What to Write to Someone Who Lost a Loved One

When someone experiences the death of someone close to them, whether it’s a close friend, partner, child, parent, family member, or co-worker, the profound sense of loss and grief they feel can be overwhelming. As they grieve and navigate this difficult time with a newly formed absence in their life, it's normal for them to feel isolated and alone in their grief.

Hands reaching for each other across a gap.

Reaching out and expressing sympathy with a thoughtful condolence letter can offer comfort, solace, and strength to someone grieving the death of a loved one. But where do you start? Sometimes, our words fail us, or they just don’t seem like enough. Don’t worry, that feeling is normal.

While writing the right words during such a sensitive time can be challenging, your support, compassion, and sympathy can have a significant impact on the spirit and emotional state of the bereaved. That’s why we created a comprehensive guide to show how to write a condolence letter that offers support, shares fond memories, and ultimately brings comfort to someone who has experienced loss.


How to Write a Condolence Letter

There’s no one right way to offer condolences to someone who has lost a loved one. What your letter will contain will depend on your relationship with the bereaved and how you wish to convey your sympathy. However, there are a few general guidelines that can help you get started, create a structure, and choose the right words for your condolence message.


Write the Letter by Hand

Writing a condolence letter by hand displays a lot more thought and care than purchasing a generic sympathy card at the store. You may choose to put your handwritten message inside a sympathy card, but writing a personal message addressed directly to the bereaved in your own words shows that you gave your letter and the recipient deliberate thought, consideration, and care.

The start of a handwritten letter.


Keep it Simple and Genuine

Condolences do not need to be long in order to express genuine sympathy and support, it just needs to be thoughtful and sincere. A simple and sweet message will help you avoid saying too much or the wrong thing. It’s important to remember that you cannot take away their pain with words, nor are you expected to, but you can provide comfort by letting them know you’re thinking of them.    


Start with Compassion and Empathy

When writing a condolence letter, starting with an empathetic and compassionate tone is essential. Address the grieving person by name and reinforce your relationship with them. Acknowledge their pain and sorrow, but avoid minimizing their feelings or comparing them to others. Simply offer comfort and empathy.


Tell Stories and Share Memories

If the person who passed is a mutual friend or family member, one of the most powerful and meaningful ways to express your sympathy is by sharing your favorite memories of the deceased. Grief is born from absence, and telling stories can bring the dead to life through the shared memory of those experiences. It’s also a great way to pay tribute to their remarkable qualities, unique spirit, and the significant impact they had on the lives of those around them.


Offer Support and Provide Comfort

When we grieve, it’s easy to lose track of everything else in life as we become consumed with our own thoughts and struggles. That's why it’s crucial to offer support and comfort to the bereaved during these difficult times. This can mean providing moral support and making yourself available to listen and talk through the pain of loss. It can also mean offering to take care of logistical tasks, like memorial service coordination, meal prepping, childcare, or shopping.

A woman looking up, thinking.


Conclude with Warmth and Encouragement

As you close your condolences and express your final sentiments, try to offer encouragement and warmth to the bereaved. Grief can be a long process with many peaks and valleys along the way, so you don’t want to pressure the person to feel like they should be making progress or moving forward before they’re ready. However, you want to provide some encouragement they can draw from. Validate their sorrow, but reinforce their strength.

Example of a Condolence Letter

Dear [Name],

I am deeply saddened to learn about the loss of your[relationship]. Please accept my heartfelt condolences during this difficult time of grief and mourning. I cannot begin to comprehend the depth of sorrow you must be feeling, but I hope that my words can offer some comfort.

I will always cherish the memories of [Deceased]. [They] were an amazing person and a beautiful soul, full of kindness, compassion, and a zest for life. I remember [their] contagious laughter and the way [they] brought joy everywhere [they] went. [Deceased] had a one-of-a-kind spirit that touched the lives of so many people. [They] will be deeply missed, but the impact [they] made on our lives and the world will forever remain.

Please know that you are not alone. If there is anything I can do to lighten your burden or offer support, please do not hesitate to reach out. Whether lending a listening ear or helping with daily tasks, I want you to know I am here for you. Please take comfort in the loving memories you shared with [Deceased], as they will forever serve as a source of strength and joy. 

In saying goodbye to [Deceased], I am reminded of the fragility of life and the importance of cherishing our loved ones every day. While we cannot fill the void left by their absence, please know that you have my unwavering support, whatever you need. Take each day at your own pace, and remember that grieving is your personal process. You don’t owe it to anyone to do it one way or another. Just know that I am here to listen, to provide comfort, and to remind you that it is okay to feel how you feel. You are in my thoughts, and I extend my sympathies to you and your family.

With sincerest condolences,

[Your Name]

A woman in sunlight looking outside.

As we shared at the beginning, there’s no perfect formula for writing a condolence card or sympathy message to someone who has lost a loved one. To do it successfully, you must speak from the heart; be genuine, comforting, and heartfelt with your words and the support you’re offering; and show empathy for the sadness and pain they are experiencing. If you do that, you will have helped someone who really needs it.