Crafting a Personal Condolence Letter: Finding the Right Words

Writing a heartfelt condolence letter can be challenging, as finding the right words to express your sympathy without resorting to clichés or empty phrases can feel daunting. In this expert guide, we offer advice on how to write a personal condolence message that truly conveys your heartfelt support.

Understanding the Relationship:

Tailoring your letter to the bereaved person and your connection with the deceased is essential. According to funeral celebrant and soul midwife Charlotte Haigh, the tone and content of the letter should reflect your knowledge of both individuals. Even if you were close friends, finding the appropriate words can still be a delicate task.

Dos and Don’ts of a Condolence Letter:

  • Use a Handwritten Approach:

In our digital age, the impact of a handwritten letter holds a special significance. Charlotte emphasizes the personal touch and suggests that a handwritten letter feels more intimate and meaningful than a typed message.

  • Keep it Concise:

Recognize that the grieving process can be overwhelming, so avoid overwhelming the recipient with a lengthy letter. A brief and sincere condolence message can be incredibly powerful and comforting, especially when delivered from a friend.

  • Express Empathy and Share Memories:

Start your letter by expressing your heartfelt condolences. A simple phrase like “I’m so sorry to hear about [their name], and I want you to know I’m thinking about you” can set a compassionate tone. Sharing a special memory or two about the deceased can provide comfort and offer a fuller picture of their life, demonstrating their importance to others.

  • Offer Practical Assistance:

Instead of offering generic support, such as “Let me know if you need anything,” be specific in your offer of help. Consider offering to take care of certain tasks like looking after the children, doing a grocery run, or meeting for coffee on a regular basis.

  • Avoid Clichés and Religious Assumptions:

Platitudes and clichés rarely offer genuine comfort, so steer clear of phrases like “they had a good innings” or “things happen for a reason.” Additionally, unless the bereaved person shares your religious beliefs, it’s best to avoid incorporating overly religious imagery or language.

  • Maintain a Personal Sign-off:

Rather than using formal language, keep your closing warm and personal. Reiterate your feelings of loss and let the recipient know that they and their family are in your thoughts.

When writing a condolence letter, it’s crucial to approach it with sensitivity and authenticity. By following these guidelines, you can create a personal message that conveys your empathy, shares cherished memories, and offers practical assistance. Remember, you don’t have to navigate the process alone—seeking support and referring to bereavement resources can help guide you through this challenging time.