One of the most difficult things to write is a condolence note. However, it is one of the most appreciative things you can do for a family at a time of loss.
A handwritten note is much better than a pre-printed card. If you must send a pre-printed card, write a few lines of your own in the card.
Keep the note brief. Never offer your sympathy in an e-mail.
Try to personalize the note. We frequently hear or read the words, “With deepest sympathy at this time of loss”, but be more specific. Use the name of the deceased loved one or refer to them as husband, father, or sister.
Dear Rebecca, I am so sorry to hear of your father’s death. There is little anyone can say at a difficult time like this. Please know you are in my thoughts and prayers.
If you knew the deceased person very well, mention something about your connection. I was very touched by the following words written at the time of my father’s death.
“Mike was one of the most dependable people I ever worked with. He was not only my mentor, but a loyal friend. His dedication to preserve justice in our town will not be forgotten.“
Be cautious of using words that are not factual. For example: “I know how you feel.” Do you? “You were so happy together.” Were they? “He’s in a much better place now.” Is he?
The focus of the letter should be about the deceased not your past experience with death or illness or how you assume the family is dealing with the grief.