Expressing Sympathy: How to express in the right way

Expressing Sympathy: How to express in the right way

This week, my friend circle from high school was hit with a personal loss of a dear aunt that we all loved very much. I’ve been having a hard time trying to find ways to convey my sympathy off of Facebook since that’s how everyone has kept in touch since graduation. While I’ve been invited to the Life Celebration event this weekend, I, unfortunately, can’t take the trip to properly say goodbye.

I was left a little confused this week since the friends and I have very different religious backgrounds. Knowing what to say, how to say it, and what might be accidentally inconsiderate is something that I’ve struggled with. It often feels like an obstacle course of etiquette and taste: What should you say? Should you send a card or meet in person? Is an email or Facebook message acceptable? The answers to those questions often depend on your relationship to the grieving party, but here are some tips that are applicable to any situation.

I would like to share with you some ways to extend your condolences that are more personal in nature:

Write a Heartfelt Letter
As soon as you learn your friend has lost someone, I chose to write a letter for this occasion. It can be difficult, but put yourself in your friend’s shoes and consider how helpful it would be to have someone to lean on during a tough time. Of course, I also spent forty minutes trying to choose the right sympathy card that would show how much I cared. The letter was three short paragraphs: I expressed my heartbreak over the passing of the loved one, shared a few anecdotes about her life and how wonderful she was, and chose to go with some humor at the end—I wrote about how she would act in heaven, which is something that was fitting with her personality. Of course, you can have variations on this depending on the person and your relationship with them. It doesn’t have to be long, but a paragraph or two expressing yourself means much more than a Hallmark greeting.

Send Flowers
Another option is to send flowers to the family. I know this one might seem obvious, but when I was talking to friends of mine, I realized that it’s also something that has fallen out of practice. Taking the time to send flowers and a note goes a long way in showing someone that you care and are thinking about them.
Make a Donation to a Charity or Cause That the Person

Supported in Their Name
If you know the person well, a nice gesture (instead of flowers) might be to make a donation in their name to a charity or a cause that was dear to them. Whether it is the humane society, a humanitarian aid program, or to disaster relief, a donation and a card letting the family know that the donation was made in their name shows that you’re thinking of the person and of their interests. This one is a personal favorite of mine since it’s something that I would like someone to do for me someday. While I’d love for my family to receive flowers and heartfelt notes, I would personally want those that know me to take the time to make a donation to causes that I care about as a way to remember me.

Digital Condolences
In case, the friend you know is on social media, you can you the instant message such as Facebook Messenger to express sympathies. On the other hand, writing an email is also the good option. Like Sheila K. Collins, the author of the award-winning book – “Warrior Mother: Fierce Love, Unbearable Loss, and Rituals that Heal,” said in an email, adding: “Like the birthday wishes — short and to the point — ‘My thoughts are with you in this difficult time.’ ‘Sorry to hear of your loss.’ ”.

Offer Realistic Ways to Help
With close friends, you can offer of help ‘Let me know if I can be of help’ or “I’m here if you want to talk” or “I’m around if you need anything”. Since your friend is so sad at that time who may not have the energy to reach out. Instead, be proactive and spend that energy so she/he does not have to. You suggested: “I’m going to the restaurant and would like to bring you food. What can I get you?” or “I will cook for you the your favorite food“. The goal is to be helpful and offer comfort during a difficult time.

As I mentioned above about “Warrior Mother: Fierce Love, Unbearable Loss, and Rituals that Heal,”. I highly recommend you to read the book that tells about her tragic experiences to go through the death of her best friend, her son and her daughter. Based on going through these experiences: of life, death, and the places in between, Sheila not only helped herself but also help others get through life’s toughest challenges.

What about you? Do you have any recommendations for how to handle a personal loss? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.


Amy Nguyen

Amy Nguyen

I feel happy to share my experiences with you about Travel - Food - Life around the world. I hope to inspire you to Live-Love- Laugh :)



  • Johny Jackson Johny Jackson January 18, at 09:04

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    • Amy Nguyen Amy Nguyen January 18, at 17:21

      Thank you so much for your comment. It is great when you find my information is useful to you:). You can subscribe my blog so you can receive my updated posts.

  • Lauren Conrad Lauren Conrad February 06, at 17:37

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    • Amy Nguyen Amy Nguyen February 06, at 21:02

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