November and December can be extra hard months for anyone who has lost a loved one. For me, it’s hard not to see my sister at the dinner table during the holidays or hear her laughter filling our house. November 18th is her birthday too, so I always feel extra nostalgic and melancholy this time of year.
For this blog post, I wanted to share the best sympathy card I’ve ever received and give you some ideas on how to comfort others with a handwritten note.
One of the most thoughtful cards I received after my sister died was from a friend who had never met my sister but took the time to look at her social media posts, read her obituary, listen to her music (she was a DJ). The words this friend wrote just felt like she really took the time to understand my loss. She mentioned things that stuck out to her about my sister. It was heartfelt, genuine, and unexpected—a true gift to realize that more people might get to know my sister even after she was gone.
Here is what she wrote on the back of a notecard that said “semper liber” which is Latin for “always free.”
It’s not your traditional sympathy card, but I spent time reading about Amanda, watching her videos, hearing her music, seeing how many lives she touched—and I truly envy her life!! She seemed so chill, fun, full of life, and most importantly… free. Like she always knew what she wanted and didn’t let anyone else make those important decisions for her. I don’t think her soul could ever be contained, so she’ll always be free. I can’t imagine a better way to live. I hope you got your blanket, and maybe got time to curl up and write or cry or laugh about memories; whatever you feel at the moment. Thinking of you and sending love every day!
I think about this note every time I sit down to write a sympathy note to someone else. I also like to consult my “What to write in a condolence card” zine from Janine at Kwohtations. Below is a graphic she made for reference.
The image says, “WHAT TO WRITE IN A CONDOLENCE CARD (SOME IDEAS).”
Acknowledge the supreme shittiness of the situation: “It’s so supremely shitty.”
Give them permission to grieve: “It’s ok to be a wreck.”
Share a memory: “They had a great smile.”
Affirm what they may be questioning: “They loved you.”
Include a specific offer of help: “I can order sushi for dinner.”
Let them know you’re sticking around while giving them space: “No need to respond. I’ll check in on you later.”
Make comparisons: “I had a cat who died.”
Put a positive spin on it: “Everything happens for a reason.”
Downplay it: “You’ll be okay—you’re resilient.”
REMEMBER: There’s no perfect thing to say. Send the card anyways—it makes a difference.
For thoughtful sympathy cards, check out Kwohtations or Alison Rose Vintage. If you’d like to send more than a card, read my post about meaningful condolence gift ideas. And if you or someone you know is struggling with grief, here are 5 ways to connect to a deceased loved one.
Social media: @alisonrosevintage