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How to Write a Condolence Letter

Hand holding pen writing in notebook

Condolence letters are written to show support and remember the child. Families may keep these letters as a remembrance of their child’s life and reread them as a source of comfort.

After the death of a child, a condolence letter can help bring comfort to the family. But it can be hard to know what to say. Friends want to sound genuine and offer support. But the words often do not come easily.

Condolence letters are written to benefit the family. They show support and remember the child. Families may keep these letters as a remembrance of their child’s life. They may reread them as a source of comfort. Families can learn new stories about the child and deepen ties with friends through sharing memories.

Tips for writing condolence letters

A note of condolence does not need to be long or complicated. The pressure of finding the “right” words often keeps people from writing. A few tips can help:

  • Handwrite the note if possible
  • Keep it simple
  • Be sincere and authentic
  • Share memories and make a personal connection
  • Avoid giving advice
  • Be careful about sharing religious beliefs

Use a calendar to remind you to follow up with phone calls or help. Make a reminder to send another card or reach out to the family with a text or phone call on important dates, such as the child’s birthday or anniversary of the death. This helps families know that they and their children are not forgotten.

What to say in a condolence letter

It can help to break the letter down into its basic parts: opening, middle, and closing. A helpful outline is to:

  1. Acknowledge the family’s loss
  2. Focus on remembering the child
  3. End with an offer of specific help or show of care and support

Condolence letter opening

Many people never send a note because they do not know where to begin. Write on simple stationery or a sympathy card. Start by writing a greeting. When writing to parents, consider addressing the letter to siblings as well.

  • Begin with a simple acknowledgement of the loss. Be sincere and express your feelings of sympathy.
  • Refer to the deceased by name. Identify your connection to the child.
    • “I wanted to share how very sorry we are for your loss. Aiden was in theater at school with my daughter Sophia.”
    • "I am heartbroken for the loss your family has suffered. It was a joy to have Luke in my class during third grade.”

Condolence letter middle

The main part of the letter should make a personal connection. Write from the heart. Often people feel as if they should be excessively formal given the situation. But honest feelings convey much more.

Reminders for writing the middle of the condolence note include:

  • Be personal and refer to the deceased and other family members by name
  • Share how the child or family have had an impact on you or your family
  • Acknowledge special characteristics or qualities of the child and their family
  • If possible, offer 1 or 2 specific memories.
    • “Sarah was such a talented writer. I was always amazed by her poetry. She was blessed with a gift for words!” 
    • “John and our boys could get into some trouble together – I will never forget the frog prank! But that mischievous grin of John’s -- It makes me smile just thinking about it.”

Condolence letter ending

The close of a condolence letter is often where help is offered. If you are unsure what to offer, simply express care and support.

When offering help:

  • Be specific in the help you offer. Instead of saying, “Please let us know if we can help in any way,” say, “We have signed up to bring you a meal and will drop it off next Tuesday.”
  • Only offer help if you have the ability to follow through. If you are unable to commit to helping in a specific way, sincere words of concern and care are enough.
  • Check in with the family’s support community to find out what types of help might be needed.
    • “We are happy to help take Tyler to soccer whenever he needs a ride. Our hearts break for your entire family. We are thinking of each of you.”
    • “I hope that you will find strength in the love of your church family. We are praying for you.”

The final sentence of a condolence letter can sometimes feel as difficult as the first. End with an expression of hope or sympathy. Sample closings include:

  • “I will keep you in my prayers.” (Only if true)
  • “I hope you feel surrounded by much love.”
  • “I’m holding you close in my thoughts.”
  • “With love always” (If close to the family)
  • “I will call you next week to see when I can come over and help.” (If you plan to follow through)
  • “With sympathy”

Sample condolence letters

Below are some samples of condolence letters. These may help you write a condolence letter.

Reviewed: November 2023