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Writing letters of sympathy and condolences

Losing a person always leaves us speechless to a certain extent, regardless of whether it is a relative, friend, colleague or the little child of a neighbour. Nevertheless, you should not hesitate to express your sympathy for those who are deeply grieving. Letters of sympathy or condolences have a long tradition. Your sympathy means a lot to the relatives of a deceased, it expresses human warmth and understanding for their situation. It is sometimes difficult to find the right words, though.

A few cordial lines may provide comfort and support. Letters of condolences do not have to be long!

It should be easier for you to write letters of condolences if you keep in mind the following guidelines. 
As a rule, let the recipient know that the loss also touches you and makes you sad. This ensures that the right words will almost come by themselves!

  • A quote may be very expressive. Select it carefully and only decide for one if you wholeheartedly stand behind it.
  • Do not quote from the Bible or from prayers unless you are certain that the relatives are religious.
  • Express your immediate, intuitive feelings and mention how you have learnt about the death.
  • Avoid to give well-meant pieces of advice. They are mostly inadequate in existential situations like these.
  • Signal that you will be there for the relatives even in the period ahead.
  • Communicate whether you will be able to attend the funeral service or give a reason if you are unable to participate.