Bereavement Card Messages: A Basic Guide on What to Write

Updated February 17, 2022
bereavement message

It can be difficult to know what to write in a bereavement card when someone you know loses a special person. However, your emotional support is important, especially during this difficult time. Speaking from the heart and offering a memory or two about the lost loved one can be of great comfort to someone who is grieving.

How to Write a Touching Bereavement Card

When you send a sympathy card to a far-away friend or leave a card at a funeral or visitation, you have a couple of options. You can purchase a bereavement card that you believe speaks to the situation, or you can choose a blank card and write your own message. Either way, you'll need to do more than sign your name. These are some important tips to keep in mind when writing a sympathy message.

1. Start Your Sympathy Note With Personal Connection

In your note, be sure to use the name of the person who will receive the card. This may seem like a small thing, but grief can make people feel a bit lost. Using the recipient's name shows you see them and aren't simply sending out a form letter. This can be important when you want to comfort someone who is grieving.

You can put the person's name in a salutation above any pre-printed text, or you can add it just above the message that you write. Typically, something like "Dear [person's name]" is perfectly appropriate.

2. Write a Meaningful Bereavement Message

Another part of making your bereavement message personal is including some specifics. If possible, include a memory of the lost loved one. These memories can mean a lot to surviving family members and friends, giving them a sense of connection to the person they lost. Your memory doesn't have to be a major event or an involved story. In fact, it's best if you include just a couple of lines about a time the individual did something to help you, made you laugh, or connected with you in some ways.

You can base your message on one of these examples:

  • "I'll never forget the time your mother helped me out after the birth of my baby. I don't know how we would have gotten through that time without her."
  • "I remember the day your brother took me fishing. We both nearly ended up in the water, and we laughed so hard."
  • "Your father was instrumental in helping me choose my career. Without his advice and guidance, I don't think I'd be where I am today."

If you don't have a specific memory of the person, you can skip directly to expressing your sympathy.

3. Simply Express Your Sympathy

Mature man filling in paperwork

The most important element of any bereavement message is the expression of sympathy. This should be simple and heartfelt. However, there are a lot of things you can say instead of "sorry for your loss." The message shouldn't feel generic or impersonal.

Make your statement more meaningful by mentioning the type of loss your friend has suffered. For instance, "I'm sorry for the loss of your father" is much more personal than "I'm sorry for your loss." You can also express that you're thinking about the person.

Your message should fit the situation, but these examples can help:

  • "I was so sorry to hear about the death of your father. You and your family are in my thoughts."
  • "We're sorry to hear of your mother's passing. Please know that we are thinking about you."
  • "Your uncle was a special man, and he'll be deeply missed by everyone. I am thinking of you and your family."
  • "I was saddened to hear about the loss of your sister. I am sending you thoughts of peace and comfort during this time."

4. Offer Specific Help or Support

If you know the person well or have a connection to the family, it's also kind to offer your support or help in your message. The key here is to make your offer specific. Take a moment to think of a few practical things you can do to help. Here are some bereavement messages with specific ways to support a grieving friend:

  • "We were so sorry to hear about Rob's passing. He was a remarkable man, and we'd like to help you through this difficult time in any way we can. Julie and I will plan to take care of keeping your sidewalk clear of snow this winter, but let us know if there's anything else we can do."
  • "I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your dad. Please know I'm thinking of you, and I'll take care of your projects here at work until you're ready to come back."
  • "Your mom meant a lot to everyone in the apartment building, and we're all really sorry to hear about her passing. Everyone here loves Spot and will help take care of him until you're ready."

5. Sign Your Name

Finally, sign your name on your bereavement card. If you have a common first name, it doesn't hurt to include your surname for clarity. Many people receive a lot of sympathy cards and like to look back through them after the emotion of the loss is a little less sharp.

What Not to Say in a Bereavement Card

There are some messages of sympathy that, while they are well-intentioned, are probably better left unsaid. For example, expressing your religious faith is not a good idea, unless you are sure that the recipient of the message also shares your faith. Avoid any comments dwelling on the details of the death as well.

These are a few other phrases or sayings you should avoid:

  • "I know how you feel."
  • "Time heals all wounds."
  • "Your father is in a better place now."
  • "It was his or her time to go."
  • "It's all for the best."
  • "At least your loved one won't suffer anymore."

Tips for Finding the Right Bereavement Card

Shopping for a bereavement card can be challenging, whether you're doing it online or at your local pharmacy or grocery store. There are a lot of options to choose from, so keep these tips in mind to find the right one:

  • Boxed sympathy cards can be more affordable, but they also tend to have impersonal messages. If you choose boxed cards, make sure you write a very meaningful message inside.
  • Think about the person who will be receiving the card and choose your card based on that person. It's less important that the card or your message address the exact type of loss the person has experienced, and more important that the card fits the recipient.
  • Only choose a religious bereavement card if you know the person receiving it shares your faith.
  • Consider a blank card with a pretty picture on it. You can write a bereavement message that fits perfectly in a way many pre-printed sympathy cards may not.

Sending a Bereavement Card to Show You Care

You should send your bereavement card as soon as you hear about the loss. However, if sending a card slips your mind or you don't hear about the loss until well after the fact, it's still appropriate to express your condolences. Ultimately, any message that shows you care about the bereaved person and their loss is one that will be well received. If you speak from the heart and keep it simple, your message may bring some comfort.

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Bereavement Card Messages: A Basic Guide on What to Write