When someone you know has lost a loved one, you want to be there for them in every way you can. A card is a great way to show you care – but, of course, it’s not always easy to find the right words for a sympathy card. Don’t worry. To help out, here we have some handy examples of what to write in a sympathy card – and what not to write.


What NOT to write in a sympathy card

While sympathy card messages don’t have to be perfect, there are certain things you should try to keep from saying:

  • “Everything happens for a reason / it’s all part of God’s plan.” – These are strange things to write in a sympathy card. It might feel reassuring to you, but it’s unkind to try to force someone who is devastated by a loss to see a bright side.
  • “They were so young.”
  • “I know how you feel.” 
  • “Someone else will come along someday / You’re still young. / You can try again” – This is something bereaved partners and parents often find very painful to hear. It may be true, but they’re almost definitely not ready to face that right now.
  • “The pain will fade with time.” – Rarely comforting in the moment. 


What to think carefully about…

  • “I’m praying for you” or “I know (name) is happy in heaven”. Not everyone believes in prayers and an afterlife, and this sentiment can be upsetting.


What to write in a sympathy card for a friend who is grieving

A note of condolence doesn’t need to be a work of literature. There are no magic words that can rescue someone from grief. The important thing is that you reached out and said something. 

As you write, you should focus on the person you’re writing to and on the person who has died, if you knew them. Here are a few ideas for what to put in a sympathy card:

  • “I’m deeply sorry for your loss.”
  • “(Name) was a kind and generous person and we’ll miss them very much.”
  • “I’ll always remember how (Name) would / when (Name) and I went to / decided to…” – Happy memories can make great sympathy card messages.
  • “I want you to know that I’m always here for you. If you need a listening ear, I’m only a phone call away.” – Offers of support are important! Try to be specific – grief makes it very difficult for people to just reach out.
  • “My thoughts are with you and your family.”


Sympathy card messages for the loss of a mother or father

The loss of a parent can hit very hard. Leading with “It’s never easy to lose a parent” is often very comforting for the person reading. Here are a few more words for sympathy cards after a parent’s death:

  • “I could always tell from your stories that (Name) was an amazing person.”
  • “(Name) must have been a wonderful parent to have raised someone as brilliant as you.” – This is a good way to add a personal note to the message if you never met the person who’s died.
  • “(Name) was loved by everyone in the community, and we’ll miss him/her terribly.”
  • “My deepest condolences to you and your family. Your dad/mum had a way of making any day brighter. He/she will be deeply missed.”
  • “I’m so sorry that you’ve lost your mum/dad. (Name) was such a kind and generous soul. I can’t imagine how you must be feeling.” 
  • “I’ll always treasure the time I spent with (Name). I remember when…” – Go on to talk a little more about a specific, positive memory.
  • “I’ll be thinking of you and…” – If the recipient has siblings and/or a surviving parent, do acknowledge them in your message.


What to say in a sympathy card for the loss of a spouse

  • “What a wonderful life you two shared together. I know you must miss (Name) terribly. Just know that I’m here for you if you need anything at all.”
  • “You and (Name) shared a bond that will last forever. I’ve never met two people so clearly and deeply in love. I can only imagine how you must be feeling.” – Paying tribute to the relationship is especially important in this case.
  • “(Name) was a dear friend. His/her kindness and high spirits are things I’ll never forget.”
  • “I wish you and (Children’s Names) strength in this difficult time.” – If the couple had children, it’s good to acknowledge their loss too.
  • “If your children would like to spend some time with mine, I’d love to have them over for tea.” – A grieving and newly-single parent of young children might appreciate a little time alone to process their feelings.


Messages of condolence for the loss of a child

Losing a child is one of the worst things any parent can experience. This is one of the few times “words cannot describe…” might be appropriate. Here are a few more suggestions:

  • “I know there isn’t anything I could say to make this moment less painful. Just know that I’m here for you.”
  • “I could see your determination in (Name).” – If you didn’t know the child, this is a way to say something positive.
  • “You taught (Name) to be…”
  • “There are no words for the terrible loss you have suffered. Our thoughts are with you both. If you need anything at all…”
  • “(Name) was such a lovely, kind-hearted little boy/girl. We can’t imagine how you must be feeling. But if you ever need to talk, our door is always open.”
  • “(Name) brought so much joy into the world.” 
  • “I’ll never forget (name)’s beautiful piano playing.” – You may want to note any talents the child had and anything special they may have accomplished.


Words for sympathy cards when a co-worker has died

If you worked with someone, you probably have memories of them that their family would love to hear. Keep this in mind when writing a sympathy card to their loved ones.

  • “It was a real pleasure to work with (name).” – Acknowledge this person’s hard work.
  • “(Name) was a joy to work with, and will be sorely missed by everyone in the team.” 
  • “(Name) had a way of making every working day better. His/her jokes (and baking) brought a smile to the faces of everyone in the office.”
  • “I’ll never forget the time when (Name)…” – Try to include a positive anecdote about something you did together at work. This is an opportunity for their loved ones to learn a new great thing about them.
  • “(Name) wasn’t just a colleague – they were a friend, too.”
  • “We’ll always think of (name) when…”


Words to write in a sympathy card when a pet has died

People often tend to dismiss the death of a pet, so having grief validated is very comforting.

  • “I know (name) was precious to you.” 
  • “(Name) was one of a kind.” – It’s easy for people to say “you can always get another pet”, and the recipient will appreciate some understanding that pets aren’t that replaceable.
  • “Losing a pet is like losing one of the family. I know you’ll miss (Name) terribly.”
  • “(Name) was so sweet and obviously adored you as much as you loved her.”
  • “I’ll miss the sound of (name)’s running paws when I come to visit.”


How to sign a sympathy card

When it comes to signing a sympathy card, the standard is “with deepest sympathy”. If that sounds a little impersonal to you, here are a few other sign-offs you could try:

  • “With all my love.”
  • “Wishing you strength.”
  • “Thinking of you.”
  • “Wishing you peace.”


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We hope this has helped you find words to put in a sympathy card that will move and bring comfort to the person you’re writing to. If you need more advice, you might like our Help Centre – there, you’ll find plenty of advice on bereavement, funerals and all that comes next.

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