I was so saddened to hear about the passing of your grandma. She was a lovely lady with a kind soul; she also made the best cakes I’ve ever tasted. Thinking of you.
- I’m thinking of you during this difficult time. Your grandad was a wonderful man, and I feel honoured to have heard stories of his early life over the years.
- I’m sending you love as you grieve for the loss of your grandmother. I’ll never forget [insert name] and her stubborn nature — she was a force to be reckoned with and a true inspiration.
- I was saddened to hear of your grandfather’s passing. I know you were close, and this will be an incredibly difficult time for you.
- I’m so sorry to hear about the passing of your grandparent. Your nana will live on in your family’s memories, and I hope that thought brings some comfort over the coming days, weeks, and years.
What to write in a sympathy card for the loss of a pet
The passing away of a cat, dog, or other pet can sometimes be overlooked by the loved ones of the pet’s owner or owners; however, the death is often a truly harrowing event for them.
Pets are their owner’s best friend — always there to listen, play, relieve stress and anxiety, and ease loneliness.
Be prepared next time a beloved pet dies by sending a sympathy card containing a message along these lines:
- May fond memories of [insert name] bring you peace and comfort at this difficult time.
- To lose a friend is never easy. Please know that you are in my thoughts at this difficult time.
- It is so hard to say goodbye to such a special companion. My thoughts are with you.
- Some pets are friends. Others are family. The loss of [insert name] can’t be easy – he was a wonderful and loyal dog. Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.
- Pets never really leave us – they live on in our hearts and our fond memories.
- You are in my thoughts following the sad passing of [insert name]. Please know that she touched many lives with her lovely nature and unusual meow. She will be missed.
Quotes for sympathy cards
Sometimes you might want to let someone else do the talking for you; in which case, quotes can be incredibly helpful.
Alternatively, you may wish to enhance or support what you have already written by adding a suitable quote to your condolences.
We have provided some useful examples below, or you may wish to source your own.
- “To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” – Thomas Campbell
- “Like a bird singing in the rain, let grateful memories survive in time of sorrow.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
- “Death is a challenge. It tells us not to waste time. It tells us to tell each other right now that we love each other.” — Leo Buscaglia
- “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln
- “Those we love and lose are always connected by heartstrings into infinity.” – Terri Guillemets
- “I know for certain that we never lose the people we love, even to death. They continue to participate in every act, thought and decision we make. Their love leaves an indelible imprint in our memories. We find comfort in knowing that our lives have been enriched by having shared their love.” – Leo Buscaglia
- “Sorrow is so easy to express and yet so hard to tell.” — Joni Mitchell
- “How very softly you tiptoed into our world, almost silently, only a moment you stayed. But what an imprint your footsteps have left upon our hearts.” – Dorothy Ferguson
- “A great soul serves everyone all the time. A great soul never dies. It brings us together again and again.” — Maya Angelou
- “Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith. It is the price of love.” — Unknown
- “When the heart grieves over what it has lost, the spirit rejoices over what it has left.” — Sufi Epigram
- “As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well spent brings happy death.” — Leonardo da Vinci
How to end a sympathy card
You might be wondering how to sign a sympathy card or what a good closing is.
Closing ideas include phrases such as:
- With love
- Lots of love
- Wishing you peace
- You’re in our thoughts
- With caring thoughts
- Thinking of you
- In caring sympathy
- With our deepest condolences
- I’m here for you
- With warm regards
- With all our love and support
General tips for writing a sympathy card
When personalising the sympathy card to your situation, remember to:
- Select an appropriate card. It doesn’t have to be a sympathy card specifically – it could be a blank card with a neutral picture on the front, such as flowers or a landscape. Alternatively, you could make your own.
- Take your time – don’t write your sympathy card in a rush.
- Keep it short if you’re struggling with what to write – it’s better to send a card with a shorter message inside than a card containing a long, ill-informed message. However, all of the tips in this guide should help you to write a longer one.
- Compliment the deceased.
- Share a favourite memory of the deceased.
- Say something uplifting – don’t dwell on the negatives.
