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“You are in our thoughts and prayers” Ideas and tips on compassionate letters of condolence
Death is part of life. When we learnt of Uncle Walter’s death, we knew what deep sadness Auntie Elisabeth would be feeling. Words of sympathy can provide solace. But how do you write a personal and compassionate card or pen a comforting letter? Following these tips will help you find the right tone.
Giving your letter a personal touch – tips on choice of words
- Put yourself in the place of the grieving family. How are you feeling? Was the death sudden or expected? What would you like to read if you’d lost somebody close?
- Standard phrases will help you when writing a letter of condolence, but try to express yourself in a personal way. The bereaved family will receive lots of mail. A good letter of condolence stands out in terms of content and tone.
- Include personal content. There’s no reason why you can’t write about yourself – how do you feel in such situations? What helped you when you lost somebody close? Or recount a personal anecdote that connects you to the deceased.
- Sometimes people who’ve suffered bereavement are overwhelmed – both emotionally and by all the things they’ve got to organize. Offer support or simply be there to listen if someone wants to talk.
- Judge the length of the letter by how close you are to the bereaved or how well you knew the deceased. A courtesy letter can be quite short. A more personal and longer letter is more apt for people close to you.
Two examples of support
I would like to express my deepest condolences. You are in our thoughts and prayers. I hope you find the time to reflect on fond memories and to come to terms with your loss emotionally despite all the things you have to do. I also hope those close to you help you through this difficult time by being there to listen and to support you.
I always looked up to your mother. I admired her zest for life and willingness to help others which were reflected in lots of little ways – for example, she treated her children’s school friends like her own. I remember one time – when we were about 12 – she drove me home after I’d spent the day at your place. She suddenly turned the car radio on, wound the window down and we sang “Holding Out for a Hero” by Bonnie Tyler at the top of our voices. Then she bought me a can of Fanta from the kiosk which I thought was wonderful at the time.
Is there anything at all I can do to help? Perhaps dealing with the condolence cards? Simply let me know – I’m always there for you.
Take care and big hugs.
PS.: I found the photo recently when tidying up. I was with you on a summer holiday in France. Your mother couldn’t figure out why we wanted to fetch baguettes early every morning. Did you ever tell her the tale about the boy at the bakery?
Doris fought hard for so long. In recent weeks we all had to come to terms with the fact that the illness would win. It is still hard to accept that Doris has gone. We can’t imagine how difficult it must be for you, Nathalie, Lorenz and Matthias after spending almost 40 years together. Deepest condolences, Werner – we are deeply saddened and you and the children are in our thoughts.
Jürg and I are there for you. Perhaps you have enough support at the moment. Doris knew lots of people from the Lions Club, Pilates and the alumni group. I’m sure her friends are helping you through this difficult time with words of comfort and support. Please feel free to call on us at any time – whether it’s six months or two years from now, in the middle of the night or at holiday times.
Would you like to spend a few days with us at our holiday home in Adelboden? Perhaps when the time comes to look back on fond memories, to smile again and to think about the future?
We couldn’t believe how well Doris was looked after over the past few weeks on the palliative care ward and how the nursing staff did everything they could to make her life as pleasant as possible in this difficult situation. We’ve decided to make a donation to the hospital in memory of Doris.
We will always have fond memories of Doris, a stylish and elegant woman full of ideas and boundless energy.
Jürg and Brigitte
Handwritten and personal – design tips
- Use your best handwriting to pen the letter. Read our tips on handlettering.
- Design your own stylish card. For example, by using a stunning photo of a hike in nature. This could be black and white, but doesn’t have to be. Or fold paper to make a crane. Instructions can be found online. The envelope with your letter or card can be up to 2 cm thick, including any cardboard or bubble wrap used as protective packaging that may be needed depending on the contents.
- Opt for a high-quality envelope – strong paper, maybe with lining and a slightly textured surface. Stick a suitable stamp on the envelope.
- Include something personal as well as a contribution to the grave decoration: for example, a gorgeous photo you took of the deceased years ago or a pressed flower from your garden.