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Expressing Yourself - Condolence Message

In today’s high tech world, letter writing seems a thing of the past. Yet, during times of grief and loss, a thoughtful condolence note can be the most important and appreciated remembrance a loved one receives.

Philadelphia etiquette consultant, Mary Mitchell, suggests considering expressing your feelings by sending a personal note, rather than a fancy sympathy card. Your note should celebrate the individual’s life—special memories you have, why they were important to you, etc.

Noted etiquette expert Emily Post agrees, citing that the most important aspect of a condolence letter is the mention of something meaningful about the deceased since many times these letters are saved from generation to generation. If your handwriting is hard to read, it’s acceptable to type your letter, although signing your typewritten message in ink is important.

Husband and wife authors Leonard M. Zunin and Hilary Stanton Zunin reviewed thousands of condolence letters for their book, The Art of Condolence. They identified seven key components of a condolence letter that should help you organize your thoughts.

  • Acknowledge the loss and the name of the deceased.
  • Express your sympathy.
  • Note special qualities of the deceased.
  • Include one or more of your special memories.
  • Remind the bereaved of their personal strengths or special qualities.
  • Offer help, but make sure it is a specific offer.
  • End the letter with a thoughtful word, a hope, a wish or expression of sympathy such as "You are in my thoughts and prayers." ("Sincerely," "love," or "fondly," may not be the best choices.)


There still remains the question of e-mail. Some feel that e-mail should not be a substitute for a personal, hand-written note. But as we rely more and more on e-mail for our everyday communication, the e-mail condolence message is becoming more acceptable. One advantage is the immediacy, which can be comforting. For example, if you are in regular touch with someone via e-mail, by all means send them an
e-mail that will lift their spirits during the initial grief. You can also opt to follow up with a handwritten condolence.

Parthemore Funeral Home & Cremation Services offers the option of sending e-mail condolence messages to families. Talk to us at any time about the best method for you and your family and for other pointers on sending appropriate and timely condolence messages.

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