It's often hard to find the right words when writing a message of condolence. You want to give comfort and support to someone going through a terrible moment but maybe you can’t quite find the right words or are worried about saying the wrong thing.
No matter how hard it might be, it's important to reach out to those you love and care about with a message of sympathy. Often there is not much that can be said that will really address the pain and suffering of those in mourning, but your message of love and support may help them and provide some comfort.
There are no hard and fast rules of what to write in a condolence card, but here at Penny Black, we've put together some tips to help you select and write your heartfelt sympathy card.
Pick a simple card, it doesn’t necessarily have to be one with a message of sympathy on the front, an empathy card with a neutral illustration or artwork might work well too. Ideally, the card will be blank inside so you can write your own heartfelt message of condolence.
Have some scrap paper ready to write a few short drafts so that when you come to writing in the card, you're happy with your choice of words. This will also give you a chance to check your spelling, particularly of any names, and will also ensure that you say everything you want to.
Give yourself plenty of time to consider your message and also to write it to ensure you get your message across.
If you know the deceased, then address your condolences to the closest living relative such as their wife/husband or eldest child. If you do not know the deceased but your friend or relative was a close friend or relative of them, then address your condolences to them. If it is your friend that has lost a parent, then write to your friend. Feel free to add “and family” where appropriate.
If you are going to post the sympathy card, then address the envelope using titles and full names, making sure you have the correct address and the correct postage paid (most cards will tell you on the back Letter or Large Letter). If you are unsure about the postcode or how much postage is required then visit your local Post Office who can assist you. Write your return address on the rear of the envelope so that the recipient can reply if they want to. In our blog you can also find a brief guide on how to address mail.
Writing a personal sympathy message is not easy, we all worry about writing the wrong thing. We certainly don’t have all the answers, however we have put together some suggestions that might help you gather your thoughts and find something comforting to write. If you purchase an empathy card with us then we can write the message for you and send direct if you prefer.
Keeping your personal sympathy message short and to the point is fine - you can certainly be brief and still send thoughtful and heartfelt messages that come across as warm and caring.
If you knew the deceased, mentioning how they positively touched your life is a lovely personal way to send your sympathies. Anecdotes, funny or sentimental, if kept brief, illustrate how the deceased will be remembered and can be very comforting for the recipient.
Where you, the recipient or the deceased have discussed or share a faith or belief then it may be appropriate to include a religious message or verse. If you are unsure or where only you or they have a belief system then this should be avoided as it may upset or offend the recipient.
There are many ways you may want to sign your condolence, and these will depend on the tone and content of the message you have written. Consider avoiding “Regards” or “Sincerely” as these are quite distant. A few suggested closings:
There are no strict rules on what you can or cannot say in a message of condolence and using your own judgement of what is appropriate will always keep you in good stead. However, there are some things that we think should be avoided because the last thing you want to do is further upset the recipient or belittle their feelings.
Have a look at our range of sympathy cards for inspiration.