- Offer practical help. Don’t just write, “If you need anything, you know where I am”, as that is too vague and won’t be taken up. Instead, offer a hand with specific practical tasks such as childcare, cooking or ironing. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, though; if you can’t babysit for them every weekend for the next six months, don’t say you can!
What not to write in a sympathy card
Most of us struggle to write sympathy cards because we are terrified of writing something that could further upset, offend or anger the recipient.
What not to write is just as important as what to write.
With all of this in mind, keep the following phrases and topics out of your writing:
- “You will…”
- “You should…”
- “I know exactly how you feel.”
- “He was too young…”
- “It’s for the best.”
- “They’re in a better place now.”
- “You can always remarry” or “You’ll meet someone else.”
- “At least they lived a long life.”
- “Everything happens for a reason.”
- “It could be worse…”
- “At least you have other children.”
- “It will get easier in time.”
- “It’s time for you to move on.”
- “You’ll get pregnant again…”
- Any details about the manner of the deceased’s death
In summary, don’t allocate blame, don’t discuss the circumstances of the death, don’t offer advice, and don’t tell them they will feel better in X amount of time.
Put yourself in their shoes, and think about the words which would bring you comfort at such a time — and which words wouldn’t.
Sympathy card message examples
Here are a few examples to give you a feel for what to write in your own sympathy notes and cards.
LOSS OF A FATHER
I am so sorry for your loss. Steven was a wonderful man, with a heart of gold, and I will miss him dearly.
His laugh was infectious, and I’ll never forget our camping trips in France.
He often spoke of your achievements during our games of golf – a true sign of a proud parent. You meant the world to him, and I know the feeling was very much mutual.
Please know that you are in my thoughts at this difficult time, and I would be more than happy to look after Milo and Maude for you if you would like some time out. They are welcome to stay over at my house anytime.
Sending you and the family all my love.
LOSS OF A FRIEND
I am deeply sorry to hear about the passing of Jennie. To me, she always seemed to be a whirlwind of fun and laughter, and I couldn’t help but feel uplifted in her presence.
I know how close you were, from sixth form onwards. I remember you were inseparable in Year 12 and were always sneaking into foam parties with fake IDs!
“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years” – Abraham Lincoln
If you’d like some help with washing and ironing during this difficult time, please let me know. I can collect and drop it off again, so you can concentrate on looking after yourself.
Thinking of you,
Love from Louise
LOSS OF A SON TO SUICIDE
My dear friend Beth,
I was shocked and saddened to hear about Jamie’s death.
I cannot imagine the heartache you must feel and words seem so inadequate to express my sadness.
Jamie was a wonderful young man — so kind and thoughtful — and I know he will be deeply missed by many.
If I can help you out with meals, just let me know – I can cook you and the family some meals and drop them off, or I can come round to your house and cook. I’ll call you about it in a few days.
Remembering with you, the life of your precious son.
Lots of love,
What to gift alongside a sympathy card
A sympathy card alone will offer comfort to the grieving but, if you’d like to send a gift of some sort too, then we have a few ideas for you.
The most common gift to send the bereaved is a bunch of flowers. However, this can result in a house full of flowers and not enough vases.
Other appropriate ideas include:
- Homecooked meals
- Food gifts, such as desserts, chocolates, etc.
- A potted plant
- A candle
- A charity donation related to the deceased
- Money — this isn’t common in the UK but is more common in the US and elsewhere.
- A memorial gift featuring a photo or the name of the deceased
- A photo album or scrapbook
- Flower seeds to plant in the deceased’s memory
Follow up on your sympathy card
While it is lovely of you to send a sympathy card to someone who has recently been bereaved, it is also kind to follow up your card with further contact – whether that be in person, by telephone, email, or a letter.
The bereaved would appreciate it if you get in touch on the anniversary of their loved one’s death, too, to let them know you are thinking of them.
Offer support and any practical help they might still need, and also — if they need to hear it — let them know that it is perfectly normal and OK for them to still be feeling sad; grief is a lifelong process with no time limit.