It can be hard to know what to say to someone who has recently lost a loved one. You want them to know you’re thinking of them and share in their sorrow, but you might be struggling to express how you feel in words. Here’s our guide to writing a condolence letter.
Before you start – remember, there aren’t any formal rules about how to write a condolence letter. But you can use the simple structure below to help you send a heartfelt letter to grieving family or friends.
Keep your condolence letter short
A clear, short condolence note can often have more of an impact than a long letter. Grieving family members might not feel ready to read a long message, so say what you want to say and sign off – try not to repeat yourself or go off topic. A few lines can still be warm and comforting for someone dealing with grief.
Be sincere and heartfelt
If you really don’t know what to say, it’s ok to say that in your sympathy letter. It’s far better to be honest than be silent, and your efforts are likely to be appreciated. Immediately acknowledge the recipient’s loss, and make it clear that you’re also mourning the person who has died.
Share special memories or photos
Say what you’ll miss most about the person who has died. It might be their sense of humour, their knack for sharing a few wise words or their enthusiasm for the local football team.
Consider including a photograph that you treasure with your condolence letter. 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 didn’t know the person well, offer general expressions of sympathy.
If you need more inspiration about what to write, you can read examples of condolence card messages.
Send a handwritten sympathy letter
Even if you don’t have the neatest writing, it’s worth making the effort and writing your condolence letter by hand. It will look much more personal compared with a typed message.
How to sign off a sympathy card or letter
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 them that you’re thinking of them, that you’re only a phone call away or that you’re happy to visit as soon as they’re ready for guests.
Be proactive too, and tell them that you’ll be in touch again soon.
Writing a condolence message is an important show of support for the family and friends of the person who has died. It can also help you begin to come to terms with your own grief. Learn more about coping with bereavement.