Sympathy Notes: The Basics

Posted by Judy on Aug 31st 2015

When faced with writing a sympathy note, it’s natural to agonize over the words, hoping that somehow what you say will console the survivor or make everything all right. You have to accept that you cannot take away another’s grief. But there is something very important that you can do – you can communicate and let the person know you care.

A good condolence note acknowledges someone’s loss and expresses your sympathy. Honesty and simplicity work best; even two or three lines can be enough. “I was so sorry to hear about John’s death. Please accept my sincerest condolences and know that I am thinking of you.” Or, “My deepest sympathy on the loss of your mother. You are in my thoughts and prayers.”

Outline for a basic sympathy note:

Mention the name of the deceased and acknowledge the loss. You could also use "deeply saddened" for the first line. Using the word “death” is appropriate, but if it makes you uncomfortable you can use a common euphemism such as, “sorry to hear that John passed away”

If possible, relate something positive about the deceased. If you have to say something general, or can't think of anything good to say, you can use "he will be missed by many," or "the office won't be the same without her."

Offer your sympathy. Other expressions include “sincere condolences" and "heartfelt sympathy"

Offer kind thoughts, prayers or good wishes. Other expressions include, "you are in my thoughts and prayers," know that we are thinking of you.

For example:

Dear Mary,

I was so sorry to hear of John’s death. He was a wonderful friend and mentor to so many young people and will be sorely missed. Please accept my deepest sympathy. My thoughts are with you and your family.