How to Write Condolences
If you are wondering how to write condolences that sincerely express your heartfelt sympathies, you are certainly not alone. Most people experience a little anxiety when they have to do so. Like any skill, writing condolences is something you can easily accomplish if you have a simple guide to follow, such as our condolence writing tips below. We published this article because nearly everyone has misgivings about condolence writing, including people using The Memorial post online condolences.
It’s Hard to Write Condolences “Incorrectly”
If you are reading this, you may have found our condolences writing tips page because you are worried and searched for “how to write condolences” to get some advice. You may be concerned you’ll get it wrong, or write something corny or flowery, or worse, possibly offend someone. You won’t offend anyone if you’re are writing from your heart. The person or people receiving or reading the written condolence will consider one attribute above all else: you cared enough to write it! The expression of sympathy will be appreciated. To write condolences “incorrectly”, you’d really have to try to botch it.
Still, we do recommend putting some thought into it, if only because you’ll want your condolence to be an apt expression of our thoughts and feelings for the deceased and their family.
Condolence Writing Tips
Write what you feel rather what you think they need to hear.
Be yourself. Don’t try to get it right. If you free yourself from judgements about your writing, the condolences will be authentic, not stilted or overwrought.
Use the KISS principle
In condolence writing, the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid) can be reworked as “Keep it Short and Supportive”. Whether you are writing an email, a letter, posting on an online memorial website, or writing condolences in a service condolences book, try to be brief and supportive. People in mourning are stricken by grief and often emotional and tired, and are also pressed for time planning, seeing family, and preparing for services. You don’t want them to feel obliged to read a lengthy condolence message.
Start by offering sympathy
Start with something simple such as “I was so sorry to hear about [your mom, your dad, Bill, Sharon]” or “I was sorry to hear about your loss”, “My deepest sympathies to you and your family”, or “I was really saddened to hear of your loss”. Simple is best when you’re struggling to find words.
Share a memory
If you knew the person who has passed, share a fond memory or express the admiration, respect or love you felt and how much you’ll miss them. Sharing a memory helps keep their spirit alive, lets the bereaved know that the person who passed away left something of themselves behind in how they touched other people. Sharing a memory is especially suitable for writing condolences for an online tribute website.
Avoid clichés like “She’s in a better place”, “It’s probably for the best, at least they’re not suffering” and similar oft-used platitudes. There really is no silver-lining when a person dies. While you may be attempting to lessen the suffering of the bereaved, it also diminishes the very real pain they are feeling.
If you know the bereaved, offer support if you can give it. If you are a close friend or family, offer to listen or talk about it, or help with service or memorial planning. People who are grieving may want to talk but may feel they are imposing. They are also busy and may welcome any help you can give, though they may never ask for it.
Condolence Writing Examples
From a friend or distant relative who knew the person who died:
I was saddened to hear of your mother’s passing. I’m so sorry for your loss and I’m thinking of you and your family. Although it’s a been awhile since I last saw her, I often think of the times we spent with your mom playing cards in the kitchen. The memory brings a smile to face and now sadness. She was an original: loving yet tough, intelligent and down to earth. I’ll miss her.
If there is anything I can do or if you ever want to talk or share a memory or two, please reach out to me.
Please pass on my sympathy and love to James and the kids.
With love and sympathies,
From a co-worker or acquaintance:
I’m very sorry to hear of the sudden death of your brother, Ben. My condolences to you and your family. I always enjoyed hearing your stories of Ben’s travels and his love of music. He sounded like a wonderful person with many talents.
Words fail in times like this, but if there is anything I can do, please let me know. I understand that you’ll be taking time off and that you’ve had a lot on your plate at work lately, so if there is anything I can do to help shorten your to-do list, please let me know.
My deepest sympathies,
From an employer:
Dear Mrs. Davidson,
Please accept my heartfelt sympathies for you and your family upon the passing of your daughter, Erin. We are all very sorry for your loss. Erin was much more than an employee and co-worker. Not only was she a highly-valued team member, she was a friend who brightened all of our days with her presence. She often spoke fondly of you and it was obvious how much she cherished her family. We are all saddened that she is gone, and her intelligence, warmth and lightness will be greatly missed.
Although there is nothing I can say to ease your sorrow, we have donated in Erin’s name to the Cancer Society to honor her memory.
We all hope that you and your family can find some kind of solace in what must be a difficult time.
With deepest sympathies,
We hope that these condolence writing tips reduce your anxiety with regard to how to write condolences. If you’re still concerned, we recommend reading “How to Give Condolences” which describes the basic dos and don’ts of giving condolences.