Signing a sympathy card isn’t easy. We search for words. We wonder what would be comforting to hear. We worry about saying the wrong thing…
But even though it’s not easy, it is important to reach out in sympathy. Our words can’t take away the pain of losing a loved one, but they can go a long way toward helping a grieving person feel loved and supported.
You should know right up front that you won’t find the perfect thing to write here. However, you will find ideas from seasoned Hallmark writers for good, helpful and hopeful things to write in a sympathy card. We hope our tips help you relax, write and share your heartfelt caring with someone who is going through a time of grief.
There are many good reasons for keeping your personal sympathy message short. It could be that the card has already expressed most or all of what you wanted to say. Or maybe you didn’t know the deceased well, or at all. Whatever the reason, you can absolutely be brief and still come across as warm and caring.
- “We are so sorry for your loss.”
- “Keeping you in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”
- “With deepest sympathy as you remember Robert.”
- “I was saddened to hear that your grandfather passed away. My thoughts are with you and your family.”
- “Remembering your wonderful mother and wishing you comfort.”
- “It was truly a pleasure working with your father for 17 years. He will be deeply missed.”
- “Thinking of you all as you celebrate your grandmother’s remarkable life.”
Writing tip: If you knew the deceased, but not the surviving family member(s) to whom you’re sending your card, it might be helpful to mention your connection to their loved one (from college, through work, etc.).
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It can be a great comfort to a grieving person or family to hear that others thought highly of their loved one, too. If you knew and admired the deceased, be sure to let your recipient(s) know.
- “What an amazing person and what a remarkable life.”
- “What a good and generous man your father was. I thought his funeral service was a wonderful tribute to him and all he has done for our community. He will be missed.”
- “We are so sorry about the loss of your dear sister. She was the sweetest person, always ready with something nice to say about everyone and everything. Sunday mornings at church won’t be the same without her.”
- “Sharing in your sadness as you remember Dan. There never was anyone quite like him and never will be again. He was a true original.”
- “Your mama was an amazing lady, and I feel privileged to have known her. I know you will miss her deeply. I’ll be keeping you in my thoughts and prayers.”
- “Celebrating the life of a good man and mourning his passing with you.”
- “Your daughter touched so many lives for the good. I’m grateful I had the chance to know her as both a colleague and a cherished friend.”
- “John wore a lot of hats—husband, father, grandfather, farmer, banker, church member, community leader, neighbor, friend. I saw him as a strong man who loved his family and his land. He was loved and admired by the wide circle of people he touched during his long and productive life. Together, you created a strong family that has touched many more. I’m so glad that mine was one of them.”
Writing tip: Need a more specific word than “good” to describe the deceased? Consider one of these: kindhearted, talented, admired, unforgettable, fun-loving, funny, wonderful, well-loved, lovely, sweet, generous, one-of-a-kind, one-in-a-million, honorable, respected, caring, hardworking, strong, energetic, happy.
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It may seem counterintuitive, but expressing your own sadness over the loss is unlikely to make your recipients feel worse. It’s much more likely to let them know they’re not alone in their sorrow.
- “I’m going to miss her, too.”
- “Sharing in your sorrow over the loss of your daughter.”
- “I am so sad for you. I wish I could take your sadness away even for a minute. I know I can’t, but I keep hoping that soon, the pain will lessen.”
- “I am deeply saddened by the passing of your husband. I’ll always remember him warmly and feel lucky that I had the pleasure of knowing him.”
- “We are missing Anne along with you. With heartfelt sympathy,”
- “We may have to let go, but we never have to forget. Ben will stay forever in our hearts.”
- “We cannot begin to imagine how hard these past months have been for both of you. We grieve with you for the loss of a son and brother and a bright spirit who had so much to give the world. Our thoughts and hearts will continue to be with you in the weeks and months ahead.”
Writing tip: Formal language can be a good way to show respect and contain the high emotion of sympathy messages, but if it feels stiff or awkward to you, relax and write more like you speak. If you’re someone who would say, “I’m so sorry to hear you’ve lost your mom,” then write, “I’m so sorry to hear you’ve lost your mom.” Just exactly like that.
