Sympathy Cards Guide: How To Choose One & What To Write

Written by: Adam Binstock



Time to read 3 min

Sympathy Cards Guide

Seeking the perfect sympathy card to offer? You’re likely wondering how to genuinely express your deepest condolences. This guide bypasses the fluff and provides straightforward advice on selecting a sincere sympathy card and crafting a message that offers comfort in times of loss. With our sympathy cards guide, you’ll be able to find the right words and design to convey your heartfelt sentiments.

Do you need to give a sympathy card?

do you have to send a sympathy card?

There's no obligation to send a sympathy card, but it's definitely a simple and thoughtful way to show you're thinking of them.

Sympathy cards are a great way to offer condolences for family, friends, and even colleagues you work with

What matters most is your intention. If you genuinely want to console and support someone in their time of grief, a sympathy card can be a meaningful gesture.

When should you send a sympathy card?

Try to send a thoughtful sympathy card within a week of learning about the loss to express your condolences. If you can, it's always better to send to the recipient's home.

Should you send a sympathy card and a gift?

sympathy gift

Once again, there's no obligation to send a sympathy card or sympathy gift. But if you're close to your friend or loved one, you might want to also send a gift that will give them some comfort.

We won't go into too much details, but sympathy gifts can be anything from flowers, plants, right through to themed gift baskets.

Think about what they would appreciate or need during their time of grief.

What to write on a sympathy card?

what to write on a sympathy card

Not wanting to upset them more, it can be tough coming up with the right words for someone that's grieving. And the same goes for messages on sympathy cards.

However done right, a heartfelt message can provide comfort to the recipient during a difficult time. If you're not sure what to write, here are some advice below:

Consider your relationship with the recipient

  • For family members, celebrate the life of the loved one and acknowledge their impact on the family.

  • For friends, offer a shoulder to cry on and your support .

  • To a colleague, offer peace, thoughts, and prayers during tough times.

Personalize Your Sympathy Message

  • Choose a sympathy card that will resonate with the recipient. It might be favorite color, animal, or something that reflects their relationship with the deceased.

  • Writing a message by hand creates a personal connection and shows genuine care.

  • Including personal memories and stories about the deceased can also help celebrate their life and legacy.

  • Consider the bond you shared with the deceased when choosing your words.

  • Reflect on a memory that highlights the positive impact the deceased had on your life.

  • Offer specific ways you are willing to support the bereaved in the coming weeks or months.

sympathy card messages

What Not to Say in a Sympathy Card

While it’s important to know what to say in a sympathy card, it’s equally crucial to be aware of what not to say. Here are some generic sayings and sentences to avoid:

  • Avoid saying "I know how you feel." Even if you have experienced a similar loss, everyone's grief is personal and unique.

  • Steer clear of phrases like "They're in a better place" or "This is part of God's plan," as these can be hurtful or dismissive of the person's pain, especially if you’re not certain of their religious beliefs.

  • Don’t tell the bereaved to "Be strong" or "Move on," as this implies that showing emotion is wrong and can pressure them to suppress their grief.

  • Refrain from making comparisons to other losses or saying "At least they lived a long life," which can diminish the significance of the loss.

  • Avoid offering explanations for the loss or saying "Everything happens for a reason," which can come across as insensitive.

Sympathy Cards Themes

As we mentioned before, a sympathy card should be be deeply personal. And one way you can make a card and message personal, is by choosing one for a specific type of loss.

Loss of a father: Choose a sympathy card that captures the essence of paternal love and honors the man who has shaped the lives of those he leaves behind. Some themes could include their favorite hobbies, colors, a relevant poem, and spiritual or religious symbols.

Loss of a mother:  Sympathy cards for the loss of a mother should be gentle and nurturing. Appropriate cards to choose might be floral themes, heartfelt imagery, a meaningful quote, and spiritual or religious symbols.

Loss of a grandparent:  Theyhold a special place in our hearts, often associated with wisdom and legacy. When choosing a card, you might want to go with a design that shows a favorite hobby, a wise owl, nature setting, and spiritual or religious symbols

Loss of a child:  The indescribable pain of losing a child is met with the most tender of condolences. A sympathy card for such a sad loss should be very simple with a theme that could include a heart, angel, toy, or something serene.

Loss of a pet: The loss of a furry friend can be heartbreaking. A thoughtful sympathy card could include a paw, a meaningful quote, and a pet symbol or image.