Sending sympathy: how to write a condolence letter

Picture of a man writing a letter

It can be hard to know what to say to someone who has experienced the recent loss of a loved one. You want them to know you are thinking of them and share in their sorrow, but you might be struggling to express those sentiments in words. Here is our guide to writing a condolence letter.

There are no formal ‘rules’ about writing letters of condolence, but following the simple structure below can help organise your thoughts to those going through bereavement.

Keep it short

A clear, concise note can often have more of an impact than a long, rambling letter. Grieving family members are unlikely to want to read an essay, so say what you want to say and sign off – don’t repeat yourself, don’t go off topic and don’t hide behind lengthy, unnecessary sentences. A few lines can still be warm and comforting for someone dealing with grief.

You haven’t got the solution

It’s highly unlikely you are going to remove the pain of losing somebody special with a greetings card, so don’t try to explain away or rationalise the death. You are not expected to make everything better and offering advice or sentiments along the lines of ‘keep your chin up’ could be construed as patronising.

Say something

If you really don’t know what to say, it’s ok to acknowledge that in your letter. It’s far better to be honest than go silent, and your efforts are sure to be appreciated. Immediately acknowledge the recipient’s loss, and make it clear that you are also mourning the deceased.

Share memories

Tell the recipient what it is you will miss about the deceased – it might be their sense of humour, their knack for sharing a few wise words or their enthusiasm for the local football team. Consider sharing a fond memory or sending a photograph that you treasure. It’s a sad time, but it’s also important to celebrate the life of the person who has passed away so don’t worry about stirring up emotions – acknowledge the gap left by the person and the important part (for example, as a friend, mother, sister etc) they played in people’s lives. If you did not know the deceased person well, offer general expressions of sympathy.

Sign off with a nod to the future

End your note sincerely – for example, ‘with caring thoughts’, ‘my deepest sympathy’ or ‘warmest condolences’ – and repeat your message of support. That might mean reminding the recipient that you are thinking of them, that you are only a phone call away or that you are happy to come visit as soon as they are ready for guests. Be proactive too, and tell them that you will be in touch again soon.

And remember, even if you don’t have the neatest writing, it’s worth making the effort to handwrite your letter as it will look much more personal compared to a typed message.

 

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The price quoted contains the Funeral Director fees for a simple funeral. This includes:

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  • Collection of the deceased and care prior to funeral
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The Funeral Director fees quoted do not include third party costs (often called disbursements). The Funeral Director will guide you through your options. These costs are:

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In addition to the disbursements you may want to discuss optional costs with your Funeral Director - these could include:

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What is a Direct Cremation?

A Direct Cremation is an alternative to the traditional funeral. This involves the cremation of the deceased without a funeral service. A Direct Cremation is generally the most economic option because costs of the coffin, preparation of the body, funeral service and expensive transportation are not included. However, many people choose Direct Cremations for reasons other than expense, for example:

  • - Wanting to have a memorial at a different time to the cremation
  • - Expressed desire from the deceased to not have a ceremony
  • - Individuals with relatives who face big physical or geographical challenges in coming together for a ceremony

The prices quoted for Direct Cremations include:

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  • Collection of deceased and care prior to cremation
  • A simple coffin and urn for the ashes
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Attended funeral

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This price includes the following:

  • Taking care of all necessary legal and administrative arrangements
  • Collecting and transporting the deceased person from the place of death (normally within 15 miles of the funeral director’s premises) into the funeral director’s care
  • Care of the deceased person before the funeral in appropriate facilities.
  • Providing a suitable coffin
  • Optional viewing of the deceased person for family and friends, by appointment with the funeral director
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In addition to the Funeral Director’s fee, there will be third party costs to consider (sometimes called disbursements) to cover the other aspects of a funeral (such as the crematorium or burial fees). Your chosen Funeral Director will be able to provide these for you.

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Unattended funeral

This is Funeral Choice’s best estimate of this Funeral Director’s fees and the crematorium fee for an Unattended Funeral, which is where family and friends may choose to have a ceremony, event or service for the deceased person, but they do not attend the burial or cremation itself. This is also known as a Direct Cremation.

This price includes the following:

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  • Crematorium fee (for an unattended funeral) as selected by the Funeral Director

In addition to this fee, there might be additional third party costs to consider (sometimes called disbursements). Your chosen Funeral Director will be able to explain these for you.

If you wish to attend the funeral, you should view the “Attended Funeral” price instead.

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Why is this price Estimated?

We work hard to ensure the Funeral Director Fees we display are accurate and up to date. However, unlike with our partners, we cannot guarantee this price is correct today.

Funeral Director fees

The price quoted contains the Funeral Director fees for a simple funeral. This includes:

  • Funeral Director fees for meetings, paperwork and running the funeral
  • Collection of the deceased and care prior to funeral
  • Hearse or appropriate vehicle for transport to the funeral
  • Basic coffin

The Funeral Director fees quoted do not include third party costs (often called disbursements). The Funeral Director will guide you through your options. These costs are:

  • Cremation or burial fees
  • Medical certificate for cremation
  • Clergy or officiant fee for conducting the ceremony

In addition to the disbursements you may want to discuss optional costs with your Funeral Director - these could include:

  • Funeral flowers
  • Memorial (venue hire, catering etc)
  • Memorial headstone
  • Orders of service
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