Sending Condolences In A Letter Or Calling On The Phone?

How to Write a Meaningful Condolence Letter

After working with children all day, I’m a sucker for a mindless reality show. One of my indulgences is The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. In a recent episode Lisa Vanderpump, who recently lost her brother to suicide, was visibly upset by a condolence note she received from a fellow cast member, Erika Girardi. The handwritten note, written on personalized stationary, expressed the following:

Dear Lisa,
Tom and I were saddened to hear of your brother Mark’s passing. Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family at this difficult time.

Sincerest condolences,

Example Condolence Letter

Lisa goes on to state, “Erika, when you sent me a couple of lines in a condolence card, I wish that you’d called,” and laments, “It was a little distant…”

Erika, taken aback by Lisa’s criticism of the note, retorts, “If that didn’t work for you, I don’t know what to say.” Later, in the reality style confession interview, Erika added, “I’ve never known of anyone to react this way. ‘Your condolence note wasn’t good enough.’ Are you f—ing kidding me?”

Taking The Time To Show You Care

I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to express condolences; however, I do think there are better ways than others. Regardless of the number of lines and sincerity of thought, Erika did one thing well–she took the time to handwrite a note versus buying a canned sympathy card, and this is meaningful in an age of texts and emails.

How to Write a Meaningful Message

It is easy to fall back on standard phrases for a condolence letter like the ones Erika used. I know I have. Sometimes, we don’t know exactly what to say or how to say it. When writing a meaningful condolence letter, Angela Morrow, RN suggests using these seven components.

  1. Refer to the deceased by name.
  2. Express your sympathy.
  3. Point out something special about the deceased.
  4. Remind your friend or family member of his or her good qualities.
  5. Share a memory.
  6. Offer to help.
  7. Close with an expression of sympathy.

Condolence Letter Format

Dear Macie,

I was shocked and saddened to learn about the death of your brother, Michael.(1) I know you were close to him and thought of him as ‘your twin’. I imagine your grief must be overwhelming. Please know that I am here for you.(2)

Mark was thoughtful and generous, and his devotion to family and church was admirable. Whenever I needed help with an event, I knew I could always count on Mark.(3) I’ve also seen Mark’s best qualities in you, as you will also go out of your way to help others.(4)

I will cherish the memories I have of Mark. I remember meeting Mark for the first time at a dinner party you hosted. His jokes made everyone laugh, and his smile lit up the room.(5)

Next week will be very busy for you. I can drive Brett and Braden to and from school for you. I know my kids would love to have them stay and play after school on Monday if that works for you.(6)

I wish you peace, and I’m here to support you during this difficult time.(7)

With love,


How to Write a Meaningful Condolence Letter

The next time a friend or family member loses a loved one, consider writing a personal handwritten letter to send your condolences.

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