How To Write A Sympathy Note

Emily Post's Guidelines

When writing a sympathy letter or enclosing a note of condolences with sympathy flowers, the following guidelines and examples should be helpful.

The Letter of Condolence

Intimate letters of condolence are like love letters, in that they are too sacred to follow a set form. One rule, and one only, should guide you in writing such letters.

  • Say what you truly feel.
  • Say that and nothing else.

Sit down at your desk, let your thoughts dwell on the person you are writing to.

Don't dwell on the details of illness or the manner of death; don't quote endlessly from the poets and Scriptures. Remember that eyes filmed with tears and an aching heart cannot follow rhetorical lengths of writing.

The more nearly a note can express a hand-clasp, a thought of sympathy,above all, a genuine love or appreciation of the one who has gone, the greater comfort it brings.

Write as simply as possible and let your heart speak as truly and as briefly as you can. Forget, if you can, that you are using written words,think merely how you feel-then put your feelings on paper-that is all.

Supposing it is a young mother who has died. You think how young and sweet she was-and of her little children, and, literally, your heart aches for them and her husband and her own family. Into your thoughts must come some expression of what she was, and what their loss must be.

Examples of Notes

As has been said above, a letter of condolence must above everything express a genuine sentiment. The few examples are inserted merely as suggestive guides for those at a loss to construct a short but appropriate note or card.

Conventional Note to an Acquaintance

I know how little the words of an outsider mean to you just now-but I must tell you how deeply I sympathize with you in your great loss. 

Note to a Friend

All my sympathy and all my thoughts are with you in your great sorrow. If I can be of any service to you, you know how grateful I shall be.

Note to a Very Near Relative or Friend

Words are so empty! If only I knew how to fill them with love and send them to you.


If love and thoughts could only help you, you should have all the strength of both that I can give.

Letter Where Death Was Release

The letter to one whose loss is "for the best" is difficult in that you want to express sympathy but can not feel sad that one who has long suffered has found release. The expression of sympathy in this case should not be for the present death, but for the illness, or whatever it was that fell long ago. The grief for a paralyzed mother is for the stroke which cut her down many years before, and your sympathy, though you may not have realized it, is for that. You might write:

Your sorrow during all these years-and now-is in my heart; and all my thoughts and sympathy are with you. 

You Can Quickly and Easily Create Sympathy Letters Guaranteed To Make A Lasting Impression!

Heartfelt Sympathy Letters - Instantly  A downloadable book of Heartfelt Sympathy Letters

If you want to purchase Sympathy cards, Tiny Prints is our favorite place to get them.

Ideas for sympathy gifts.

Tips on How to write a thank-you note. 

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