Valley of Life | Online Memorial Blog

A letter To Your Loved One; Properly Writing and Sending Condolence Letters


Condolence letters are considered some of the most difficult letters to write and send because of their very sensitive nature. Even so, when someone close to you is dealing with the loss of a loved one, the grief and bereavement, writing and sending a condolence letter is probably one of the most considerate, kind, and thoughtful things you can do.

A condolence letter, if written properly, can show that you care about your friend and what they’re going through and that you are sympathetic to their loss. Although there are many different ways to remember a loved one, such as a funeral, memorial service, online memorials, and online obituaries, writing and sending condolence letters can also be your way of not only expressing sympathy but also in remembering a loved one and sharing those memories with your grieving friend or relative.

The problem is that many people have a hard time finding the right words to express themselves in writing during such a sensitive time. Before you put pen to paper or start thinking of what on you are possibly going to write, keep in mind that your letter, in addition to being carefully and well-written, should aim to achieve three main purposes. The first is to express sympathy and comfort to your friend or relative experiencing the loss of a loved one. The second is to honor and pay tribute to the deceased and the third is to let the bereaved person know that you are available should they need help. If you are able to keep these three things in mind, and put them on paper, your condolence letter will in fact be honest and heartfelt.

As you begin writing, you may run into some things you are not sure how to address. If, for instance, you don’t know the name of person who died (for example, it could be your best friend’s grandmother), find out. This will make your condolence letter more personal and meaningful. If you’re uncomfortable asking, find out at the funeral or memorial service, or search online – their obituary may be online or an online memorial may have been set up. Try to be personal and heartfelt in your letter, without being too sentimental and gushing. You can start by acknowledging what happened—the person’s death, how you found out about it, how it made you feel, etc. Do not go into detail about how or why the person died—this is completely unnecessary and unhelpful. Move on to express sympathy and comfort to your friend or relative in bereavement.

Next, include positive statements about the relationship between the deceased and your friend or loved one, if appropriate, as well as positive statements about your relationship with the deceased. Don’t forget to include something positive about them in general—his or her good qualities, characteristics, personality, hobbies, interests, good memories, etc. Remembering a loved one in healthy, positive ways should be a part of all condolence letters.

In writing your condolence letter, avoid clichés like “I know how you feel” or “This is for the best” or “This is God’s will”—these statements are generally not sincere or heartfelt and don’t really serve a purpose. Even if you have lost a loved one, and even if the relationship was similar (for example, your roommate just lost her father, and your father has also passed away), this doesn’t mean you know how she feels—everyone experiences grief differently, and everyone’s relationships with their loved ones are different. Further, who are you to say what’s for the “best” and what God’s will is?

Also, avoid writing general statements about your willingness to help if needed (this is unfortunately very common in condolence letters). While you likely have a desire to do something for your friend or relative who is grieving for the loss of a loved one, think of something practical that you can specifically do, and then offer your services—but only if you can follow through.

How do you send a condolence letter? First of all, it’s usually not appropriate to type and then print one out using your computer. Secondly, avoid e-mailing a condolence letter, save for special or extreme circumstances. The best way to write and send your letter is to handwrite it using stationery. Remembering a loved one and offering support through a condolence letter requires a personal touch.

When mailing your letter, make sure it’s mailed within two weeks or so of the person’s death in order to properly pay your respects in a timely manner.

Writing a condolence letter is not an easy task. It is a difficult but necessary thing we may all have to do in our life to help aid a loved one in a time of need. Take this as a simple guide to get you on your way as you have to take on the task.

~Ben Anton, 2007

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5 Responses to “A letter To Your Loved One; Properly Writing and Sending Condolence Letters”

  1. Purchasing the appropriate flowers for a funeral service | Blog Archive | Valley of Life | Online Memorial Blog Says:

    [...] times people will send flowers and a thoughtful condolence letter as a way to extend love and support to a family or friend who has lost someone they love. Flowers [...]

  2. When Sending Flowers, Brevity With Words is Okay | Blog Archive | Valley of Life | Online Memorial Blog Says:

    [...] arrangement with a long message. Save your deeper thoughts and words of encouragement for a formal condolence letter instead and let the beauty of your floral arrangement say what needs to be said. Below are a few [...]

  3. How to Know What Flower Arrangement to Send to a Grieving Loved One | Blog Archive | Valley of Life | Online Memorial Blog Says:

    [...] to encourage and lift them from the sadness and grief that is sure to engulf them. Many do this by sending a written condolence or calling them to give words of encouragement. For many of us, it is hard to put all of the [...]

  4. Book of Loss and Hope May Be Appropriate Gift This Season | Blog Archive | Valley of Life | Online Memorial Blog Says:

    [...] into the help you may receive from this book. “What hopeless situation troubles your heart? The death of a loved one? The memories of childhood abuse? The diagnosis of terminal illness? The strain of financial [...]

  5. Cara @ intimeofsorrow Says:

    Wonderful help! Thank you for this resource.

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