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What to write on a sympathy card?

Despite our deepest sympathies and our heartfelt desire to comfort and support those in need when life is lost, finding the right words to say is a challenge in itself. A well-written sympathy card can ​​go a long way to show your love and compassion for a grieving person. While it may not take away the pain, we can help you figure out what to write on a sympathy card, along with a selection of flowers and bouquets suitable for funerals and anniversaries. 

Greeting Cards and where they come from

Messages of goodwill were first sent across Ancient China to celebrate the New Year, nearly half a world away from the Ancient Egyptians who wrote greetings on papyrus scrolls and scarabs inscribed au ab nab (all good luck). While the card giving practice would not enter European customs until the early 15th century, the Germanic people of the 1400s were known for creating New Year’s greetings from woodcuts. One of the earliest greeting cards, a handmade paper Valentines from the early to mid-15th century, resides in the British Museum. Written by the lovesick Duke of Orleans, its opening reads: ‘I am already sick of love / my very gentle Valentine.’

Like Valentines, traditional holidays like Easter and Christmas soon followed suit with their own cards. However, it was not until the introduction of colour lithography (multi-colour prints) in 1930 that the business of greeting cards really took hold. An estimated one billion pounds is spent on greeting cards every year in the UK, while Americans spend more than USD 7 billion. Aussies are no different either. With over 27,000 retail outlets selling greeting cards in Australia, we spend a solid $500 million.

Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels

The Sympathy Card

Between 1837 and 1901, memorial cards or invitations were often distributed to inform friends, family and neighbours that someone had died. This Victorian-era custom was less about showing sympathy and more about confirming attendance, as these cards had to be provided to attend the funeral. Much like wearing all black or custom jewellery containing a lock of the deceased person’s hair, it was customary to follow these traditions to avoid being ostracised in the community.  

Although our modern, digital age enables us to send messages instantaneously worldwide, they won’t hold as much weight as a handwritten sympathy card. Often displayed for weeks, even months after losing a loved one, sympathy cards stand as physical reminders of the love and support shown from colleagues, friends and family. Much like any large gathering, funerals tend to bring out individuals from far and wide. Whether you’re a close family member, a distant friend, a work colleague, or just a fellow student from high school, it helps to mention how you knew the deceased.

What should I say in a sympathy card?

Not everyone is a master wordsmith. Nor are we songbirds that can soothe a grieving heart. A sympathy card is a simple way to convey your feelings, especially around funerals and times of crisis. Choosing what to write on a sympathy card is difficult, even in favourable situations. Though our words are unlikely to take the pain away, they can go a long way to support someone grieving. To help you share what’s in your heart, we’ve compiled a list of sincere and straightforward messages that you can write on a sympathy card.

Sending Condolences

Sometimes short and sweet is the best way to approach a sympathy card. Need a synonym for the word good? Consider using words like: talented, admired, unforgettable, fun-loving, funny, kind-hearted, wonderful, well-loved, lovely, sweet, generous, honourable, respected, caring, hardworking, strong, energetic, one-of-a-kind, one-in-a-million.

  • Our heartfelt condolences.
  • We are sorry for your loss.
  • Forever in our hearts.
  • A soul to remember.
  • Surrounded by love, our thoughts are with you.
  • Sending loving thoughts and healing prayers.
  • Our deepest sympathies as you mourn your loss.
  • They will remain in our hearts and minds forever. 
  • We remember and honour them.
  • My heart goes out to you and your family.

What to write in a sympathy card when showing appreciation

Although funerals can be a sad time, they are a time for remembrance, celebration and appreciation of the life they had. Comfort is one thing for those that grieve, but showing admiration for those that have passed is an essential part of any sympathy card. 

  • I feel privileged/honoured to have known them. 
  • What a remarkable life.
  • I’m grateful I had the chance to get to know/spend time with them.
  • I’ll always cherish those memories of fun times we spent together.
  • The times that we shared together are the stories and tales we will remember forever. We are so lucky to have had them in our lives. Rest easy now.
  • Today we celebrate the life of someone extraordinary. May we remember them for eternity.
White flowers to show sympathy
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Lend a Helping Hand

There’s no better sympathy card than one that offers to help. Grief can often be a debilitating emotion to contend with, even for the strongest of individuals. As the adage says, actions speak louder than words, so why not offer to lend a helping hand as part of your message. And the more specific your offer of help, the better. Just remember that no task is too small. 

  • Please know that we are here for you during your time of need.
  • We are here to listen whenever you need it.
  • If you need a shoulder to cry on, we are here for you.


As debilitating as death can be, grief is not always instantaneous. It can sometimes take weeks, even months, to fully process loss, at which point support is needed more than ever. Think birthdays, wedding anniversaries or any other time when the grieving person may need extra help by offering ongoing messages of love and care following a loss.

  • I can’t believe it’s been a year since we had to say goodbye. I’m sure they’re smiling down on us right now.
  • We are thinking of you as we celebrate their anniversary.

Out of the blue

While old age and disease can offer timelines for the inevitable, not every loss is expected. When tragedy strikes, words are even harder to find. Times like these require an additional level of understanding, comfort and support.

