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What are Some Condolence Phrases?

Offering words of condolence after a death is usually greatly appreciated.
Writing words of condolence on a blank card is generally considered more appropriate than buying a pre-printed card.
Sending a letter of condolence can be important.
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  • Last Modified Date: 20 September 2014
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Condolence phrases are designed to convey sympathy for people who have recently lost friends or loved ones. Many people are aware that it is hard to write a letter of condolence without sounding slightly cliched, and as a general rule, the emotion behind the phrase is often more important than the wording. Just sending a formal card or letter of condolence is important, as it indicates that an individual is thinking of someone during a difficult time. Greeting people with a few words of condolence when you see them for the first time after a death is also greatly appreciated.

Stock phrases of condolence include things like “sorry for your loss,” “please accept my/our deepest sympathy,” “my/our thoughts are with you,” “[the deceased] will be missed,” “with caring thoughts,” “much love,” “our hearts go out to you,” “with warm sympathy,” and so forth. These phrases are neutral enough to be appropriate for almost anyone, regardless of religious beliefs, and in fact, many condolence cards come pre-printed with these very phrases. Purchasing a blank card and taking the time to hand write a brief note is generally considered more appropriate, however.

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Individuals may also want to consider someone's religious beliefs when composing condolence phrases. For people who believe in a concept of heaven and hell, the speaker may want to reference the idea that he believes the deceased is in heaven or is looking down from heaven. Phrases such as “may God comfort you,” “may your soul find peace,” and other references to religious belief should be tailored to specific religions. Those who are sending condolences to someone who practices a religion they are not familiar with may want to ask a member of that religion about an appropriate statement to use, as some religions have traditional condolence phrases, and the recipient of the greeting may be touched by the thoughtfulness.

Some people use quotes when giving their condolences, choosing meaningful passages from poems or books they like, or using famous quotes that deal with death and mourning. “To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die,” “like a bird singing in the rain, let grateful memories survive in times of sorrow,” and “may the blessings of love be upon you, may its peace abide with you, may its essence illuminate your heart, now and forever more” are some examples of quotes which can be used.

It is also appropriate to reference the condition of the deceased in condolence phrases, if the speaker is a close friend. Condolences given to survivors of someone who died from a lingering illness, for example, might include a note of appreciation that the pain and difficulty are over, as in “I was sorry to learn of your mother's death, but I am glad to hear that her suffering has come to an end.” Many people also appreciate an indication that others are happy to offer any assistance needed in the days and weeks to come.

Individuals who are really struggling to come up with condolence phrases that sound right should know that it is also perfectly reasonable to say “words alone cannot express my sympathy,” or “I cannot imagine the grief of losing your child/partner/etc.” Recipients of condolence greetings usually aren't looking for sparkling originality, just a sincere expression of emotion.

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amypollick
Post 8

@anon329869: I don't think it matters so much that some members were close friends with this woman before her illness. They will appreciate their friend's passing was acknowledged by her club.

I would word it something like this:

"The president (or whomever) of the XYZ club regrets to inform our members that Ms. Jane Doe lost her battle with cancer on this date. We send our condolences, thoughts and prayers to her family (name her spouse and children, if applicable). Memorials may be made to (and list any charities or causes she supported)." That's pretty much all you have to say. If you're not sending several dozen notices, you could include a copy of her obituary, if it ran in the local newspaper.

I hope this helps.

anon329869
Post 7

I must send out an announcement to a group that a member has lost her battle with cancer. Not everyone in this club knows her, though others were close friends before her illness, so what would be appropriate to say?

I realize that I will not have an answer to this question, but there may be someone else out there - who would like to know.

literally45
Post 6

When I hear that someone has passed away, I usually say that I'm very sorry to hear about their loss. I will also say "please accept my condolences." This is a classic condolence saying but it's also very simple and straight-forward. It shows that I am mourning with them and that I would be happy to help them in any way possible.

ysmina
Post 5

@turquoise-- I only know one Jewish phrase of condolence that I learned from an Israeli buddy. It is: "I hope God will comfort you along with the mourners of Tzion and Jerusalem." I'm sure there are others.

I also have non-Jewish Middle Eastern friends and I believe it is common to say things like "May God give you patience," and "may God bless him/her" referring to the deceased. I have also heard people say "may God give long life to those left behind."

I think condolence phrases depend largely on the culture. It's great that you want to learn the culture/religion specific condolence for your friend.

turquoise
Post 4

My best friend's mother just passed away and I'm invited to their home during the grievance period. They're Jewish. Are there any phrases of condolence more appropriate for Judaism?

CathyMiller
Post 3

The appropriate way to show your condolence for a death is to express your self that you are concerned and considerate of the grieved person's feelings. That is warming based from my experience. You should know his or her loss and to show that you deeply understand it which is very essential. Talking, helping her out, and even paying a visit to the funeral is also great. It is also good to send a card if you are far away to express your words of condolence.

alex94
Post 2

One of the worst things that someone can say when you lose a loved one is "I know how you feel". I understand that they mean no harm, but can someone truly know exactly how you feel?

cmsmith10
Post 1

Condolence phrases can be used in many ways. They can be used in a card attached to flowers, a regular sympathy card, or a condolence letter to the family of a deceased person. They are also used in eulogies. They can be poetic or just simple prose. It is simply a way to express your truest compassion for the family of the deceased.

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