When your family member, friend, associate or co-worker has lost someone dear to them – it’s natural for you to want to reach out to them. Most people do this through a condolence letter. It’s the perfect way to let someone know that you’re there for them, without intruding on them in their time of sorrow.
What is a Condolence Letter?
A condolence letter is something that people cherish as a memento of the friends and family that supported them through a very difficult time. Typically, it’s a letter or note which expresses your sorrow and offers help and support to the bereaved. It should be sent out within 2 weeks of you hearing of the recipient’s loss. Here are some more important tips to help you write a heartfelt, proper condolence letter.
What Should a Condolence Letter Contain?
There are several things which your condolence letter or note should contain, including:
- How you heard of the loss.
- How the loss made you feel.
- Special traits or characteristics of the person who passed.
- Memories or thoughts of the person deceased.
- An offering of support and help to the recipient.
- A heartfelt closing.
You can start by telling the addressee how sorry you are for their loss and how you are affected by the loss as well. This helps let the person know that he or she is not alone in their suffering – which is very supportive and helpful at a time like this. Talking about special characteristics and memories of the person that has passed allows you to connect with the recipient and reminds them to think of the good times.
When you are mentioning character traits or good memories of the deceased, mention their name often. This is comforting to the person reading the condolence letter or note and will resonate better with them. Next, you want to reach out to the recipient in their time of need and let them know that you are there for them. Offer help or support and make sure the offer is specific. Keeping things general, like, “Please let me know if you need anything,” makes it more difficult for the recipient to actually contact you and ask for help.
However, if you specifically offer something, they can take you up on it much easier. You may offer to baby-sit their children if they need some private time, or you could offer to prepare food for a few days – anything to help them as they are dealing with other issues concerning the deceased. Even offering for them to call you if they need to talk is a great idea.
Finally, a genuine and heartfelt closing is how you should end the letter. Wish them well and let them know that they are in your thoughts and prayers. You will find some example closings in the sample condolence letters below.
Quick Tips for Writing Condolence Notes:
- Don’t write your letter in a formal or stiff manner. A great way to determine if your letter sounds natural and genuine is to read it out loud. It should sound as if you are simply speaking to the recipient.
- Avoid mentioning anything other than the deceased and wishing the recipient well. For instance, adding details about your family or asking questions unrelated to the loss is not a good idea.
- Follow through with any offer you make to the recipient. If you offer to call them in a few days to check in with them, make sure you do so. If you offer to baby-sit their children, make sure you follow up with a phone call in a few days and reiterate the offer. If you can’t follow through with something, don’t offer it in the letter.
- Write your condolence letter or note on pretty stationary or paper. You can even opt for a sympathy card, but insert your letter rather than writing the entire thing on the card.