5 ways to really sympathize in a sympathy card


After my parents died a few years ago, going to the mailbox became a highlight of my day. I treasured every expression of kindness I received there.

In this age of Facebook condolences (which are still great—keep those up, too!), I hope sending sympathy cards never becomes a dying art.

Here are 5 ways you can help someone through a loss by simply mailing a card.


Write something by hand, even if it’s just restating the stamped message (i.e., I’m sorry for your loss). A personal touch makes a card special. I received these notes on a card from 6th graders we had taught in Bible class. They’re priceless.



If you knew the deceased, tell about an experience you shared together. It may be brand new to their loved one. They would love to hear it.



If you share the same faith, write out a comforting Bible verse in your card. My friend Louise sent me numerous cards and on every one, she included a scripture that was special to her and would be special to me. Keep a list of scriptures for such a time as this.



If you mean it, sign your card: “Love, ___.” Your friend won’t think you’re sappy; he/she will appreciate your sentiment. Feeling loved is the most comforting gift they can receive from you.



Don’t think you missed the moment if you haven’t sent a card in the first week or two. You haven’t. There’s a very long open window to send a sympathy card. Sometimes the card that arrives much later is valued even more because it’s the only one in a lonely mailbox after weeks or months of drought.

If you’ve been blessed by receiving cards in the mail, you know what I’m talking about.

If you’re one of the blessed ones who already sends those cards, may God bless you doubly for doing so.

And if you’re one who thinks about it, but never quite gets around to it, buy a box of cards, a book of stamps, and start a new habit.

You won’t regret it.

* * *

Who in your life is exceptionally good at sending cards? How are you at it? Please share in the comments.

revised from the archives

24 thoughts on “5 ways to really sympathize in a sympathy card

  1. Ginger Harrington

    What a wonderfully practical post on such an important topic. When my parents died, I also treasured the cards friends sent. This is truly a grace of living that should never be replaced with technology. I will enjoy sharing your post on Pinterest and my FB page today:)

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I think once we’ve been on the receiving side, it makes us see things so differently. Glad you experienced the same comfort I did. Thanks for sharing this with others, Ginger.

  2. Joanne Viola

    Lisa, this is such a wonderful post because so often people just don’t know what to say. You have shared practical tips not only for a sympathy card but for note writing. May hand written notes never become a thing of the past.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I have that wish too, Joanne: I hope people will never quit writing messages to each other by hand. Seeing someone’s handwriting still means so much. I know kids aren’t even learning cursive anymore, but I wish they still would. I love technology, but it can’t replace those human touches.

  3. June

    This is wonderful, Lisa! #2 is especially true! The cards I’ve received for the loss of my dad that included memories have been so meaningful. Thank you for sharing this, have a blessed day!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Hearing new-to-us memories are special, I agree, June. I remember how surprised I was at my dad’s funeral to hear people tell stories about him that I’d never heard before. Things like that really do help.

  4. Pingback: » 5 ways to really sympathize in a sympathy card

  5. Susan Nowell @ My Place to Yours

    Excellent post, Lisa! While I don’t send nearly as many letters as I used to before email and texting, I still send lots of cards. Thank you cards are a “must” with me, and sympathy cards are right there with them. Thankfully, I learned many years ago that when it comes to “sympathy” situations, it’s always best to NOT avoid them but jump right in and do the awkward. If you’re not ready for that in person, start by sending sympathy cards. If you can’t imagine how someone feels, tell them that! If you hurt for a friend but don’t know what to say, say that! Just the fact that someone takes time to select a card, put words on the page, add a stamp, and put it in the mail means the world when someone is grieving. In the big scheme of things, it’s really such a TINY investment in a friend’s life. Surely we can do that—and you’ve offered wonderful suggestions to help readers get started.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I don’t send near as many hand-written things anymore either (and that’s not all bad–I do send lots of texts! ha). I used to be diligent about sending birthday cards, but now I even send less of those and just wish a HB on FB. But there are definitely situations that still call for a card–I totally agree with you on thank-you’s and sympathy!

      You have great tips right here yourself, Susan. Thanks for sharing and encouraging us to speak up in whatever ways we can.

