Composing Sympathy Messages

Sweetpea's - Sympathy Cards,"I didn't know what to say"

One of the most common issues florists encounter is our customer's loss for words when it comes to sympathy arrangements.

Sweetpea's stocks a number of sympathy cards.   We also regularly send funeral and sympathy arrangements.    We were recently contacted by Love Lives On, an online resource for those who have experienced the loss of someone they love.    They were kind enough to offer us the use of one of their recent posts on composing sympathy messages.    We have included excepts of the post below.  

To read the complete article, please click here.  

Writing sympathy quotes in a sympathy card that truly capture how sorry you are for someone’s loss can be a daunting task.  What if I say the wrong thing?  What if I just end up making them feel worse?
To ease the pressure, Love Lives On, have put together this Ultimate Guide on what to write in a sympathy card.
Love Lives On's guide includes the six essential elements that make up a sympathy card.  They also provide sympathy quotes that you can use directly in your sympathy card.  Using our examples makes writing a sympathy card a lot less stressful.
Love Lives On, also explicitly tell you what words and phrases to avoid when writing your sympathy message.   Don’t worry about saying the wrong thing—they've got you covered.

Sweetpea's - Composing Sympathy Messages


Use Formal Language When Writing Sympathy Quotes

The loss of someone is a serious and devastating time in anyone’s life, so the tone of your sympathy card should reflect this.

Make sure you use formal language when considering what to write in a sympathy card.

Always start your sympathy card with “Dear”, and end your card with phrases like “Yours Sincerely” or “Yours truly”.

You should also refrain from using slang or nicknames.  It is, however, appropriate to use terms of endearment when writing sympathy quotes.

If you are sending an electronic sympathy card, do not use shortcuts that are used in mobile text messages.

Anatomy of a Sympathy Card

When it comes to what to write in a sympathy card, the most important rule is that your sympathy message should be short and sweet.

When someone has just experienced a loss, they likely do not have the mental state to read long sympathy cards and condolence letters.

These are the six elements that make up a sympathy card, in the order that they must appear:

  1. Salutation
  2. Acknowledgment of the loss
  3. Reassurance that you are thinking about the person and grieving with him/her
  4. Appreciation of the life of the person that passed away
  5. Sincere offer of help and support
  6. Warm closing

Write your sympathy card today by choosing one sympathy quote for each element of the card from our comprehensive list of examples (or use our examples as inspiration to write your own sympathy quote):

1. Start with a Salutation:

  • “Dear _______”


2. Acknowledge the Loss:

  • “We were deeply saddened to hear about the loss of _______.”
  • “We were so sorry to hear about the passing of _______.”
  • “I was saddened to hear that your  [e.g. father/grandfather] _______ passed away.”
  • “We send our deepest sympathies as you remember _______.”
  • “I am so sorry for your loss.”
  • “We are going to miss _______, too.”
  • “Thinking of you as you remember _______, a true friend that was so close to you.”
  • “I am heartbroken that _______ is no longer with us.  He/she will be greatly missed.”
  •  ..... for a complete listing of sentiments, please click here.


3. Let the Person Know You are Thinking of Them:

  • “I’m thinking of you and your family during this time of sorrow.”
  • “We hope you feel surrounded by much love during this difficult time.”
  • “I wish you much comfort during this sad time.”
  • “We are thinking of you at this difficult time and mourning the loss of _______ with you.”
  • “I’m thinking of you and wishing you moments of peace and comfort as you mourn the loss of a wonderful [e.g. friend/mother/sister].”
  • “Holding you close in my heart and hoping that you find some comfort and peace during this difficult time.”
  • “Our thoughts are with you and your family during this sad time.”
  •  ..... for a complete listing of sentiments, please click here.


    4. Share a Memory or Your Appreciation of the Deceased:

    • “_______ was a wonderful person and I will always remember the generosity and kindness they always showed to others.”
    • “_______ was a wonderful person with a great sense of humour.  We will always treasure the special times we spent together and the laughs we shared.”
    • “We will never forget _______ .  We were lucky to know [him/her] and to have had [him/her] as our _______ [e.g. friend/uncle/neighbour/boss].”
    • “It was a true pleasure working with your _______ [e.g. father/grandfather] for_______ years.  [He/she] will be deeply missed.”
    • “_______ was an amazing person and led a remarkable life.  I feel so lucky to have known [him/her].”
    • “What a good and generous person your [e.g. father/grandfather].  I thought [his/her] funeral service was a wonderful tribute to [him/her] and all [he/she] has done for our community.  [He/she] will be greatly missed.”
    • Your [e.g. father/mother] was an amazing [man/lady], and I feel privileged to have known [him/her].  [He/she] will be forever missed.”
    • We mourn the passing of this special [man/woman] with you.  [He/she] brought so much joy to the lives of others.”
    • Your [e.g. son/daughter] made the world a better place.  I will forever cherish my memories of the time that we shared together, and forever miss [him/her].”
    • Your [e.g. mother/grandmother/daughter] blessed so many people with her thoughtfulness and kindness.  I pray that you find comfort in your memories of her, and the knowledge that others are missing her too.”
    •  ..... for a complete listing of sentiments, please click here.


