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

caring is more important than what you say

The Anatomy of a Sympathy Note:

Dear Deborah,

1. Acknowledge the loss.

Our family was deeply saddened today when we heard from Bill that you had lost your mother.

2. Express your sympathy.

We are all thinking of you and send our heartfelt sympathy.

3. Note special qualities of the deceased or the bereaved, or recount a memory about the deceased.

In the years we lived next door, your mother was the most wonderful neighbour! She was always warm, gracious, and ready to lend a hand. We feel fortunate to have known her.

4. Close with a thoughtful word or phrase.

With affection and deepest condolences

More sample condolence notes:

• Dear Mr. Horas,

Please accept our condolences on the passing of your mother, whom we were privileged to have as a dear neighbour for the past eighteen years. Many of her friends share your grief, and I know she will always remain very much alive in the memories of all of us who loved, respected, and treasured her.

Please convey our sympathies to other members of your family.


Delores and Jim Laughlin

• My Dear Lorraine,

Thank you for letting us know that you and George are divorcing. I naturally have all sorts of mixed feelings--sorrow that it didn't work out, sympathy for all the time and energy you both put into your relationship, and some relief that things will be better for both of you. This is a rough patch, but you are resilient and you will come out on the other side of it before too long.

I'll be out of town for the next two weeks, but could we have dinner together some night after that? I'll call.

Lots of love, S.

• Dear Harold,

Please accept the condolences of everyone here at Delmar Industries on the passing of your father. Although none of us ever met him, we all enjoyed your delightful stories about his many travelling adventures, and we extend to you our sympathy on the loss of a dear father who was also a mentor, friend, and hiking buddy to you.

• Dear Mr. Harris,

I've just heard about the robbery and vandalism you had at the store last night. That is surely one of the greatest nightmares of any small business owner.

Can I help? What do you need? I thought you could use an extra pair of hands, so I'm sending this note over with Lily Cross, my assistant manager. She can stay until 5 p.m., helping you with whatever needs doing.

I'll give you a call tomorrow, but if I can do anything for you between now and then, let me know.

• My dear Trudy,

I wish I could hug you right now--not that it would change anything. It's hard to imagine how much you must be hurting. You and Theo were always such a pair--I can't picture you without him (nor could I have ever pictured him without you). I send you my love and sympathy and prayers. I'm glad you have the children and their families nearby--you'll all be there for each other.

I keep thinking of last autumn when we were all together--the laughter, the fun, the warmth. Theo was in top form, and it seemed as if that world, and the party, would go on forever.

You two have always been such a model to me of what a loyal, longterm relationship could be. I loved the look on your face when you looked at Theo--and he had the same look for you. There was a warmth between you that many people would never know. He had a way of looking on the bright side that was contagious--you couldn't be around him without feeling good. He had such an easy, gracious way about him and he made everybody feel they were special to him--I know he always made me feel that way.

This is, and will be, hard to think about. I hope all the years of love and happy memories will be a comfort to you. All my thoughts and love are with you now and always.

With love, G.

• Dear Alice,

Your phone call telling us about Phil's suicide was the saddest news we have ever received. Our hearts go out to you.

We both feel a need to talk about Phil's life, not his death. That his wonderful gifts and graces and contributions--in short, the manner of his life--should be overshadowed by the manner in which he left this life is one more intolerable grief.

Did I ever tell you about how we met him? Or about our wonderful road trip the week we all graduated from college? Or the time we had dinner together and none of us had any money with us? You know he helped us tile the bathroom floor, but did we ever tell you about the mix-up between the tile cement and the grout?

Please, when you can, let us find time to be together to tell some of our stories about Phil.

We'll be in touch. You know you have our deepest sympathy and our love and friendship always.

• Dear Larry,

I was sorry to hear that your efforts to keep the new highway from going through your property were unsuccessful. I remember the day twenty years ago when you took me out to see that poor neglected piece of land. You certainly have worked wonders with it.

I hope you can find some way of living with this or maybe even of finding some good in it (I know, I don't see any either at the moment). From studying the paper, I see that most of your place will remain untouched, but that's not very comforting when you're facing the havoc to the rest of it.

I'll stop by one of these weekends to see how it's going.

Many of the above notes are provided for your convenience, from Great Letters for Every Occasion

Complete letters of condolence after which to model your own:
when you know the deceased;
when you didn't know the deceased.