Offering Condolences

Has a friend, neighbor, or relative experienced the death of someone close to them? Has someone you know experienced a loss or misfortune? Has someone been recently divorced or had a miscarriage? Has there been an accident or the loss of a loved pet?

Although sympathy letters are probably the most difficult types of letters to write, these tips will help you write a sympathy letter that is tactful and appreciated.

Guidelines for writing condolence letters:

  • A simple "I'm sorry" is sometimes the only thing that is necessary to say. Avoid being overly dramatic. Keep the letter as brief and as short as possible.
  • Make sure you include the name of the person who died or mention the specific incident that caused sorrow for the person.
  • If you knew the deceased, mention something positive about the person, such as a memory, a short story, or anything else that pays tribute to their life.
  • Condolences can be offered through prayers, thoughts and good wishes, but avoid being too religious if you do not know the person very well.
  • Offer to help in some way.
  • People should be allowed to mourn in their own way and in their own time. Do not tell the person to look at the bright side.
  • Notes for acquaintances and colleagues should be written in the same way as notes for friends or relatives, although shorter.
  • Be careful with your word choice. Avoid using uncomfortable words that may indicate that the death was tragic or gruesome.
  • When writing your letter, imagine yourself in the other person's place.
  • Close with an expression of sympathy or affection.


Helpful words you can use: Click on each word to get definitions and examples from WordNet 1.6 Vocabulary Helper.

Burden Caring Comfort Comforting
Compassion Compassionate Concerned Consolation
Console Difficult Endure Grieve
Heal Help Hope Hurt
Hurtful Loss Love Misfortune
Mourn Overcome Pain Painful
Regret Sad Shocking Sorrow
Sorry Struggles Tragic Unfortunate


Death of a Pet

Dear Gregory,

I am sorry to hear about the death of your dog, Barky. I know how much you will miss him. I will miss him jumping up to greet me when I visit you. I hope that you are doing well during this difficult time. If you ever feel lonely and need someone to talk to, please do not hesitate to call me.

Take care of yourself.


Your Signature

Your typed name


Loss of a Job

Dear Stu,

I was saddened to hear that you lost your job at the Academia Institute. I know that you were really excited about the prospect of working there. I hope that this time does not become too difficult for you. I wish you luck in finding a new job, and in all your other pursuits.

Remember I am your cousin and will do anything I can for you. Please let me know if there is anything I can do. Take care of yourself.


Your Signature

Your typed name



Dear Diamond Sky,

I was saddened to hear about your divorce. I know this is a difficult and painful time, and I wish you all the compassion and support you deserve. If you ever need help in taking care of the girls or with anything else, let me know.

You are in my prayers.

Best wishes,

Your Signature

Your typed name


Sourced by Janel Muyesseroglu

Updated June 2, 2016
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