After a lifetime of writing and receiving condolence notes, I’ve noticed a pattern in them. It comforts me to know that by using this template, I won’t ever add to my friend’s pain at her time of loss, because helping her feel loved and supported is the main goal.
Many of the notes I send or have received consist of five, simple parts:
Salutation – Dear __________,
1. I’m/We’re so sorry to hear of ___________ passing/dying/transitioning.
2a. (If you knew the person who died.) I/We always loved _____________.
2b. (If you didn’t know the person who died.) I/We know how much you loved _____________.
3+. (If you have a story to share about the person who died, share it here. Something that I would caution you to never write, though, is an embarrassing story about the deceased that your friend may or may not be familiar with. If you have an entertaining, but possibly edgy story that you’d like to share, do it on the phone or in person where you can decide if proceeding is a good idea based on your friend’s reaction. You don’t want to add to her misery by tarnishing the memory of her loved one.) I remember when…
4. I/We hope you have loved ones around you for support through this challenging time.
5. I/We will keep you in our thoughts and prayers.
Signature – Love/Your Friend/Sincerely/With Sympathy, _____________
This pattern can be overlaid to use for corporate condolence cards.
Obviously, the better you know someone, the more you can add or share.
If you’d like more specific suggestions and ideas, here is a great article by Keely Chace at Hallmark: https://ideas.hallmark.com/articles/sympathy-ideas/what-to-write-in-a-sympathy-card/
If you feel like you need to write something long in order to show the depth of your love, believe me, sometimes short and to the point is exactly what a grieving person needs. The more you know that your friends are around you, the better loved and supported you feel.