  6. Barbara H.

    I agree on all your points here. A verse that someone shared on a card after my mom died was Psalm 119:76: “Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to thy word unto thy servant.” It “hit” in just the right spot, and I have used it on sympathy cards since then.

  7. Lynn Severance

    What a caring posting, Lisa.
    I also saved all the cards sent to me when my Mom died and they mean so much – almost more re-reading them later after those initial weeks when so much is on our minds with all that has to be done.

    I tend to send cards later on for I know mail boxes or baskets to hold cards at a memorial service get full. Hearing from a friend later on can help on the harder days.

    The most meaningful card that came to me – because it was unexpected and because of what he said – was from my Mom’s doctor. I keep wanting to get around to framing it – not the card per se but the handwritten personal eloquence that are his words.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      “Hearing from a friend later on can help on the harder days.”
      Amen to this, Lynn. Sometimes you need it even more on those days because not only are you still grieving, but you’re often feeling the world has moved on without you. At those times it’s especially sweet to get a reminder that you’re not forgotten.

      How special that you have a note from your mom’s doctor. I hope you do get it framed. In a reverse situation, I remember for several years after Kali died, a note of appreciation that I had written afterwards to my doctor was kept in my file. I’d notice it taped to a folder when I went in. I always thought it was sweet that they held on to it.

  8. Jean Wise

    Perfect guidelines, Lisa. I am really glad you mentioned the last one. So often we think it is so late to write yet for the recipient that may be just the right time. When my mom became a widow, she would wait 6 months when an acquaintance lost a spouse, call them and go to lunch together. She thought postponing that reaching out at that time worked, since by then they were less numb and others were not as supportive as most returned to normal. Great ideas.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You had a wise mother, Jean. And a special friend. Taking someone out 6 months afterwards is a beautiful gesture that I’m sure blessed so many people. Thanks for passing that along here. May we do likewise.

  9. Nicki Schroeder

    Great encouragement Lisa! When we found out we couldn’t have kids and went thru that raw, emotional loss (which we are still grieving) a friend of mine sent us a beautiful card every couple weeks, reminding us of how much Jesus loves us thru our grief. It was one of the most significant things my soul needed during that time. And I am not sure she even understands the depth of how much it meant and encouraged. It’s worth taking the time to let people know how much you love them. I try to send cards regularly to people close to me. I am so glad others were able to encourage you over the loss of your parents. And I hope the sadness is now replaced by beautiful memories. Blessings!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Not being able to have kids is definitely a loss that takes much grieving. I’m so sorry, Nicki. What a thoughtful friend you have! I love “small” gestures like that, which are really huge when they happen to us. There are people like that who have been there for me through specific traumas, and I won’t forget either. Little things matter so much!

  10. Rosemary Lackey

    Thank you very much for sharing this helpful and practical post. When my father died, an old friend from his church wrote to me. He told me that when my dad was home on leave during World War II, he would round up Army buddies and bring them to church and several of them came to know the Lord at that time. I had no idea that my daddy had done that and would not know about it to this day were it not for the thoughtful note in a sympathy card. You can imagine how much that means to me! Sharing a story of the loved one continues to be a comforting remembrance through the years. Maybe I’m remembering this acutely right now because it so happens that my dad went to heaven 34 years ago today!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      What a beautiful memory to uncover! I’m so glad your father’s friend shared that with you, Rosemary. Priceless info you couldn’t have gotten at that point any other way. And thank you for sharing it here with me. I read it aloud to my family because it was so touching.

  11. Beth

    I treasured those cards too, Lisa, when my mom and then later my dad died. It truly brought comfort to my grieving. I’m so glad that you’ve offered some pointers too because I don’t think people recognize the small expressions that can mean so much. I really like the idea of sharing a memory they have of the one you’ve lost. Hugs to you, my friend!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m sorry you’ve already had to experience the loss of both your parents too, Beth. But glad you had the same experience with getting comfort from cards like I did. It just seems such a small thing to do when we send a card, but when we receive one, it feels very big!

  12. Nicole

    Thinks for this .. I’m searching for the words for a heartfelt, meaningful message to write in sympathy card … I think I’ve come to the right place.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *