When someone passes away you may find it difficult to know what to write to their loved ones in a sympathy card. Finding the right sentiment can feel intimidating when you want to express your feelings while also letting your friend know how much you care.
In a previous blog post, What to Say When Someone is Grieving, we identified four main things to focus on when thinking about what to say to someone when their loved one dies. These can also be applied when sending a card. We’ve put together some ideas to get you started.
Be supportive without trying to fix the way they feel. We naturally want to help people feel better when they’re sad. But acknowledging grief and feeling the emotions that come with it are part of the healing process. Try not to discount someone’s feelings by saying things like, at least she lived a long life or, they’re in a better place now. While you may feel those things are true, to a grieving person who misses their loved one, it can feel unfair that they were taken from them. Instead, offering your condolences while being supportive is best. Some ideas of things to say are:
- I wish I had the right words to say, but know that I care about you and am here for you.
- I can’t imagine what you’re feeling right now, but I am here whenever you need someone to listen.
- What you’re going through is hard. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Please take your time and let me know when you’re ready to talk.
Talk about the person who passed. We often hear that people want to talk about the person who passed and keep their memory alive. This can be hard for those of us on the outside when it feels like you could upset them by mentioning their name. But it can be helpful to hear what they meant to you and how you’ll remember them. Some examples of how to express that are:
- A favorite memory of mine is when Sally stood up to give her speech at the wedding and had the whole crowd laughing. Her smile really lit up the room and her laughter was contagious.
- I always enjoyed seeing George walk his dog in the mornings, he always seemed at peace on those morning walks.
- Your mom was so kind to me and made me feel at home. I loved her homemade chocolate chip cookies and looked forward to them every time I visited.
Let them know how you’re available to help. It is often hard for a person who is grieving to openly ask for help. Sometimes they may not even know what they need help with. Instead of writing, Let me know if you need anything or, I’m here to help, be more specific. This allows them to know what you’re available to help with so they feel more comfortable taking you up on the offer.
- I go grocery shopping on Friday mornings. I’ll reach out on Thursday to see what items you need. I’ll plan on dropping off bagels, lunch meat, bread, milk and eggs and anything else you need.
- I walk by each morning and would love to help out by taking Spike for a walk around the neighborhood with me.
- I’ve enclosed a gift card to a restaurant you can use to order food and have it delivered.
Let them know you care. Sometimes putting your thoughts into words is still difficult. Avoid saying things like, I know how you feel or, I know what you’re going through. Remember, this is about them and how they are feeling. You want to be sure not to make it seem like it’s about you. Here are a few more ideas of what to write to get you started:
- I’d love to stop by and see you. Let me know what evening works best for you this week or next.
- I think of you every morning when I wake up and say a prayer for you. Know that I am thinking of you and remembering Sally each day.
- If you’d like to get out of the house for a bit, I’d love to go on a walk with you or sit down for coffee or lunch one day this week.
- Bill was such a wonderful man. My thoughts are with you during this time.
Your main goal is to let them know you care. There is no perfect sentence or paragraph that will ease their pain or take their sadness away. No matter what you decide to write, it can bring them peace to know you’re thinking of them and want to help them through their difficult healing process.