Last night I dreamt I ate a ten pound marshmallow. When I woke up the pillow was gone.

~ Tommy Cooper ~

What To Say In A Sympathy Card

April 19th, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 1 min, 32 secs

Knowing what to say in a sympathy card is heartfelt.

Knowing exactly what to say in a sympathy card seems easy enough. That is, until you know somebody dealing with the death of a friend or relative. It’s tough. If you’re also feeling overwhelmed by the loss, you might be struggling too. Which could well be a helpful clue.

When you’re stressing over what to say in a sympathy card, don’t feel you have to write something fancy or flowery. Be plain and speak from the heart. If you feel overwhelmed, say so. Tell them, “I feel overwhelmed thinking about what has happened and I want to put my arms around you and give you a big hug.” Unlike florid comments, simple words have potency because they let your feelings through.

That’s why I long since gave up on sympathy cards with pre-printed sayings. To me, they often feel false, unpleasantly sentimental, or a little too cheesy. I’d rather tell my friend, “I love you” than try to give them a “Roses-are-red, violets-are-blue” type message. But if you’re still stuck for what to say in a sympathy card, at least steer away from anything that doesn’t feel like you.

So you can:

  • Speak from the heart
  • Keep it simple, and
  • Avoid synthetic messages of sympathy.

But what if you actually don’t know the person you are writing to very well? What if you are sending a sympathy card out of a sense of responsibility? In that case, keep it brief.  The reason? Well if you’re uncertain how someone is feeling, you definitely won’t know what to say in a sympathy card.  Better to be honest and say something like, “Now I know we don’t know each other very well, but I felt I needed to recognize your grief…” or “We want you to know we are thinking of you.” What matters most is that you transmit authentic care when it’s most needed. Be sensitive but straight. Their loss is staring them in the face, so they appreciate you being honest about it too. Just remember: a card sent simply shows that you care. The most important point is that you genuinely do.



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