Condolence Messages - How to Write and Reply to them

Condolence Messages - How to Write and Reply to them

Condolence messages can be of great comfort both to the writer and to the recipient. Writing a message lets you express your sentiments and feelings about the departed. Reading a sympathy message can make you feel the support and care of those who knew the deceased.

Here are a few tips on how to write a condolence message and some thoughts about their effects on the recipient.

Writing a sympathy message to someone you know well

Begin with "Dear (name). If you are addressing a whole family naming each individual member will make the message seem special to each person. Next, express your condolences so that the person knows that you feel sadness and sympathy for their loss. Mention some of the things that made the departed person important or particularly appreciated by you.

Feel free to include a personal memory of a special moment shared with the departed. These anecdotes can comfort the bereaved as they discover how special their departed loved one was to others also. If you are going to go to the funeral take the opportunity to confirm your attendance or apologise if you are unable to go. If appropriate, you can offer your help in practical tasks, like gardening or childminding. Or, just let the recipient know that you are available if they want to talk. Many recently bereaved people do not know who to turn to and your offer of support could be just what they need at this difficult time. End your message with an appropriate sign-off.

Writing a condolence message to an acquaintance

If you did not know the deceased, or the person to whom you are writing, very well, keep your letter more formal. Follow the same basic structure as above but be more distant. The recipient will appreciate the courtesy of your message above an exaggerated response to the death of a person you were merely acquainted with.

Some DO NOTS for condolence messages

Avoid comments which may not coincide with the belief system of the recipient. While you may believe the departed is now in heaven others may not. Also, phrases like "everything happens for the best" or "I know what you're going through", which may be expressed with sincerity, can sound hurtful.  Finally, steer away from humorous stories, unless you are very close to the deceased and the recipient, as these can come across as uncaring or even insulting.

Should you reply to condolence messages?

Only if you want to. People do not normally expect a reply to a sympathy message. However, if you feel inspired to reply to some of them you may find that it helps to calm you and centre your thoughts through this difficult period.