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What to write in a sympathy card to express your sincere condolences

An expert shares how to craft a meaningful message that acknowledges their pain and offers support.

Nothing compares to the pain of losing a loved one.

When those dark days come — and unfortunately they do for most everyone — the support of family and friends brings much-needed comfort.

The truth is that nothing — flower deliveries, home-cooked meals, condolence gifts or other acts of kindness — can mend a broken heart, but they can certainly help ease the pain. Although some argue that actions speak louder than words, sometimes the best way to show your love and support is with a meaningful message from the heart.

But knowing exactly what to write in a sympathy card can be a challenge. For starters, saying “In sympathy” feels too formal and “I’m sorry” seems inadequate. Both, however, are better than saying "They're no longer suffering," "I know how you feel" or "Time will heal."

"These types of statements, though coming from a place of compassion, can feel presumptuous," Dr. Gwen Kesten, a clinical psychologist, told TODAY. "Everyone's grief journey is individual."

Instead, Kesten recommends letting the recipient know that you're there to support them in whatever way they need it most. “Let them know you’re available for them, if and when they want to talk or just want company,” she said.

If you still find yourself staring at a blank card wondering what to write, we've put together a list of sympathy messages with hopes that one of them will help get you started.

Sympathy messages for the loss of a father

  • A father’s love is everlasting and remains wrapped around you like an eternal blanket. Thinking of you at this difficult time.
  • It’s easy to see how much your dad loved you. You are kind and warm — just like him. Thinking of you today and always.
  • He may be gone, but he'll live on in your heart forever.
  • Words of comfort are hard to find when someone loses a father. In the absence of all the right things to say, please know that we share your sorrow and honor his memory.
  • Sending you all our love and the peace that comes from knowing that there will never be anyone as amazing as your dad. Our thoughts are with you.
  • You made your dad proud — every single day. And nothing will ever change that. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
  • The echoes of his laughter and the warmth of his smile live on. I’m so sorry for your loss.
  • He was more than just a father; he was a dad. We share in your sorrow.
  • As in life, your dad will always be with you. All you need to do is listen for his voice in the wind and feel the warmth of his spirit in the sunshine. Keeping you close in our thoughts.
  • The thing about your father? He was a legend to everyone who knew him. Larger than life, he leaves behind a legacy that was written in our hearts.

Sympathy messages for the loss of a mother

  • Your mom will be remembered for the warm light she shined on everyone who knew her. Thinking of you.
  • In loving memory of your mom, someone whose front door was always open with a hug just waiting for whoever came through it. She will be so missed.
  • To lose a mother is one of the most difficult things in life. I’m here if you need to talk, remember or reminisce.
  • There are so many things I remember about your mom, especially her easy laugh and the way she always made me feel welcome. I cherish those memories and share in your loss.
  • Please know how sad and sorry I am to learn of your mother’s passing. I hope the love of friends and family bring you comfort at this difficult time.
  • Even though I didn’t know your mom, your stories of her kindness and warm heart made me feel as though I did. I can only imagine how difficult her loss must be. I’m here for whatever you need.
  • Though nothing will ever take the place of the beautiful soul that was your mom, I hope the memories you shared bring comfort at this difficult time.
  • Your mom was one of those people who made everyone around her feel good. That’s just the kind of person she was.
  • Mothers are so many things that it’s hard to know how to pick up the pieces when they’re gone. Sending prayers to help mend your broken heart.
  • Every mom is special, but yours was head and shoulders above the rest. She’ll never be forgotten.

Sympathy messages for the loss of a husband or wife

  • Words simply aren’t enough to let you know how heartbroken I am over your loss. I’m only a call or text away for anything and everything you might need. I’m here to listen or share in your sadness.
  • The beautiful life your husband/wife lived remains in the flowers planted in the yard, the stones along the walkway and in the garden of our hearts.
  • Sending you a hug for every tear and a prayer for the difficult days ahead. Thinking of you during this time.
  • Remembering so many wonderful moments spent together, and it helps bring a smile through the tears. So privileged to have shared in the joy that was your husband/wife.
  • During this time, it’s hard to know what to say to help ease the pain of your loss. We are heartbroken. Sending thoughts of sympathy and healing during this sad time.
  • The sorrow of the loss speaks to the deep love shared. Nothing can ever take that away.
  • May the comfort and support of those who love you the most carry you through this time of sadness.
  • Grief is what comes with having loved as much as you two did. You inspired us all. My thoughts are with you.
  • Remembering your husband/wife with love. Sending you strength when you need it the most.
  • Lean on me — any day, any time. I will be here, day or night, for whatever you need to get through this unimaginable loss.

Sympathy messages for the loss of a family member

  • When it comes to grandmothers, yours was one of a kind. Thinking of you and your family during this difficult time.
  • Every moment with your sister was filled with joy, laughter and a light that shined like the sun. Even though the dark clouds have come, she’s still here.
  • It’s so much more than losing a brother. It’s saying goodbye to a lifetime of memories that only you share. Hoping those moments bring you some measure of comfort during this hard time.
  • A quick smile, an easy laugh and a warm welcome for anyone and everyone. Those are the things I think about when I remember your grandfather. Thinking of you.
  • Saying goodbye to a grandparent is one of the most difficult things in life. I’m so sorry that you are going through this right now and hope you won’t hesitate to reach out for anything.
  • Cousins are built-in friends for life, which is what makes this loss so difficult. We are so sad for you and your family.
  • It feels inadequate to tell you we’re sorry, because it doesn't come close to expressing the depth of our sorrow over your loss. There are no words, only prayers of comfort to help carry you through this dark time.
  • Having a sister is always knowing where home is. Even though she’s gone, I know she's there with you always.
  • Thinking of you and your family during these difficult times. Hoping memories of happier days bring you comfort and peace.
  • As long as they're merely a thought away, they will never be forgotten. May the passing of time help ease your sadness.