Do you know someone who has recently suffered a loss? Do you want to offer your sympathy, but feel unsure about how to do so? Let’s talk about what condolence is and then, at the end, you’ll see a sample condolence note you can make your own.

What is a Condolence Note?

A condolence note is a letter expressing sympathy to someone. Often you want to send a condolence note to someone after their loved one has passed away.

What to Avoid

1. Cliches

Yuck. I don’t know about you, but I often roll my eyes when I hear people spouting off cliches. Your words are valuable, and the person you care about wants to hear what you have to say, not what someone else thought was a novel idea. {click to tweet}

2. Trying to Make it Better

Painting a silver lining is tempting, but it’s not beneficial. If you find yourself wanting to begin a thought with the phrase “at least”, just don’t. “At least you had time with them” or “At least they’re in a better place now” aren’t particularly helpful. The situation is sad and difficult, and it’s okay to say that.

3. Anything Negative

Don’t talk about their last days or how it had just been a matter of time. And definitely, don’t share about what a jerk the person was.

 

Your words are valuable, and the person you care about wants to hear what you have to say, not what someone else thought was a novel idea.

 

A Template for Your Condolence Letter

Dear _________,

I am so sorry to hear about (the loss: “John’s death”, “your grandfather’s passing”, etc.).

He/she was (write a truth or memory about them – “he was such a vibrant man”, “I’ll never forget their generosity to me”, “She was the best baker ever, I loved coming over and smelling freshly baked cookies). He/she will truly be missed.

I’m sorry that you’re going through this difficult time, and (something you’re doing – “I am thinking about you”, “your family is my prayers”). If there’s anything else I can do, please let me know (better yet – suggest something that you would like to do to help).

(Close your letter in an appropriate way based on your relationship. For example, “Love you” to your co-worker probably isn’t great, while “My deepest sympathy” isn’t appropriate for a close friend.)

A Sample Condolence Note

Using the above template, here is a sample condolence note.

Dear Lisa,

I am so sorry to hear about your sister Joanne’s passing.

Every time I saw Joanne, she was always smiling, and she had such a gentle spirit. I know that she will truly be missed by everyone who knew her.

I’m sorry that you’re going through this difficult time. You and your family are my prayers. I would like to bring dinner for your family one night this week. Let me know which night might be best.

All my love,
Maria

Some Final Tips

1. Handwritten Over Electronic

Some of the best and most impactful notes are the ones that are hand-written and delivered via snail mail. While electronic communication is easier, pen and paper are worth keeping.

2. Follow Up

When someone experiences a loss they are flooded with condolences right after the tragedy, but the pain doesn’t go away even after others have moved on. A simple “I’m thinking of you” text or email a month after the loss can make a world of difference.

3. Let It Be

Different people process grief differently and on their own timetable. Be watchful and understanding. Let the grieving process happen how they need it to happen; let them know you’re available but don’t get upset if they refuse your offer or take you up on it.

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Now that you know how to express your sympathy and you have your sample condolence note, you are ready to get writing.

Have you experienced a loss? What words of encouragement were helpful to you during this time?

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Eder Texeira

Author Eder Texeira

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