Letters of Sympathy: An Easy Guide for Writing Sympathy Letters

Letters of sympathy can comfort and inspire hope. It’s strange to think that a letter acknowledging a friend’s loss can bring comfort to them.

A well-written letter will be treasured for years and often re-read in times of sadness.

“The word that is heard perishes, but the letter that is written remains.”

Here are some guidelines that will walk you through the process step by step. Soon you will have a beautiful condolence letter that will be cherished.
A few things, before we start. Keep your letter short. Letters of sympathy should only be about a page. Don’t talk about yourself too much and keep any stories you include brief.
Ideally words of condolence should be hand-written. It is acceptable, however, to type a letter if your hand writing is difficult to read. Keep in mind that a hand-written letter is more personal and it will be greatly appreciated by people who seldom receive “old-fashioned” mail.

Stationery for a Condolence Letters

I recommend buying acid-free archival paper or stationary to write on. This makes it possible for the letter to be preserved for generations. I have seen family heritage books that have sympathy letters written from the 1800’s. Letters of sympathy are many times a way to remember and commemorate a loved one.

The First Step is Brainstorming

First answer the questions as they pertain to your situation. This will give you ideas for your own words of condolence.
Here we go:

  • What is the name of the deceased?
  • What was your favorite thing about this person?
  • What special qualities did this person have?
  • What was your favorite memory of this person?
  • What one thing do you most admire or appreciate about the bereaved person that you are writing to?
  • Can you think of something that would be a big help the the bereaved or something that you know they would enjoy?

Now that you have thoughtfully considered these questions it is time to compose your letter. There are seven components to a condolence letter. I will give you a list of half finished sentences for each component. You can either chose a sentence to finish or use it as inspiration to write your own sentence.
Acknowledge the loss (use the deceased name).
“I just heard about…”
”I am sorry to hear about…”
”I am saddened to hear…”
Express your sympathy.
“My heart goes out to you.”
”I extend my deepest sympathy”
Note special qualities of the deceased.
“He was…”
”He is my favorite…”
”He always said…”
”He will be missed for his…”
Include a favorite memory.
“I’ll never forget how…”
”I always loved the way…”
”The first time I met her…”
Remind the bereaved of their strengths and special qualities.
“You have always been…”
You are really…”
I admire your…”
Offer specific help.
“I would love to…”
”If it would be helpful for you, I’d like to…”
”Would you like me to pick up…”
”If you would like company I could stop by on…”
End with a thoughtful word.
“You are in my thoughts”
”With love and prayers”
”Wishing you God’s peace”
Now, you should have plenty of material to craft a wonderful letter, that is sure to be treasured.
If you are looking for a final touch, check out sympathy sentiments.
I hope you’ll see that writing letters of sympathy is really not too difficult and I hope you know how much your letter will mean to a hurting friend or relative.

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