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Illness & Death
Illness & Death

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"How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say: Illness & Death" is the most resourceful book I have ever used in the course of leading my grief support group. I have been following the Grief Share program and this book says it all. I have read it over and over and would strongly recommend it to anyone who is involved with grief support."

Dorothy Casey, Grief Support Group Leader

Sympathy Notes
Sympathy Notes - Write From the Heart
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Writing a sympathy note is not that complicated if you speak from the heart. Take the time to jot down how you are feeling and then draft a condolence note that expresses your thoughts.

Are you feeling sad over the loss of a friend’s dad? Has your aunt been in your thoughts since you heard of your uncle’s death? Do you have a special memory that always comes to mind that you can share? Will you be reaching out through a visit or phone call?

The very best messages of sympathy share your caring thoughts. If you take the time to convey them, you’ll send a sympathy note that is sure to comfort.

Why we write sympathy notes
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When someone dies, all we have left are our memories. Condolence notes that express your sympathy bring comfort to the bereaved. The most meaningful ones include your thoughts, personal memories and, if possible, a treasured story. Photographs are especially appreciated.

Expressing condolences can be a challenge when you never met the deceased. Instead of first hand observations, you can draw on the previous conversations you've had with the bereaved. Use those stories and anecdotes as the basis for your note of sympathy, as in the following example:

Dear William,

You have my deepest sympathy on the death of your mom. I know how important she was in your life and your care and support during these last few years must have brought her great comfort. Your relationship was quite special and while this makes the loss so very painful, I do believe that your closeness and warm memories will bring you comfort. Know that I am thinking of you and your mom.



Used with permission from

Belated Sympathy Notes
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How late is too late when it comes to sympathy notes? As one widow shares, “It's never too late. It's not as if we finish grieving and ‘forget’ that our loved one died.”

Here are some tips on belated condolence notes:

A loved one’s death is always in the hearts and minds of the bereaved.

  • Begin your sympathy message with something like: “I just wanted you to know that Susan is often in my thoughts and I remember her with love, as I know you do."
  • Whether you just learned of a death or procrastinated for months, don’t be afraid to reach out.
  • The bereaved will be grieving for a long time and your thoughtfulness and care will help in the healing process.
Sympathy Notes - How to Close
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The act of writing a sympathy note is just like any other task; it’s hard to begin. But once you have found a rhythm and finished your writing, how do you close? Check out our tip:

Most writers end condolence notes with a caring message, for example:

  • “I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers.” It’s a simple close that will not offend.
  • Or, you can reiterate your condolence message with, “My deepest condolences on your loss.”

One I like to use:

“May memories of the life you shared bring you comfort in the days and months ahead.”

Sympathy Letters - How to Begin
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Have you sent your condolences or are you still procrastinating, unsure of where to begin? An old Chinese proverb states that “A long journey begins with but a single step.” So, if you haven’t written a sympathy note because you can’t figure out where to begin, follow our tip.

Tell them how you feel.

  • Are you sad to hear the news?
  • Did the death affect you deeply?
  • Have you been reflecting on special memories of the deceased?

The following introductory sentence often expresses how I feel:

“It is with a heavy heart that I send my deepest condolences on the death of your ****. “

Please share yours!

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