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A guide to writing letters of sympathy

Very often we find ourselves stuck for words when someone has died. But people who have lost someone they love get comfort from knowing that their loved one was a part of the lives of others, so it will help them if you can write a few words.

You don’t have to write a long letter, as long as it is sincere. Try to post it as soon as possible after the death. The letters below are simply a guide and may help you get started.

To the family of someone at work who has died

I am writing on behalf of all [name’s] friends at [name of organisation] to express our sympathy at your sad loss. [Name] was a valued member of the team and contributed to the organisation in many ways. Besides being an excellent worker, [he or she] was always good-humoured and considerate towards [his or her] colleagues.

[He or she] often spoke of [his or her] family with affection. [Name] will be sadly missed by everyone at work. Our thoughts are with you at this difficult time.

To the family of someone you did not know very well

I was sorry to hear of your recent bereavement. Although I did not know [name] well, on the occasions when we met, [he or she] was always kind and considerate. Please accept my sympathy for your sad loss.

To the family who have lost a child

I was very upset to hear of your loss. [Name] was such a lovely [child or person] and will be dreadfully missed. If there is anything [I or we] can do, [I am or we are] only a phone call away.

To a neighbour or close friend

Although we have spoken recently, I wanted to write and tell you how sorry I am for your loss. [Name] was such a special person that no words are really adequate. [He or she] brought pleasure to everyone [he or she] met and will be sadly missed. People tell me how much they valued [name’s] friendship. I am always here to talk if you would like. I’ll get in touch soon to see if I can make myself useful in any way.

To someone who has experienced a sudden loss

I was so sorry to hear about the tragic circumstances surrounding [name’s] death. The shock and sense of disbelief must be immense. [Name] was such a special person and it must be so difficult to come to terms with the fact [he or she] died so suddenly. If there is anything I can do to help, such as [offer practical help such as looking after the children, doing some shopping, collecting the pension], please let me know.


Visit our Helpful organisations page if you would like further advice on how to help someone who has suffered a loss.