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8 Caring Sympathy Messages: What To Say When There Are No Words

Words of kindness can have a powerful impact.

When it comes to death and grief, finding the right words to express the deepest sympathy can be difficult. Loss is a natural part of life, but it often leaves us feeling adrift, unsure, and afraid of saying the wrong thing to a person going through an immensely difficult time. The truth is that every person responds to loss differently. While some grieve in private, others prefer the physical presence of friends and loved ones. Whatever the case, sending a sympathy card (even if the words aren’t perfect) to let them know they’re on your mind is important. Below are sympathy messages and words of comfort to offer in a time of need. 

Condolence Messages To Write in a Sympathy Card

There are several important things to keep in mind when writing a sympathy note. Two of these are the recipient and the circumstances. For some, the right approach is a message that will make them smile (or even laugh), and provide a brief respite from their grieving process. For others, a spiritual quote or condolence can show solidarity at a sad time that’s often accompanied by loneliness and isolation. Personalization is important, so be sure to customize your sympathy card messages for a family member or close friend according to their situation and your relationship to them. Here are ideas to get you started.  

1. I’m So Sorry for Your Loss

When you’re just not sure what to say, don’t be afraid to say something simple, like “I’m sorry for your loss” or “I’m thinking of you in this heartbreaking time.” Writing this in your sympathy card is the clearest way to show love and support. Don’t avoid sending condolences because you’re worried about coming up with the perfect words. (Really, the only words to avoid are “I know how you feel,” which centers you instead of focusing all attention and support on the grieving person.) “I’m so sorry for your loss” can be an opening that allows your friend to share their sadness, or a simple phrase that signals caring thoughts and heartfelt sympathy.  

2. I Remember When

One way to add something special to a condolence card is to share happy memories of the person who has passed. This may be a memory of a time they did or said something light and humorous, which can help to give the grieving family some joy on a difficult day. It may also be a memory of a lesson or special message they passed down to your family, like encouragement to pursue a project or support during a difficult time of your own. Memories are incredibly personal, but they also show the family that their loved one had a positive influence on people and will be well-remembered by many.

3. What an Amazing Person

There are other ways — apart from or in addition to sharing a memory — to pay homage to the person who has passed. Were they particularly caring or loving? Did they always bake something special to welcome newcomers to the office or the neighborhood? Could they make everyone laugh? Consider the impact the loved one had on those around them. By referencing specific traits or behaviors, you’re telling the grieving family that you saw the gifts their loved one shared with the world, and that you appreciated them for it. Doing this shows the aggrieved that the legacy of their loved one will live on. 

4. A Spiritual Reference

For many, spiritual references are a useful way to navigate loss, especially in initial stages of grief. It’s important, however, to respect the grieving person’s faith — or lack thereof — before referencing God. Religion and spirituality are deeply personal, and referencing them may not always be appropriate. When it is appropriate, consider quoting spiritual texts or beloved hymns. Avoid messages that suggest the loss is part of a larger plan — for example, “Everything happens for a reason,” or “God makes no mistakes” — as these diminish the loss by implying that it’s for a higher purpose. Instead, reference spirituality and messages of peace and love in a way that supports the grieving family by acknowledging the depth of their loss. 

5. Sending Love to Your Family in a Time of Sorrow

If you didn’t know the individual who passed, but you do know members of the family, consider writing a condolence card to the grieving person rather than in memory of the deceased. This may reference their influence, such as how they raised such wonderful children, but you can avoid speaking of the deceased person entirely if you don’t feel comfortable. Simply writing heartfelt condolences to the grieving family of the deceased is often enough to show that you care without overstepping. 

6. A Poem or Quote for Comfort in a Challenging Time

We don’t always have to find the perfect words ourselves. Loss is a universal experience and has been written about and spoken of in many ways throughout generations. It may be useful to share a quote or a few lines of a poem that you think your loved one will appreciate and perhaps find peace in. When it comes to poems and quotes about loss, you can tailor the writing to the specific individual you’re sharing it with. In some circumstances, it may have religious or spiritual elements. In others, it may be humorous or very serious. If the deceased or someone in the family had a particular love for one writer or singer, it might be special to share a line from them as an homage. Taking the time to pick out a quote they will really appreciate will show the family or your loved one just how much you care. 

7. They Left an Impact and Fond Memories

After a loss, we often grieve the missed opportunities and moments our loved one could have shared with us before their passing. Speaking to their impact can ameliorate some of that pain. This could mean referencing the wonderful way they raised their children, speaking to their community fundraising, or sharing a time they helped you navigate a challenge. Knowing their loved one leaves a lasting legacy behind can bring great comfort to the deceased family.

8. A Promise of Help

While sympathy messages and deepest condolences are a wonderful way to support a family or coworker emotionally, logistical needs must also be met. Of all the gestures, tokens, and gift ideas, availing yourself to provide a service during a time of loss is always appreciated. This is especially true if the grieving family has elderly relatives or small children. A promise of help should be intentional and specific so that there is no undue burden on the family to pick up the phone and ask. Rather, you want to give the family the tools and resources they need to care for themselves during loss. That may be gift cards to local restaurants or maid services for the home, or even babysitting support so that they can make arrangements. Taking a few simple tasks off their mind can make a big difference. 

Meaningful Messages and Sincere Condolences

When it comes to words of sympathy, there are many ways to share love and comfort at a hard time. The simple act of sending a sympathy card is a welcome show of support for the grieving family.

Depending on your relationship with the deceased and their family, you can further personalize your sympathy message by sharing loving memories, messages of love and comfort, and even quotes or song lyrics. Another way to show up for loved ones during times of loss is with the offer of support and help. Just be sure to take care of the planning so that your offer doesn’t add to their burden. Loss is never easy, but family, friends, and the right words can help us to navigate loss. 

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