What to Write in Sympathy Messages

Sympathy Messages for When You Don’t Know What to Write

  1. I can’t think of anything I can say that will make everything better. I do want you to know that I love you and that I am available to talk.
  2. I know that I can’t fix the pain you feel. I want you to know I feel for you, I’m thinking of you, and I’d do anything to help you.
  3. I could not possibly understand what you are feeling. I want to send you my deepest sympathy. I’m willing to listen.
  4. I know that even though you have a loss, you still have some great memories. I hope those memories will bring give you comfort.
  5. I struggle for the right words to give you support. Please accept my condolences.
  6. There’s nothing I can say to help you in your time of sorrow. I know that you’ll always carry ___________ in your heart.
  7. I wish I could express to you all the appropriate words. All I can say is that I am sorry for your loss and that I want you to know that you mean a great deal to me.
  8. Please accept my condolences to you during this difficult time. I want you to know that you’re in my prayers.
  9. I know there’s nothing I can say or do to fix things.  Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.
  10. I wish I could do more than give you my sympathy. Please let me know how I can help. Know that I am here if you need anything, and I love you.

Suggestions for Sympathy Card Messages

  1. Don’t try to tell the person how he/she feels. For example, “I know you probably feel awful and mad at the world.”  It’s best to assume that you don’t know how the person feels.
  2. Don’t write anything about your own problems.  If you lost someone once, you can mention something that helped you. Question the purpose of bringing up your own experiences in the sympathy message. Save stories for when you talk to the person.
  3. Don’t ever bring up a debt or something that was borrowed of yours. If someone borrowed something or owes you money, be decent enough to wait a few weeks before asking for it from the family. Unless, of course, you think they are going to sell it or claim it as their own. Even then, consider thinking of the money or borrowed item as a sympathy gift.
  4. Don’t include judgments from God such as, “It was his time to go, it’s all for the best, or he lived a good life and he’s in heaven.” You won’t know what is going through the surviving person’s mind, and you are not God.
  5. Always stay positive. An untactful sympathy card message that is positive is better than a negative message that is eloquently written.
  6. When in doubt, make your message shorter, not longer. The more you write, the more chance you have to offend someone. Brief is good. Stay to the point.
  7. If you offer to help someone, knowing they will have a difficult time, tell the person how you want to help. This prevents the person from asking you to do something you don’ t actually want to do. Also, the likelihood that the person will actually call you for help is low, so tell when you will call them.

Words of Sympathy

If you want to write your own sympathy message, you can use these common words of sympathy.  Combine these after thinking about how each could fit into your message.

Verbs

Send, know, write, hear, comfort, feel, grieving, offer, need, pray, passing, five, visit, leave, ended, mention, suffer, remember, experience, process, miss, love, live, cherish, ease, care, pray

Nouns

Life, name, sorrow, explanation, pain, acquaintance, new, someone, depth, letter, experience, remembrance, road, donation, flowers, memories, feeling, illness, thoughts, memory, love, comfort, heart, death, condolence, deceased, words, condolences, time, sympathy, loss, friend, family, words, sympathy, tragedy, strength, peace, tears, silence, days, prayer, moment

Adjectives

Close, short, heartfelt, hard, immediately, sensitive, depth, appropriate, grieving, special, loved, long, difficult, best, ready, sorrowful, sad

Phrases

Please accept, difficult time, time of sorrow, deeply saddened, the days ahead, my condolences

When you put these words of sympathy together you can get a sympathy message like this:
“Please accept my condolences for your loss. I will pray that you have strength and peace in this moment of grieving.”

What Not to Write in a Sympathy Card

Sympathy cards are used for encouragement, comfort, and support, but there are many ways a sympathy card should not be used.  Sympathy messages should stick to the point. Here are a few examples of things that you should not write in a sympathy card:

  1. “George owed me 25 dollars.”  As ridiculous as it sounds, some people think it’s o.k. to bring up that the deceased owes money. Those same people might spend more on a sympathy gift than the money owed. Don’t use a sympathy card message to mention that someone owed you money.
  2. “It was Ruth’s Time.” This is just stating the obvious. She’s dead, so it was her time. You don’t need to point out the obvious.
  3. “At least Jim’s pain is over.” This is a message that doesn’t help comfort the person who is grieving. He or she may be feeling an extreme loss. Maybe the surviving person would rather the deceased be in pain and alive with them. How can you be sure someone’s pain is over anyway?
  4. “In a year from now, you will be over all of this and move on with your life.”  Sure this sounds like a great way to get the person to rationalize feelings, but it’s not likely to comfort someone in a time of grief. Meet the grieving person in the moment, then help them find that peaceful future.
  5. “Your husband deserved to die. You are better without him.” Maybe he was an angry man, or he may have had a drinking problem or something. Making a judgment about whether someone is better off dead is not appropriate for a sympathy card. You might as well buy a congratulations card and celebrate not having to be around the deceased anymore.

Even though these examples seem ridiculous, some people will not have the sense to leave these out of a sympathy card. Some people will do other things such as make the message focus more one themselves than the person grieving or the person who died. And they will believe that they are helping. So it’s possible this is one time when it is the “thought that counts.” Try to make your message count, not just the thought.

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