Sympathy Card Writing Etiquette

Write a card to your friend to express how sorry you are that someone in her family has passed away.
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When a friend or relative has passed away, you may worry about what to say in a handwritten sympathy card to the family. The best thing is to say is “what you truly feel,” says the Emily Post Institute. Your sincerity will be appreciated. If you wish to share a memory of the deceased in your note, that is fine. It is a "welcome addition, but is completely optional," according to the institute.

1 What to Write

If you know that your bereaved friend uses email regularly, you can first email your friend, and then follow up with a handwritten sympathy card. Don’t write that you know how your bereaved friend feels or that the deceased’s passing “is a blessing in disguise.” State that you are deeply saddened to learn of the death, and then write something positive about the deceased, such as “She was very kind” or "He always welcomed us." Close with a sentence such as “You are in our thoughts” and "In deepest sympathy,” or a similar expression and then sign your name. Address the handwritten card as you would any formal card, with the title that applies, such as Mr., Ms., Miss, or Mrs., and then write your friend's full name on the envelope.

Kathryn Esplin, a veteran copy editor, wrote for The Globe and Mail, The Montreal Gazette, and copy edited for Addison-Wesley, and several years for IDG. She holds a journalism degree from Medill and a B.A. in English from McGill. A memoir, "Of Things Human, Life, Remarriage, Death" was published in "Blended Families (Social Issues Firsthand)."