Sending a condolence letter to someone who has recently lost a loved one is very much appreciated. It helps to know that both the deceased and surviving family are remembered. These letters can provide a source of comfort to anyone grieving over the loss of a loved one. And it lets them know that they are in your thoughts.
Many people struggle to find the right words to use in a condolence letter. It can be challenging, especially if the family is close to you. Whether a family member has been lost, a colleague, a close friend, or a neighbor, it is appropriate to acknowledge the loss and to express your sympathy. Many will also offer to help at this time. These acts of kindness and support are also appreciated greatly.
What Is a Condolence Letter?
A condolence letter can be a card expressing your condolences, a note left in a mailbox, an email sent to family members, a letter sent through the mail, or an expression of your sympathy left on a funeral home website.
Regardless of how the condolence letter is sent, several thoughts should be covered. Condolence letters can be sent to the deceased loved ones, wife, children, parents. They may also be sent to close friends who are mourning the death of their friend.
These letters are sent to show that you care and that you are thinking of them during this difficult time. They can be a great source of comfort to anyone who is grieving over the loss of someone they love. Depending on the closeness of the relationship, many people may offer to help in any way that is needed.
Reasons to Write a Condolence Letter
Many people pick up a card at their local pharmacy or grocery store. They sign and send it without taking the time to think about what they want to say to the person they are sending it to. Although a card is better than not sending anything at all, personal notes carry much more weight with the folks on the receiving end.
Writing a personal condolence letter lets people know that he or she and the person you are mourning are important to you and your family.
The survivor appreciates the time it took to write a personal letter. There is greater comfort and support compared to a generic card that you purchased at the store. Many people share a personal memory of the deceased that was a shared special time with everyone.
Sending a personal condolence letter also is the time when you can offer to chat and provide support to the survivors. You may also offer to provide help to the survivor in the coming weeks. Knowing that they can call someone for help with various challenges can help to reduce the stress and worry in the coming weeks.
Sample Condolence & Sympathy Letter
This is an example of a condolence letter. It uses the seven components that should be part of a condolence letter; however, there is no need to follow this template. Use this sample to help you organize your thoughts and ideas.
Consider the person you are writing to, the deceased, and the thoughts you want to convey. Make it special and focused on the family impacted by their recent loss.
I was very sad to hear about [Name] recently passing away.
I want you to know that you have our sympathies during this difficult time.
[Name] was such a great friend and supporter to us all. We enjoyed our time with him at the club and the many projects we worked on together. He was tireless and contributed a great deal of his time.
I recall a time that [Include your favorite memory].
Perhaps you could use some help over the next few weeks. I will mow the lawn every week and water the garden during the dry spells. I would be happy to help with anything else you may need.
My wife and I are always available to support you.
[Sign your name]
Condolence Letter Templates & Examples
Offers to Help in a Condolence Letter
Offers of help should be mentioned in specific ways; otherwise, there may be some hesitancy on the part of the survivor. Offering to bring dinner over, mowing the lawn on specific dates is seen as moving the burden of calling from the survivor. Being specific sends a more personal message.
Follow Up After Sending a Condolence Letter
Many of us send condolence letters, and our lives take over, and before we are aware, a year has gone by. Meanwhile, your friend experienced many contacts and a great deal of support in the initial days, only to find themselves feeling very alone in the following weeks and months.
Depending on the closeness of the relationship, add a reminder to your calendar to reach out to your friend in a few weeks, months, or half a year. They will appreciate the follow-up and offer to get together for coffee or lunch or whatever is appropriate.
Guidelines for Writing a Condolence Letter
There are several guidelines that a person should follow when they sit down to write a condolence letter.
- Your letter of sympathy and condolence should be sent soon after the loss. It is appropriate to send your letter within one or two weeks after the loss.
- Better late than never; however, a letter sent later may not always have the desired impact
- Your letter can be mailed or delivered to the funeral home at the service
- Electronic delivery of condolence letters has become popular recently. Most funeral homes offer a website that allows everyone to express their condolences online. Before you send an electronic letter, take a moment to consider the person receiving it and whether they would prefer electronic delivery or the old-fashioned printed or handwritten letter.
- Handwritten notes tend to be considered more personal and carrying greater meaning for the person or family receiving the letter
- Add a personal note inside a card you purchased at the card store.
- If you find writing a condolence letter difficult, consider a few examples available online to inspire you with the right words.
- A sympathy note is a few sentences at most
- A condolence letter may contain a few paragraphs
- Choose a note or letter based on your feelings, closeness to the deceased and survivor, and what you want to say in your letter.
Essential Elements of a Condolence Letter
There are several standard elements in every condolence letter. These include:
- Acknowledge the loss
- Express your sympathy
- Describe one of your friend’s special qualities
- Include a favorite memory
- Mention the deceased’s strengths or special qualities
- Offer specific and practical things you can help with
- End your letter with active thoughts
Do’s and Don’ts for a Condolence Letter
- Don’t dance around the fact that someone has passed away
- Don’t use a euphemism for death; it just makes people uncomfortable
- Don’t use business terms such as sincerely, regards
- Do offer to help with specific activities
- Do offer practical things that can help the survivors
- Do end your letter with hope.
- Do remember that your letter is for the living and not for the dead
When someone loses a loved one, it can be a very difficult time for the family and loved ones. Receiving a sympathy note or a condolence letter helps people get through these difficult times.
Follow the outline above; however, writing a condolence letter shows that you care and empathize with the survivors. A personally written condolence letter is much more personal and meaningful than a card with just a signature.
Offers to help are great, but keep the offer practical and specific. Avoid putting the person in the position of needing to call for help. Offer help and set a time and date to provide that help. Cutting the lawn, making some meals, running errands are several examples.
Send your sympathy note or letter within two weeks of the passing of the deceased. Handwrite the letter and if you must send a card, insert the note into the card and personally deliver it if possible.
Apply the same approach to writing the letter if you must send it by email or post it on a funeral home website. If you are unable to travel, using this method may be the best alternative. Although not as personal, the quality of the letter will overcome the impersonal nature of electronic communication.