What to write in a Sympathy Card
Write it out on rough paper first – Writing your message on rough paper first will help you see if it will fit in the space available and if it looks okay written down. If your message doesn’t fit, you can always include a note with the card as well.
Read it aloud – Sometimes what seems perfect in your head, doesn’t always work when read by someone else. Hearing the words aloud can help you with this.
Write from the heart – if you tell the truth about how you feel this will come across in the card. Express genuine thoughts and feelings, but do not include information that may been seen as inappropriate.
Include a fond memory – Try to include a fond memory of the person who has died. Sharing stories and memories can reassure the bereaved that their loved one will not be forgotten.
Use phrases like “I can’t imagine” or “I imagine” – Use phrases that express truth, but do not impose your feelings onto the bereaved person. Express empathy with phrases like “I can’t begin to imagine how much you miss______”.
Write clearly – Someone who is grieving often have a reduced ability to concentrate, and may also be reading your message with tear filled eyes. Try to make things as easy as possible for them with clear and legible writing.
Rely on the printed message - Try not to rely on the cards pre-printed message and try to make it more personal.
Simply sign your name – Try not to just sign the card with your first name, for example “From Andrew”. The bereaved person may know many people with the same first name, and struggle to figure out who the card is actually from.
Assume – Try not to assume how the bereaved person is feeling, or that the loss is a blessing and avoid phrases like “at least they are free from pain” or similar. Do not assume that their loss is less because the person was older, a still born child or the person had been ill for a long time. Loss is loss, and everyone grieves differently.
Make Comparisons – All loss is unique, try to avoid phrases like “I know how you feel” as this assumes their loess is comparable to a loss you have felt.
Tell them what to do – Avoid telling the bereaved person what to do or how to feel for example “Don’t cry – he wouldn’t want you to”.