Dear Mrs. McVeigh,
I noticed that you had an Instagram post about thank you notes. I have been trying to write a note to someone who recently had a relative pass away. I know how much I appreciated receiving notes after my father-in-law died. Do you have any advice on what to say when writing a condolence note?
I am so glad that you are wanting to write your own note, instead of sending a store-bought card. I think a hand written note is so much more appreciated! When writing a sympathy note, I always say how sorry I am for them and their family during this difficult time. If I know the person well and know they had a good relationship with the deceased, I may say something such as, “I hope the good memories you have of her bring you comfort in this difficult time.” Or “I have such fond memories of you mom. She was such a special person to so many people.” If I know they are spiritual I will end it with how the person’s family is in my thoughts and prayers.
The types of phrases you should avoid include: “They lived a good life;” or “I know what you are going through;” or “I cannot imagine what you are going through.” I have had people tell me that comments like this have bothered them when people have verbally said this to them at a funeral. One person said when people told him on the death of his sister that she “lived a good life,” he said he kept on thinking “No she did not!” Another man told me his grandmother lived until an old age, and when people asked him how old she was, they would then say, “I am sorry, but at least she lived a long life.” He said that did not make him feel any better. He just wanted to hear, “I am sorry.”
Keep in mind how sensitive people are when someone they love passes away. When unsure of what to write in a sympathy card, phrases such as “I am sorry and I am thinking about you,” is really what people want to hear.