The One Thing About Sympathy Cards That Keeps Me Up at Night

Sympathy cards are a well-intentioned tradition that helps us express our condolences and support to those who have experienced loss or are going through a difficult time. These cards convey empathy and provide a tangible way to offer comfort during challenging moments. However, there’s one aspect of sympathy cards that often goes unnoticed or unspoken, and it’s something that has kept me awake at night: the struggle to find the right words.

In times of grief and sorrow, finding the right words to say can be incredibly challenging. It’s a dilemma that many of us face when we pick up a pen to write a sympathy card. We want to provide solace, offer support, and express our deepest condolences, but the fear of saying the wrong thing or not saying enough can be paralyzing.

The Pressure of Perfection

The pressure to craft the perfect message in a sympathy card is a heavy burden to bear. We worry that our words won’t adequately capture the depth of our feelings or offer genuine comfort to the recipient. We fear that we might inadvertently say something insensitive or unintentionally hurtful.

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This pressure often leads to a cycle of overthinking and editing, resulting in a message that may sound well-intentioned but lacks the sincerity and authenticity that grieving individuals truly need. We may resort to clichés or generic expressions of sympathy, like “I’m sorry for your loss” or “My thoughts and prayers are with you,” because they feel safe and conventional.

The Reality of Imperfection

What keeps me up at night is the realization that there are no perfect words for grief and loss. There is no universally correct way to express condolences because every person’s experience of loss is unique. Grief is a profoundly personal journey, and what offers comfort to one may not to another.

However, it’s essential to understand that sympathy cards don’t need to be perfect. In fact, it’s the imperfections—the raw, honest emotions conveyed through imperfect words—that often resonate the most with those who are grieving. What truly matters is the sincerity behind the message and the genuine desire to offer support.

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Embracing Imperfect Empathy

Rather than agonizing over finding the “perfect” words, we should focus on offering imperfect empathy. Instead of trying to fix the unfixable, we can acknowledge the pain and sadness that the grieving person is experiencing. Here are some tips to help navigate the challenge of writing sympathy cards:

  1. Speak from the Heart: Let your emotions guide your words. Be honest about your own feelings of sadness, loss, and empathy.
  2. Share Memories: If you knew the deceased, share a cherished memory or anecdote. These personal stories can provide great comfort.
  3. Offer Specific Help: In your card, extend a genuine offer of support. Whether it’s helping with daily tasks or just being there to listen, specific offers of assistance can be invaluable.
  4. Avoid Clichés: While clichés may seem safe, they often lack depth. Try to express your condolences in your own words, even if they feel imperfect.
  5. Remember the Purpose: The purpose of a sympathy card is not to fix the grief but to provide comfort and support. Your presence and empathy are what matter most.


While the struggle to find the right words in sympathy cards can be daunting, it’s important to remember that perfect words don’t exist. What truly counts is the empathy, love, and support that your message conveys. So, instead of losing sleep over crafting the flawless message, let your heart guide your words and reach out with the sincere intention to provide comfort to those who need it most. In the end, it’s the imperfect expressions of love and empathy that can offer the most solace during times of grief.

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