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How to write a sympathy card

Sending flowers is one of the first things we think about doing when we know that someone has died, but so many of us struggle with finding the right words to say to put on the card. We have worked with the experts at Sue Ryder and The Lullaby Trust to produce some suggested sympathy card wording examples that you may find helpful.

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We asked for advice on what to say when we are struggling to find the right words.
  • Use the person or child’s name.

  • Use your loved one’s words, and follow their lead. This will help them to feel understood.

  • Allow your loved one to express whatever they are feeling, and know you don’t have to respond. Often listening is enough.

  • Resist the urge to tell them what to do, how to feel, reassure them, or find positives in an effort to cheer them up. “At least…” statements can be unhelpful or painful.

  • It’s okay just to listen or admit that you don’t know what to say but that you are there to offer support.

  • Do not compare their experience with your own or anyone else’s.

  • Ask them what feels helpful, and understand that this may change over time.

  • Bereaved parents often want to talk about their child and be allowed to remember them. Share your own fond memories too.

  • Remember that the death of a baby or child is not something that someone can ‘get over’; special dates and celebrations will always matter to your loved one.

What to write in a sympathy card

Simple messages

  • We’re thinking of you at this difficult time and sending you a big hug and lots of love.

  • I don’t really know what to say, but I want you to know that I am thinking about you at this difficult time.

  • I am so sorry for your loss you are experiencing with this bereavement. I’ll touch base with you in a couple of weeks and when you’re ready let’s meet up.

More personal messages

  • We are so sorry to hear about [your relative description/name]. They were such an incredible person and we will never forget [insert a memory or anecdote].

  • I’m really sorry to hear about [your relative description/name]. Please know that we’re all thinking of you and if there’s anything you need. [how you can help e.g. the school run, a meal being dropped round, walking the dog or popping out for a coffee], we are only a text or a phone call away.

  • I am so sorry for your loss. [He/She/They] filled a room with laughter and they will be so missed.

  • We are so sorry for your loss. We will touch base with you in a couple of weeks and when you’re ready, let’s meet up and go to [their favourite place].

If you need more advice about what to write in a bereavement card, Sue Ryder has this helpful blog from one of their bereavement experts, and The Lullaby Trust also has a number of resources available specifically aimed at baby and child loss.