5 Heartfelt Messages to Write in a Sympathy Card

Comforting someone who has lost a loved one is never easy. Knowing what to say in general is a challenge, and finding the best words to write can be just difficult. We reached out to families like yours, who use CaringBridge, and you came through with some good messages.

Here are 5 ideas on what to write in a sympathy card to express support and love:

1. Get Personal

Those experiencing loss know how special their loved one was and your message should reflect your appreciation for that. If their loved one was passionate about music, mention what great taste they had. If they were into gardening, a card with flowers and a relevant quote might mean a lot.

“When my Dad, died a friend from childhood sent a sympathy card she had made personally with a picture of my dad’s house lit up for Christmas. It was his true passion and he had over 100,000 lights on it. It’s the one we all treasured and still love today. That is truly a great way to show you care.”

Patti Nequette

2. ‘I’m bringing over your favorite meals.’

Sympathy messages don’t always have to be emotional – they can be practical, too! In such an overwhelming time, a message like this can be a breath of fresh air. Plus, offering meals and other supplies to those in crisis takes a huge weight off their shoulders.
I often bring paper plates, napkins, tissues and even toilet paper. The other food items I bring are canned beef, turkey, chicken, frozen vegetables, pizzas, casseroles that I have frozen, that way they don’t have to go out for groceries right away.”
Liz Schnipke Warnecke

3. Remember When…

Reminiscing on happy memories is one of the best ways to cope with grief. Memories help people hold onto the bond they had with their loved one. Thinking about all the good times instead of what was lost can be helpful during a very sad time.

“Recall a story that they were not a part of but that you cherish. It provides another insight into who their loved one was, sometimes a side of the person they never knew. It also lets them know that their loved one is a part of someone else’s memory and not forgotten.”

Karen Anne Clifford

“A special memory of their loved one will more than likely touch their hearts. ❤️”

Mary K Allhoff

4. ‘I’ll be by your side every step of the way.’

Hard times can feel very isolating; remind your loved one that they don’t have to go through this alone and you’ll be there with them for support.

5. Your Favorite Quote

When you’ve experienced challenging times, what was a quote or saying that gave you comfort? Share this in the card. Your favorite saying will feel more personal and your loved one will appreciate you sharing. Who knows? It might become one of their favorite quotes as well.

If you’re struggling to think of a saying, these 19 quotes for hope and healing are a good place to start.

Messages to Avoid

Sympathy cards, though well-intentioned, can be unhelpful with the wrong message inside. Here are some common messages to stay away from:

  • “I know how you feel.” People experience hardship in their own way, at their own pace. While empathy is a good thing, this card is about them and their loved one, not you.
  • “Just let me know how I can help.” Offering help is great, but leaving it up to your loved one can feel overwhelming. Instead, simply let them know that you are there for them. Next time you see them, offer a specific way that you can be of assistance.
  • “Everything happens for a reason.” This implies there is a good reason for your loved one’s pain. Don’t shrug off their hardship; recognize it with a gentle, “we’ll get through this together.”

For more info on what not to say, check out these 7 things to never say to a patient or caregiver (plus tips on better words to share).

No Matter What, Send the Card

Even when you don’t know what to say, saying something is more comforting than silence. When in doubt, “I love you” never fails.

Just send the card, they can look at it when they need to feel loved. Too many times we don’t send the cards, but they are a link to others.”

Michele Stoumbaugh

We’d like to hear it from you! What messages have you given or received in a card that have provided you the most comfort during a difficult time?

Comments (5)

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Marlene R Kam Jul 19, 2019 1:15am
I had open heart surgery and it was wonderful to have my prayer warriors filling my mailbox with their thoughts and prayers. To this day after almost four years, I am still overwhelmed when I am asked how I am feeling because so many people care about me!
Joyce A Wiggins Jul 05, 2019 12:48am
I survived breast cancer and 6 weeks after my 5 year Mark. I was dx With bladder cancer.please don't say don't. Cry. It is very hard to face chemo
Sheldon and Marilyn Baskin and family May 21, 2019 7:46am
Our thoughts are with you. We love you. Milt was such a special, kind, gentle man. We will miss him and his sense of humor.
Sharon lund Apr 09, 2019 7:55pm
Some great ideas. Thank you.
Beverly Nan Haskins Kennedy Mar 24, 2019 11:26am
I agree with everything that you have expressed and said. I was in shock for most of the first few days, because my firstborn son, was simply not supposed to die before me. He died of an unexpected and sudden pulmonary embolism, and died right before my eyes. Despite me acting as a first responder, and I had started cardiopulmonary resuscitation ( after making sure his airway was open) immediately;and continued until the young policeman and four paramedics arrived. We all tried, heroically, to save my son; but that was simply, not God's plan. I was really in shock, physically and emotionally for several days. I found it difficult to focus and there was so very much, that I had to do. Even almost six months later; sometimes, I still can be just overwhelmed. I agree with what you have said. The cards were bes!!! I had inquiry's that were greatly appreciated, but the cards were the best. I could take them out and read them, anytime I needed empathy and support. The personal words or sentences were extremely helpful and thoughful. For weeks and even months, there was some degree of confusion!!! I think there will always be a bit of confusion, but those cards really helped me. I was always so very busy with my and my families live before this happened, that I may not always Have sent a card when other people lost a loved one or ones. I have, however, realized, just how important and even critical, those short messages are in the process of moving through the stages of grief and eventually, moving on with your life!!! Caring Bridge and the wonderful, loving family members and friends, will make a lot of difference in how well and how easily you make the transition,,,,to life without your loved one and you have to go on living. Take the time to buy and write a card. I, now, have a supply of cards, just for that purpose. It does not have to be an expensive card. It just needs to convey the message, that the person sending the condolence or "I am thinking of you" card; is there for you, when you are finally ready. It truly does make a big difference, and you will keep that card and look at it and read it again and again, all along your way. Death and grief are just so very hard. So, reach out, send a card and anything else you want to send, and just simply be there!!!