Writing a Sympathy Letter

Writing a sympathy letter can be difficult because often times we feel awkward addressing such a serious matter, or we worry about saying the wrong thing. It can be tempting not to say anything at all and let our insecurities get the better of us.

In my experience, people would rather hear from you than not. They may not consciously be thinking that they need your support, but your words can be uplifting in a time that they really need it. Even the slightest reminder that you are thinking about them during their hard time will help them through it.

To-Do’s of Writing a Sympathy Note

Just write one. The first suggestion about sympathy letters is to always err on the side of writing one. It doesn’t matter if you knew the person they lost well or not at all, go ahead and take the time to send a letter. It’s better to share sympathies in a letter as opposed to bringing it up to the person because sharing sympathies in public can bring up all of the grieving person’s feelings at a time when they’d rather remain composed. A letter, on the other hand, can be reviewed and appreciated in private.

KIS – Keep it simple. Your grieving friend just wants to know that you’re thinking of them, so don’t feel like you have to come up with a profound statement about death and life.

Relive a memory. Sharing a memory of the deceased person gives your grieving friend a few moments to relive special memories of their loved one and lets them know that others have fond memories of that person too.

Don’t compare your losses. This is especially true if you haven’t experienced the exact same thing. If you have experienced a similar loss, a reference to your ability to truly sympathize is appropriate. But don’t go on and on about how you felt during that time; the focus should remain on the other person.

Don’t try to justify the loss. Don’t deliver platitudes like “This is God’s plan,” or “He is better off now,” This will not offer your friend any condolences, even if it may be true.

Express your support. Let them know that you’re thinking and praying for them. Simply saying, “My thoughts go out to you during this difficult time”, is sufficient.

Offer your help. Let the person know that if there is anything you can do for them or if they ever want to talk or hang out, to please let you know.

Example:
Dear Mitch-

I was so sorry to hear about the death of your father, Frank. I remember when we would go fishing, he’d always be telling us tales of past fishing glories. He was definitely a great guy to be around and was always making me laugh.

I am thinking and praying for you every day. If you ever want to talk, don’t hesitate to let me know.

With Deepest Sympathy,

If you or someone you know has suffered a loss recently, you may find our piece on loss and grieving helpful. Feel free to schedule an appointment to discuss any planning needs you have and we will be more than happy to assist you.

Patrick Daniels is the Financial Planning Analyst at Precedent Asset Management, serving clients as a fee-only advisor in the Indianapolis, Indiana area and nationwide, through coordinated financial planning and investment management.