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How to Write a Genuine Sympathy Note or Letter



Writing a genuine heartfelt sympathy note or letter can prove to be very challenging. However, its value is almost priceless as your words will work to comfort the recipient, letting them know they are not alone in their time of need. 

Although a printed sympathy card will be gratefully received, adding that personal touch counts that little but more. To achieve this, it only takes a hand written message to show that you have put in the extra time and effort into writing those supportive words. 

So, when do you write a sympathy message? Usually, these notes are written to friends or loved ones who have experienced a terrible loss. For example, to a friend who has lost a family member or a loved one, or perhaps has had a miscarriage. 

Sometimes you may mean well with your words, but they may be misunderstood or even deemed offensive. For this reason, it is a good idea to establish what not to say. There are three major things to avoid in your note. 

Firstly, avoid using the words dead and died. You can replace them with ‘your loss’ or ‘the passing of...’. By doing so, your message has a more sensitive touch to it that will be appreciated. 

Secondly, stay away from clich├ęs and statements that may, unintentionally, belittle the bereaved’s loss. They may also be too impersonal and may be seen as unjustifiable and disputable. Examples include: 

Finally, avoid comparing their loss to something you may have experienced before. This is particularly important considering that we all grieve differently. Therefore phrases such as ‘I know how you feel’ are not very effective and may not come across as completely genuine. 

Before you start writing your message, it is important to remember that the aim of your words is to recognize the recipient’s loss and to offer your support. With this in mind, start your note by acknowledging their loss. For example: I was deeply saddened to hear about ...’s passing 

Once you have done this, move onto expressing your sympathy. I want to express my heartfelt sympathy to you and your family 

It is an appreciated touch to talk about their qualities. For example: ... was a truly generous person who touched all our lives. He/she will be dearly missed..


Remember, you will not be able to make the recipient feel better about their loss, but your words will offer them support and comfort during their bereavement.

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