What to Write in a Sympathy Card

When my husband died from cancer, my daughters and I received hundreds of cards. Ericlee was a teacher, coach, and director of a non-profit organization that was supported by several area churches. His influence was far-reaching.

Hundreds of people packed the church for his memorial service, and we went home with bins full of cards. Students from the school where he taught showed up at our door with homemade cards. Friends and relatives mailed us cards to express their condolences. Some slipped gift cards for grocery stores and restaurants inside.

I was overwhelmed by the support.

After family returned home following the funeral and friends returned to work, we had to find our new normal without our daddy and husband. These precious cards remained.

Words of encouragement is one of my main love languages so these cards became treasures to me in a dark season of grief and loneliness.

One of my favorite cards included a letter written by a young man who had been one of my husband’s students and athletes. He talked about how Ericlee had inspired him and encouraged him to pursue a career he wouldn’t have considered before. He shared how his faith in God had grown as a result of knowing Ericlee.

Those words were gold to me. They spoke of my husband’s legacy. They provided a tangible story I could share with my young daughters about who their dad was and how he cared deeply for people.

Words of encouragement are one way that we can love people well through loss. It shows they are seen and important to us. Know this: You don’t need to agonize over finding the perfect words. The gesture matters.

Here are some quick tips for sending meaningful sympathy cards:

Select a card that will be meaningful for the person receiving it.

Does that person like a certain flower or Bible verse? Think about what season of life the receiver is in. Is she a mother? Grandmother? Friend? Cards specific to the audience show that you are paying attention and didn’t just grab something generic.

Avoid giving advice or writing cliché statements.

Oftentimes we feel like we need to offer some advice or comfort to the person in a card. Consider one of these statements instead: “I am so sorry for your loss.” “I don’t have the right words to say, but I want you to know I care about you.” “I can’t imagine what you’re going through today.”

Share a memory of the person who died.

Take a few minutes to share a story or special memory you have of the person who died. How did they influence you? What character qualities did they have that you admired? If you didn’t know the person well, consider including what you appreciate about the person receiving the card.

Remind the person they are loved and remembered.

Don’t tell the receiver how to feel or try to make them feel better. Don’t say things like “Be strong” or “You will get past this.” Instead, acknowledge their grief, and remind them how much they mean to you.

Consider including a gift card, a bouquet of flowers, or a specific offer to help with something.

You might purchase a gift card for a coffee shop, restaurant or house cleaning service to accompany your card. Plan to go help mow the lawn, fold laundry, bring dinner or offer something else that could support the person or family.

We serve a God of comfort. Jesus mourned with his friends Mary and Martha when their brother Lazarus died. God walks closely with us through difficult times. He also designed us so that we might offer the same comfort to others. Paul illuminates this idea:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction,so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 CSB

Is God placing someone on your heart today who you could encourage with a card? Have courage, my friend. Sending cards does not have to take a lot of time, but it can go a long way in expressing love and sympathy. It’s never too late.

I was blessed every time I opened my mailbox and found another card after my husband’s death. These words helped show me that people still cared about us and remembered my beloved. And that was the greatest gift.

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You don't need to find the perfect words, just have courage in making the gesture.
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