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Wishes (or prayers) for comfort, hope, peace or healing are naturally positive and uplifting. Make one on its own or include it as part of a longer message of sympathy.
- “I hope, in time, all the good memories will comfort you.”
- “I hope you feel surrounded by much love.”
- “My heart goes out to you and your family.”
- “Your grandfather was a remarkable man, and he will be greatly missed. I hope the coming days will bring you rest, give you peace and help you draw strength from the caring hearts around you.”
- “With sympathy in the loss of your dear wife. Hoping you find comfort in the love of family and friends.”
- “Thinking of you and wishing you moments of peace and comfort as you remember a friend who was so close to you.”
- “Holding you close in my thoughts and hoping you are doing OK.”
Writing tip: Wishes and prayers focus on supporting and uplifting your recipients, so they can be a natural way to stay positive even in the case of a tragic or complicated or an especially difficult loss.
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Your recipients will cherish your memories of their loved one—both the stories they know well and the ones only you can tell. Don’t hesitate to share a lighthearted or even funny memory if that’s what comes to mind. It could be just the day-brightener your recipient needs.
- “I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Ron. Riding on the combine with him during wheat harvest is one of my favorite memories of growing up. I learned so much from him.”
- “I have the best memories of staying with Aunt Edie as a kid. I don’t think I’ve told you this, but starting when I was about 10, she would take me to Becker’s for ice cream cones…and let me drive! Only Aunt Edie…I’m going to miss her fun-loving spirit so much.”
- “This might sound funny, but one thing I’ll always remember about your grandpa is his clean cars. He liked his Buicks, and he liked to keep them looking good! That’s just who he was. He got things done, and he took good care—especially of the people he loved.”
- “One of the many things I’ll miss about Deb is just her quiet, easy presence. She and I saw a lot of sunrises together on our early-morning runs, and I loved taking in those moments with her, feeling connected without having to say anything at all. She was the best company…the most cherished friend.”
- “Nobody could tell a funny story like your mom. Remember at your graduation party—the story about the vacuuming incident? My face hurt for a full day after from laughing so much. I’ll always cherish those memories of fun times spent with her.”
- “My memories of Ed are happy ones, funny ones, kind ones—snapshots of generosity, wit and especially humor. I know that is a sad contrast to what all of you have gone through, and my heart goes out to you. I hope all your favorite memories will help to soften these past dark days and bring you smiles along with the tears.”
Writing tip: You don’t need to tell a long story. Describing a simple moment that really captures the deceased’s character or personality can be just as meaningful.
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If faith is a central part of how you approach life, and death, then let your belief show when you sign a sympathy card. Prayers for healing, wishes for God’s comfort and admiration for the personal faith of the deceased are all good messages to send.
- “Your mother blessed so many people with her faith and kindness. Praying that you’ll find comfort in your memories of her and in the knowledge that others are missing her, too.”
- “Our family is keeping your family in our thoughts and prayers.”
- “I know you will miss him, but I believe you’ll be together again some day.”
- “Sending healing prayers and comforting hugs. I am so sorry for your loss.”
- “So many people are thinking about you and lifting you up in prayer, especially right now.”
- “He is home now in the loving arms of his savior.”
- “May God comfort your family during this difficult time.”
- “So sorry to hear of your mom’s passing. Our prayers are with you as you go through the stress and grief of losing someone so close to you.”
Writing tip: Be sensitive when your recipient doesn’t share your faith tradition, but know that prayers and wishes for God’s comfort are usually general enough for anyone.
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If you’re in a position to help your recipient with arrangements, meals, housework, yard work, childcare or something else, then feel free to include an offer to do so as part of your message. Just be sure to follow up and follow through.
- “I know I can’t make your pain go away, but I want you to know I’m here with a shoulder or an ear or anything else you need.”
- “Please reach out if I can help in any way. I am thinking about you.”
- “Thinking of your family with love and wanting to help out in any way I can. I’ll call to see when would be a good night to bring over a meal.”
- “You’ve got so much on your mind and on your heart right now. We hope it will make one less worry to know that Kevin and I will be taking care of the yard for as long as you need.”
