Tips for Writing a Short Sympathy Note

Writing a sympathy note doesn’t come easy and natural to most people. It requires carefully choosing your words to express empathy and condolences. But sympathy notes are one of those tricky and difficult things to write, that you don’t really know what to say and how to say it, but you kind of have to because it is really important for the receiver and will show him or her that you are with them in their most difficult time. So here are some tips on writing a short sympathy note for those of you who are full of compassion but not really good at expressing themselves.

1. Keeping it simple

A lot of people think that they need to write something philosophical or poetic in a sympathy note. This might work if it’s your style and you are really, really good at it, but most of the time it is really for the best to keep it short and simple. A sympathy note is for the receiver to know that you are there for him or her and to express your sympathy, not to dwell on the meaning of life and existence. So skip the ten dollar words and keep it simple and colloquial.

2. Express your sadness

Again, keeping it simple express your sadness about the unfortunate event. Tell them how you were affected when you heard about the death, etc… Be sincere and don’t try to fake, exaggerate or make the grief poetic.

3. Share

There are no magic words to make the grief disappear but sharing a story where you have experienced grief will help you connect with the person you are writing the sympathy note to. It will bring you two closer to share a similar memory and tell them how it changed you. This step is for really close friends only, if you don’t really know the person that well, you might skip this step.

4. Don’t explain or rationalize

Even if both of you are highly religious people, when writing a sympathy note, leave God out of it. Don’t try to explain in religious logic that God takes the best people for himself etc. Even if the person on the receiving end is a religious one this will not make them feel better. The best case scenario is they are as religious as you are, and this could still provoke anger which is not what you want from a short sympathy note.

5. Don’t compare your pain to theirs

Everyone goes through their own grieving process and everyone deals with and experiences grief differently so assuming that you know exactly how they feel is just wrong. Don’t compare a pass loss you have experienced to their current one, especially if it is not the same thing. Even if it is, you talking about grief and taking a higher position as someone who’s been through the thing they are going through now will surely come off as ignorant and just have a negative effect.

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