Of all the notes you write in your lifetime, sympathy notes are arguably the toughest to sit down and pen. It’s common for you to worry about finding the right words or saying the wrong thing. It can often be awkward talking about a serious matter, but your words can really bring comfort during a difficult time. While nothing can replace the person they lost, personalized bereavement cards are a nice way to show someone that you are thinking about them.

Consider Rules of Etiquette Before Beginning Your Sympathy Note

It is important to remember that this is an emotional time for the recipient, and before penning a bereavement note for a friend you need to consider a few simple etiquette rules:

  • Keep your letter short, but thoughtful
  • Don’t compare your loss to theirs
  • Sign with your full first and last name to avoid confusion
  • Refrain from offering financial help
  • Offering to cook a meal or helping with chores is okay, if appropriate
  • Do not try to explain the loss
  • Respect religious beliefs even if they differ from your own.

Start With an Appropriate Greeting

When you are trying to determine how to write a sympathy note for a friend, sometimes the hardest part is starting it. This person just lost someone they care about and you might not know how to properly express your condolences.

Keep in mind that the bereavement note you are writing is personal. Start by using the name of the person you are writing to. The closeness of your relationship with this person will dictate the specific wording, but you can choose from:

  • Dear
  • Dear Friend
  • Dearest
  • Dear Ms.
  • Dear Mr.

These are just a few options to start your condolence note but should help get you started. If you have another variation in mind, it’s perfectly okay to use that.

Penning the First Words of a Condolence Letter for a Distant Friend

Now that you’ve started the sympathy note, the next step is writing the body of the letter. How to begin can be a challenge, but just remember to write from your heart. You can start by mentioning how you learned of their loss, and follow it up by expressing your sympathy. Here are a few options that you can use when penning your bereavement note:

I heard from ______ that you lost a distant friend and I wanted to reach out and offer my deepest condolences. 

I saw your post on Facebook that one of your friends passed away. I’m sorry to hear about your loss and wanted to share my sympathies with you. 

I wanted to extend my condolences for the loss of your friend. It is never easy to lose someone and I hope I can provide a measure of support during this emotional time. 

Whatever you choose to write, remember to keep in simple and be honest about what you know. Even the friend is distant, you might not know how close the relationship was in the past. 

Choose Appropriate Closing

The closing of a sympathy note should offer your friend support without being too emotional. Avoid using closings like “best regards” or “sincerely” because these are too formal for a bereavement note. Instead, mention that you will call them soon, or that they are in your thoughts. Here are a few other phrases you can use to end your personalized bereavement card:

  • With sincere sympathy
  • Know that I will be thinking of you and your family
  • I will check in on you in a few days
  • Know that my thoughts are prayers are with you
  • I will call you soon

These examples offer support, without getting too emotional. Again, the closeness of your relationship will dictate how you close a bereavement note for a friend.

Sending a Condolence Card with a Sympathy Gift

If you can’t bring yourself to write a personal sympathy note for your friend, that’s okay. Another way to reach out to your friend is by sending a sympathy gift to them. Flowers or other bereavement gifts are a good way to brighten up their day, but be sure to pen a short sympathy card to go with them.  For a distant friend, here a few options for what to use on your personalized condolence card:

  • I am praying for you
  • Know that you are in my thoughts
  • I hope these flowers show how much I care
  • Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers during this emotional time
  • May this gift serve as an expression of my sympathy

Remember that showing your friend you care is the most important aspect of sending personalized bereavement cards. Whether it’s a short personalized note or words of support sent with a sympathy gift, your friend will appreciate the kind gesture.

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