Gallery Collection

Etiquette for Expressing Condolences

Lily Sympathy Card
Lily Sympathy Card

One of the most difficult things to do in a greeting card is express condolences, because losing loved ones is such a personal event and everybody deals with their emotions differently. It is important to acknowledge and express your sympathy to those closest to the deceased. The sympathy card messages you include are equally as important. Here are the Who, What, When, Where and How's to sending Sympathy Cards:

Sympathy Card General Guidelines:

  • Don't be late. Mail your sympathy card as soon as possible after learning the difficult news. Keeping handy an assortment box of classic sympathy cards will help make sure that card gets mailed as quickly as possible, without an extra trip to the store.
  • If you don't know the family, but knew the deceased, the proper etiquette is to send the sympathy card to the closest relative of the deceased, who is generally the widow/widower or the eldest child. If you want to send condolences to a mourning family member or friend but did not know the deceased, address the card to that particular person.
  • When signing the sympathy greeting card, be sure to always include your last name. No matter how close you are, there could be others who have your same first name.
  • Print your return address on the envelope so a thank you card can be sent back to you.
  • Your message should be short and simple, the exception being if you were especially close to the person and want to share fond thoughts or memories.


Suggestions and Examples of Appropriate Phrases to Express your Sentiment:

  • I am sorry for your loss
  • Our deepest sympathy to you and your family
  • (Name of deceased) will always be in our hearts
  • In loving memory of (Name of deceased)
  • (Name of deceased's) memory will forever be with us
  • Our thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time
  • Please accept our condolences on the loss of your (mother/husband/friend)
  • My heartfelt condolences on the loss of your (mother/husband/friend)
  • With deepest sympathy at this time of sorrow

Keep in mind that the person you are sending the sympathy greeting card to is currently grieving their loss. You want to always remain sensitive to that person in your message. If you feel any phrase or wording could upset your recipient further, it is best play it safe and leave that part out of your message. Phrases such as the following may not be appropriate to include when composing your message for the sympathy card:

  • I know how you feel.
    (Grieving is too personal and unique to the individual to make a statement like this.)
  • It was their time.
  • You will get over this in time.
  • Call me if you need anything.
    (This is too general and could be taxing to the person receiving the card.)


Sending a greeting card is an excellent way to express your condolences. Having your sympathy card accompany a gift of flowers or a home cooked meal is also most appreciated. Remember that those grieving will need your support long after the services have concluded. Following up with a phone call or Thinking of You card can help to keep the lines of communication open and let the person know that you are available for him or her.