It’s hard to know what to say when someone you care about has experienced a great loss. For people who are grieving, simply hearing from you can be meaningful. It lets them know that you are thinking of them and that they are not alone in their grief.
In this article, we’ll share:
- What it means to share condolences
- How to write the best condolence message
- Example condolence messages
- When to send condolences
What it means to share condolences
Sharing condolences means contacting someone who has recently experienced the death of a family member or friend. When you send condolences, you are recognizing their loss and letting them know that they are in your thoughts. Acknowledging that loss is an important, kind, and loving act.
If you’re feeling unsure of where to start, first remember that the primary aim of sending a condolence message is simply to let your friend or loved one know that you are thinking of them during a difficult time.
How to write the best condolence message
The best condolence message is one that acknowledges the loss the recipient has experienced and communicates that you are thinking of them. Depending on how close you are to the bereaved person, you may want to offer various forms of support. It’s appropriate to send a short message rather than a longer letter. Here are a few steps to follow:
- Select a simple card. If you don’t have a mailing address, it’s appropriate to send an email.
- Communicate that you are sorry for their loss
- Express your condolences
- (Optional) Depending on how close you are to this person or the deceased, you can share a memory about them and the significance they had in your life.
- (Optional) Offer your support, depending on what you are able to provide. For example, you may want to offer to bring a meal to the recipient and their family.
- Sign your name or sign it on behalf of your family
Example condolence messages
It can be intimidating to start writing a condolence message. Here are several examples to help you write something thoughtful and empathetic:
- I’m sorry for your loss. You have my condolences, and you and your family are in my thoughts.
- Please accept my deepest condolences for you and your family’s loss. I am thinking of you and sending my love.
- My heartfelt condolences to you and your family. Your mother was a pillar of the community who touched so many people. I’m just a phone call away for anything you need.
- I am truly sorry to hear about the loss of your father. My condolences to you and your family. I’d like to drop off dinner for you all, I will talk with Sarah to arrange it.
- It was with great sadness that we learned of Daniel’s passing. Our family has wonderful memories of the summers we spent with him, and he will be sorely missed. You are in our thoughts and prayers.
- I am honored to have known your grandmother. She was there for me during a difficult time, and I will always be grateful for the support she gave me. Please know that you have that same support from me now. I’m sorry for your loss and I have you in my thoughts.
- It's hard to find the words for how saddened I was to learn about your loss. Your brother was an incredible man. You have my condolences. I’m thinking of you and your family during this time.
- My heart is with you and your family. I’m sorry for your loss. I’ll be checking in on you — feel free to take your time until you’re ready to talk but know that I’m thinking of you always.
More examples: What to write in a sympathy card
When to send condolences
If you are close with the person who has experienced a loss, you should send your condolences as soon as you learn about the death of their loved one. You can also send a card within a few days or close to the funeral or memorial service.
Sending condolences can be hard for many people. If you aren’t able to send a message around the time that someone has passed, you can still send a message at a later date. In that note, it is appropriate to apologize for the delay and convey that you struggled to find the right words. For those who experience a loss, it can be comforting to know that they are still in your thoughts beyond the immediate period of loss and grief. In short, it’s never too late to let someone know that you acknowledge their loss and are thinking of them.
What not to say to someone who has lost a loved one
We all want to avoid saying the wrong thing to someone who has recently experienced a loss. Avoid these things while writing your condolences:
- Don’t say you know how they feel. Even if you knew the deceased or have experienced a similar loss, you don’t know exactly how they are feeling. Focus your message on them and their loss.
- Don’t look for a positive angle. In the immediate aftermath of a death, the loss can feel senseless. Allow this person to get through the grieving process in their own time and don’t rush them to find a brightside.
- Don’t reference religion unless you know their beliefs. Belief about death and an afterlife can be deeply personal.
- Don’t tell them what to do. Focus your message on the loss this person is experiencing and extending your sympathies. This isn’t the time to give them advice.
Expressing love to someone in their time of grief is better than ignoring the painful reality. Even if you’re unsure what to say, your words will make an impact.