Helpful hints on offering condolences

In times of loss and bereavement, most of us struggle to give adequate expression to our grief. The solution, therefore, is always to keep it simple when composing a message of sympathy.

In the words of the great sage and Greek philosopher, Pythagoras, “Do not say a little in many words, but a great deal in a few”. His wisdom still holds, today and is particularly apt where offering condolences is concerned.

Helpful hints on presenting words of sympathy

Writing words of condolence in a letter or card is the traditional means of offering support to the bereaved.

A sympathy or condolence note provides a simple way of letting the recipient know that they are in your thoughts, as they go through the difficult process of mourning and grief.

Guidelines & helpful hints on how to offer condolences

  • Don’t delay - compose your message of sympathy immediately and write it from the heart; don't leave it until after the bereaved person has come to terms with the death and is trying to move on
  • Do write your sympathy message by hand, on tasteful stationery; avoid typing on a piece of printer paper
  • Include a favourite memory of the deceased
  • Mention the bereaved individual’s personal strengths or special qualities, not just those of the deceased
  • Offer practical help or to take over a specific chore or duty for a while

Helpful hints on what to say

Expressing the right words at such an emotional time is not easy. Below are some words and phrases that can assist you in making a start.

  • “I would like to express my sincerest condolences on the recent passing of X. My family also send their thoughts and prayers to you and your family at this difficult time”
  • “X was such a lovely person and I was deeply saddened to hear of his/her passing. He/She will be hugely missed. Please pass on my sympathy to your entire family"
  • “I know I join with so many others who knew X in offering our deepest sympathy on his/her passing. Although difficult for you to acknowledge at this sad time, it should be of great strength to you to know that in his/her passing you can celebrate the end of a wonderful life”

Other services

Additionally, you may wish to add your message of sympathy online. A range of services is available which allows you to share and celebrate those memories with relatives and friends around the world.

Finally, you may also wish to send a floral spray to the bereaved. White Arum lilies and oriental lilies are particularly appropriate. Alternatively, a rose bush can serve as a more permanent reminder of the bereaved. A more recent approach is to send a collection of seeds to be planted in a memorial garden.

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