  • We were surprised and saddened to hear about your loss. They were a fantastic person. We will miss them.
  • It’s never easy to say goodbye. Know that we are thinking of you and are standing by to support you during your time of need.
  • The outpouring of love has been incredible to watch. We are, and the community is with you as you navigate this challenging time.

What to write in a sympathy card for Our Pets

Whether it’s man’s best friend, a feline companion, a fish, a mouse or any other pet for that matter, when we lose someone, especially our pets,  it hurts. Remind them of the fantastic times you shared with them, the unique quirks and qualities that made their pet who they are. 

  • They’ll be doing zoomies forever with that adorable look on its face. We’ll never forget the joy your pet brought to yours and our family. May they rest in peace.
  • Sending puppy/kitty cuddles your way on this day as we remember the beautiful soul that was your pet.
  • From the moment we brought them home, we knew they were special. And they’ll always be special.
  • From one forever home to the next, we’re so lucky to have had [pet’s name] in our lives. 

Quotes and Sayings

Sometimes we don’t have the right words to say. Sometimes we need to lean on the words of others to say what we truly feel. Here are some that we believe are the right way to say goodbye.

  • “Life is eternal, and love is immortal, and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.” Rossiter Worthington Raymond
  • “How can the dead be truly dead when they still live in the souls of those who are left behind?” The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
  • “The song is ended, but the melody lingers on…” The Song is Ended, Irving Berlin
  • “Death is not extinguishing the light. It is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.” Rabindranath Tagore
  • “Lives are like rivers: Eventually they go where they must. Not where we want them to.” Richard Russo
  • “For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.” On Death, Khalil Gibran
  • “The journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take.” The Return of the King, J.R.R. Tolkien
  • “Life has to end. Love doesn’t.” The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom
  • “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne
  • “Every life is noted and is cherished, and nothing loved is ever lost or perished.” A Ring of Endless Light, Madeleine L’Engle
  • “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides
  • “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Dr. Suess
Photo by Luis Quintero from Pexels

Signing Off

How you finish is just as important as how you begin. When signing off on a sympathy card, here are a few suggestions that you can use before adding your name.

  • “My condolences,”
  • “All my love,”
  • “With caring thoughts,”
  • “Our deepest sympathy,”
  • “Warmest condolences,”
  • “Thinking of you.”
  • “We’re here for you.”
  • “With all our love and support.”

Words and messages to avoid

Finding the right words to say is a lot more complicated than avoiding what NOT to say in a sympathy card. Outside of omitting words like death and died from your writing, here are a few choice phrases you should skip.

  • “You will…” The stages of grief and mourning vary from person to person. Avoid predicting their journey.
  • “A terrible loss.” Instead of reminding them of the pain and heartache, focus on the life that was and celebrate.
  • “They were so young.” Try to avoid potentially painful remarks like this, even for out-of-the-blue circumstances.
  • “We/I know how you feel.” Death is something everyone will experience in their life. How we process feelings of grief is unique and should be respected.
  • “You should…” Everyone handles loss in their own way. Offer comfort and support instead of advice during their time of need.
  • “It’s for the best.” or “They’re in a better place now.” As touching as it may be to picture the afterlife for those that have passed on, be careful insinuating someone is in a better place after they passed.

What to write on a card for funeral flowers

Flowers are a beautiful companion to any greeting card. Whether for a funeral, the anniversary of a loved one’s death or a day of remembrance, a bouquet can transform a simple message into a vibrant reminder of just how special they were.

  • May these flowers bring you happiness and joy during your time of need.
  • We chose these flowers to symbolise them and their incredible life.
  • I hope these flowers remind you of the 
  • Words may never be enough to express our thoughts and feelings during this time. Please accept these flowers on our behalf.

When words alone cannot convey what you feel, let us help! Our compassionate florists’ curate and craft beautiful, thoughtful, and appropriate funeral flower tributes that express your sincerest heartfelt condolences. From coffin sprays to traditional wreaths, our selection of elegant arrangements features blooms that are always fresh and vibrant, offering the perfect way to honour loved ones and their family. And to make things easy during this difficult time, we’ll hand-deliver your funeral arrangement to the funeral home.

Photo by Cup of Couple from Pexels

Suggestions for funeral flowers

Our guide to funeral flowers may help you out to choose the right flower for your occasion. But, here are some quick suggestions that you can pick from.

White Lily Bunch. A floral favourite that unfurls into beautiful blooms, making any space a more wonderful, welcoming place.

Arctic Belle. This beauty includes ruffly carnations, elegant roses, lovely snapdragons and dainty baby’s breath, showcasing plenty of everyone’s favourite flowers,  and is an ideal choice for times of grief.

White Roses. Sometimes the traditional choice is the best. 
We offer same-day flower delivery to most Melbourne suburbs if your order is placed before 2 pm. Sent with efficiency from our location in Preston, each bouquet combines over 20 years of experience delivering the best flowers and floral arrangements to your loved ones. Get your flowers delivered today with Flowers Across Melbourne!

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