- “I know this must be a very difficult and demanding time for you all. We are keeping you in our thoughts and prayers. If there is anything we can do, please let us know.”
Writing tip: In general, the more specific your offer of help, the better.
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Got some favorite words of comfort or healing? Or do you know of some words that had special meaning to the deceased? Feel free to quote them when you sign your card.
- “When I lost my husband, I found strength in these words by Anne Lamott, and I hope, in time, you will, too:
‘You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.’
With love and sympathy,”
- “‘Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’
— Matthew 11:28 (RSV)
Keeping you in our prayers and wishing you peace during this difficult time.”
- “‘What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.’
— Helen Keller
Your dad will always be a part of you. With sympathy,”
- “‘So take my hand my friend,
We may stumble and fall along the way,
But we’ll get up and try again,
Because together we can make it day by day.’
— From ‘Angel Moms’ by Judi Walker
With you in sympathy every step of the way,”
Writing tip: You can draw quotations from songs, stories, poetry, Scripture, movies and more. If you’d like some quotable inspiration, have a look at these quotes about grief and healing. You can include your quotation in the body of the rest of your message, or you can write the quote separately on the inside left of the card. (Typically, you will end up signing your name on the inside right.)
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When someone you know is grieving, you might want to offer ongoing messages of support in the weeks and months following the loss of his or her loved one. You can send these to note an occasion like the deceased’s birthday, a wedding anniversary, holidays or any other time when the grieving person may need extra support.
- “It’s been a while, but I know that the hurt doesn’t go away when the cards and casseroles do. I’m still here for you.”
- “This must be a lonely time now that all the busyness is over. I hope it’s also a chance for you to rest and catch your breath. Just want you to know I’m thinking about you a lot and keeping you in my prayers. Call anytime if you want to reminisce about the good old days!”
- “Just wanted to let you know we’re remembering your mom on her birthday and sending lots of caring thoughts your way.”
- “I know Christmas won’t be the same without Sara, but I hope it helps a little to know that you’re in my thoughts and prayers, especially through the holidays.”
- “Hard to believe it’s been a year since we said good-bye to Bill. Couldn’t let this anniversary go by without letting you know that I’m thinking of you.”
Writing tip: You will find some cards specific to sympathy follow-up, but you might also choose to go with an encouragement or thinking-of-you card, or a blank card with a beautiful or lighthearted photo on the cover, depending on the tone you’re going for.
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A warm, respectful closing is a graceful way to wrap up your sympathy message. Choose one of these, or create your own.
- With sympathy,
- With deepest sympathy,
- With heartfelt sympathy,
- With prayers and sympathy,
- With sincere sympathy,
- With warm thoughts and prayers,
- With caring,
- With love at this sad time,
- In caring sympathy,
- With you in sorrow,
- Sharing your sadness,
- Thinking of you,
- Caring thoughts are with you,
- God bless,
- God bless you and comfort you,
- Keeping you in our prayers,
- Lifting you up in prayer,
- Praying for you,
- Wishing you peace,
- Wishing you healing,
- My heart goes out to you,
- Please accept our condolences,
- My sincere condolences,
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Here are a few thoughts and phrases to avoid in sympathy cards, because they risk either minimizing the recipients’ unique feelings of grief or actually making them feel worse.
- “I know how you feel.” We all experience and process grief differently.
- “She was so young.” No need for a potentially painful reminder.
- “What a terrible loss.” Avoid dwelling on the pain or difficulty of the loss.
- “You should…” Instead of advice, offer comfort and support.
- “You will…” Steer clear of predictions about how their grief journey will go.
- “This happened for a reason.” Even with the best intentions behind it, this thought risks assigning blame for the death.
Writing tip: If you’re still worried about saying the wrong thing, then keep your message very short. The simple act of sending the card lets your recipient know you care.
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Keely Chace is a Hallmark writer and mother of two. When she isn’t busy writing cards, she reads, runs, brushes up on long division and listens to lots of piano practice.
Additional contributions by Linda Barnes, Allyson Cook and Suzanne Heins.