Here are some sample condolence and sympathy letters from which to model your own message of support.

WHEN YOU DIDN'T KNOW THE DECEASED

The following letter illustrates seven components to cover in a typical condolence letter. In this case, the writer knows both the bereaved and the deceased. Adapt the letter if the deceased is known, butyou haven't met the person to whom you are writing.


Dear Ellen,

1. Acknowledge the loss.

This morning Mr. Moore told us the sad news of your father’s sudden death.

2. Express your sympathy.

Let me first extend my heartfelt sympathy to you and your family. The loss must touch you very deeply as you face these first numbing days of grief.

3. Note special qualities of the deceased.

4. Recount a memory about the deceased.

(Note: These two components may not apply if you never met the deceased. However, it can be quite meaningful to the bereaved if you are able to recall any special qualities or memories they may have shared with you in the past about their loved one.)

Though I never met your Dad, I remember how touched I was when you described the scene as he recited a poem he’d composed for your mother at their fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration last year. His tenderness and humor were both captured in that story as was your obvious love for him.

5. Note special qualities of the bereaved.

While our relationship has been largely in the office, I have seen you handle challenging situations for the firm time and again. During this difficult period, I know you will draw on these same deep personal resources so many of us have come to respect and admire.

6. Offer assistance.

During your absence, Dan and I will cover your accounts—maybe not with your finesse, but with as much savvy as we can muster. We’ve had a terrific mentor.

7. Close with a thoughtful word or phrase.

Keep in mind that this office is filled with people who care about you and are thinking about you in your sorrow.