    Trying to think of words to describe the person that passed away?

    Consider using one of the following:  

    • generous
    • kindhearted
    • unforgettable
    • fun-loving
    • unique
    • one-of-a-kind
    • lovely
    • talented
    • wonderful
    • respected
    • hardworking
    • caring
    • energetic
    • strong
    • beautiful spirit
    • beloved
    •  ..... for a complete listing of sentiments, please click here.


    5. Offer Your Support:

    • “If there is anything that I can do to help you through this difficult time, please do not hesitate to ask.”
    • “If you ever need a friend to lean on during this difficult time, please call me.”
    • “We will always be there for you, day or night.  Please call us if you ever need anything.  We will stop by on [date] at [time] to spend some time with you.”
    • “We know that we cannot take your pain away, but we want you to call us if there is anything that you need, and whenever you need a shoulder to cry on.  We will stop by on [date] at [time] to check in with you.”
    • “Please let me help you in any way that you need.  I will call you on [date] at [time] to see if there is anything I can do, and to check when I can bring over a meal.”
    • “You have so much to deal with at this time.  Please let me take care of _______ [e.g. yard work/cooking/baby sitting] for you for as long as you need.”
    •  ..... for a complete listing of sentiments, please click here.


    6. Choose a Closing:

    • “Thinking of you, _______”
    • “With sympathy, _______”
    • “With much love, _______”
    • “Our heart goes out to you, _______”
    • “Our sincerest condolences, _______”
    • “Please accept our condolences, _______”
    • “You are in my thoughts”
    •  ..... for a complete listing of sentiments, please click here.

      Sweetpea's - Sympathy Cards "There is no good card for this.  I'm Sorry."

      Words and Phrases to Avoid When Writing Sympathy Quotes

      When someone experiences the death of a loved one, they are likely to be more sensitive to certain words and actions than they usually are.

      When planning what to write on a sympathy card, avoiding using the words “death” and “died”.  Use gentler words like “passing” or “loss” instead.

      Also avoid bringing up details about the death when considering what to write in a sympathy card.

      Grieving people don’t want to be reminded about how their loved one passed or any unfortunate circumstances surrounding his or her death. 

      These memories are very fresh, so mentioning the circumstances will likely trigger a strong emotional response in the grieving person, which you do not want to do.

      In your attempt at being supportive, you might be tempted to say that you “know what they are going through,” or that you have “experienced a similar loss and know exactly how they feel.”

      It is important to remember that everyone grieves differently and phrases like this can take away from this individual process.

      When you say that you “know how they feel,” you are making your sympathy message about you, rather than about the bereaved person.  He or she might reject the idea that you know what they are going through, and be angered by your words.

      So remember to avoid saying “I know how you feel….”

      If you are a person of faith, be sensitive about expressing strong religious sentiments in your condolence card if the person you are writing to does not share your beliefs.   

      There is a good chance that he or she will react badly to being told that their loved one’s death is part of God’s plan, or that they will see them one day again in heaven. 

      While your intention is to be comforting, such comments may be viewed as being insensitive.

      Do not vent your feelings about any disagreements or arguments that you may have had with the deceased in the past, or any regrets you may have, in your sympathy card.

      This is not the time or place for this discussion.  Your sympathy card should only speak about positive memories.

      When writing your sympathy quotes, avoid spouting advice on what the bereaved person should do.  Instead, focus on providing comfort and support.

      No matter how helpful you think your advice is, nothing can compare to the healing power of a simple, “We’ll always be there for you.”

      Also avoid making any predictions about how the person will feel in the future, or what the future holds.  Everyone’s journey of grief is unique.

      Finally, avoiding saying that the death happened for a reason.  Even with the best intentions, this is not likely to be comforting to the grieving person.

      Furthermore, it could be interpreted as assigning blame, to either the person that passed away, or to God who allowed it to happen.

      In any event, it you use our examples of sympathy phrases (above), you will avoid unintentionally hurting the recipient of your condolence card.

      Sweetpea's - Sympathy Cards "Wishing You Comfort"

      Your Sympathy Card Will Mean A Lot

      While you might never be able to write sympathy quotes that truly show the depth of how much you loved the person that passed away and how much you miss them, the fact that you tried will mean so much to his or her grieving family.

      A sympathy card won’t take away their pain, but your kind words may help them feel a little better during their time of loss.

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