What's the best way to offer your condolences?
There's no one right way to express your sympathy, support, and condolences. But there are plenty of things you shouldn't say, and some truly helpful tips to help you say what you really mean.
Here are our tips on how to offer condolences, plus 10 examples for your inspiration and use.
5 Tips on How to Offer Condolences
Tip #1: Offer Condolences Right Away
There's no reason to wait for the funeral. Given how easy it is to pick up your phone and text, comment, post, message, email, or call, you need to just do it right away.
Send a more personal note of condolence by using a private message, like a text or using a social media messaging platform. If the person announced the death in a post, you should certainly comment. But to express your condolences in a more meaningful, more personal way, reach out to them directly.
Tip #1(b): Send a Card Right Away
There's just something much more meaningful about a physical note. Yes, do your digital condolences - that's expected in this day and age.
But also, right now, get a card, hand-write on stationery, or type up and print out (but do sign it and hand-write a little note of love and support) a letter. Then send it in the mail.
Your grieving loved one will be flooded with texts and other digital messages. But if you want to express your condolences the best way, you can't go wrong with something sent in the mail. A sympathy card is the traditional choice for a reason.
Here are dozens of Sympathy Card Messages & Examples
Tip #2: Use the Decedent's Name
While you may naturally tend to try to avoid mention of the departed one, talking about them and using their name is actually a way of affirming the grieving person in their time of mourning.
This person has just lost someone very significant. A huge part of their life is now gone. Wouldn't it be weird if no one talked about it? It would be like erasing that person's existence at the very moment that the grieving person is overwhelmed with missing them.
The whole reason we offer condolences is because it is a way of acknowledging that loss. So when you say, "I'm sorry for your loss," you're affirming that yes, this is a big deal. Then, when you add, "Dave was a wonderful person and I'll miss him too," you are telling your grieving friend that Dave was real, he was an important part of your life, and that missing him is normal. These are important affirmations.
Of course you don't want to be macabre; you don't need to go into details about death or ask inquiries about how the person died. Acknowledge the loss, talk about the decedent in a meaningful, real way, and express your sympathies.
Tip # 3: Acknowledge Their Grief and Loss
As mentioned in tip #2, it's important to affirm and acknowledge the swirl of emotions that they are feeling regarding the loss. One way to do this is through mentioning the person who died, and letting them know how this death affects you as well.
There are helpful and comforting ways to show solidarity in your words. Things like, "No one can feel what you're feeling right now, but know that others have been there. I've been there; it hurts. Just know that it's ok to mourn."
]Or you can keep it even simpler: "My heart is grieving along with you."
Bear in mind that, while they don't need your permission to grieve, it's also helpful to know that they are not alone, that it's ok to cry, that the pain is real and the loss cuts deep. If you're not entirely comfortable exploring those ideas, that's ok too - you can just let them know that you're feeling the loss as well.
See the examples below for more.
Tip #4: Keep It Short and Sweet
You don't need to write an entire letter. (Unless you want to, of course.) But don't let it feel like a great big task. Keep it brief and to the point. Remember that simplicity is always good.
Get a card. Use one of the phrases below, adapt it if necessary, write it in the card, and then sign it. That's it.
You can always go above and beyond by writing more, including quotes and verses, sending a gift or flowers. Those are great, but not necessary. So don't let this feel like a huge project. Just do it.
Tip #5: Don't Say Anything That Starts With "At Least..."
Think about it.... "at least he didn't suffer." Yeah, well, but he's gone.
"At least you can have another child." Seriously? This child is loved. This child is mourned and missed. Other children - living or in the future - have nothing to do with the loss of this beautiful little one.
"At least she's in a better place."
"At least you're still young and can marry again."
Just avoid anything that remotely sounds like these things. Yes, you're trying to provide comfort by looking on the bright side. But death is not the time to look on the bright side. As the Bible says in Ecclesiastes chapter 3, there is a time to mourn, and a time to dance. There's a time to laugh, and a time to weep. If you're in the situation of offering condolences, it is not the time to look on the bright side.
With that in mind, also try to avoid questions about how the person is doing. How are you holding up? Do you have everything you need? Is there anything I can do? Well.... they're not holding up well (whatever the appearance may be), they need their loved one back, and the only thing they want you to do is either bring their loved one back or just go away and stop bothering them.
Now, most people - even in the midst of grief - are still kind and won't say any of these things back to you. And there are times to ask how you can help. But be thoughtful and considerate about it.
10 Examples for How to Offer Condolences
- I'm so sorry for your loss. [Name] was an incredible person and I'll miss her too.
- May you be surrounded by love during this time. You have my sympathies on the loss of your loved one.
- Please accept my deepest condolences. Know that you are loved, and that our family is thinking of you and praying for you.
- I'll always remember the joy that [name] brought into our lives. We mourn his/her loss along with you. Please accept our condolences, and know that you are in our thoughts and prayers.
- We are saddened by your loss, and our hearts go out to you. You have our deepest sympathies.
- [Name's] memory lives on in our hearts, even as we grieve alongside you. Please accept our sincere condolences.
- Words cannot express the sorrow, love, and sympathy we feel at the loss of your loved one.
- May you find peace and comfort in the memories of [Name] that you cherish in your heart. Our deepest condolences at your great loss.
- You have our most loving sympathies. We are thinking of you, and want you to know that you are not alone and are deeply loved.
- Our hearts grieve with you during your time of loss. [Name] was greatly loved and will be sorely missed. Please accept our condolences.
What Should You Send a Grieving Friend or Loved One?
How are you going to express your condolences? Many people choose to send a card or gift. Here are some meaningful ideas.
1. Send a Sympathy Card
A sympathy card is a simple and easy way to send your condolences. Simply purchase one from a greeting card store (grocery stores often have them as well), write a brief condolence message inside, sign it, and send it off.
2. Send a Sympathy Gift
Sometimes a card doesn't seem like enough. If that's the case, consider giving a sympathy gift. Two of our most beloved sympathy gifts are our "Raise a glass in memory of..." wall-mounted bottle opener and our Memorial Bird Feeders.
3. Send Flowers
Sending funeral flowers is a classic and timeless way to express your sympathy. While not everyone wants flowers anymore, there's still something to be said for the feeling of support when the house is filled with bouquets of flowers sent in from friends and family members offering their condolences and love.
4. Send a Meaningful Tribute
Consider a gesture that goes beyond a simple card, gift, or flower bouquet. Make a donation in the decedent's name to a cause that was important to them. Set up a memorial scholarship fund or dedicate a bench at a favorite local park.
There are many creative memorial tributes you can do; here are ten of our favorites.
One of the best (and one that is very affordable) is to plant a tree in their memory. There are services that will plant a tree in a needed area in our National Forests. For instance, a section that was affected by wildfires. The tree is planted in their name, helps restore the forest, and the family receives a certificate along with information about where the tree was planted. Here's how.