From: The Art of Condolence: What to Write, What to Say, What to Do at a Time of Loss:
"There is no doubt about it! The most challenging letter an individual is ever called upon to write is a letter of condolence. How do you convey on paper your message of comfort and compassion? How do you fashion a net of words to help sustain and support someone as they fall through the pain and turmoil of grief? Even though you may call, send flowers or a telegram, or attend the memorial service, none of these actions takes the place of writing a letter to someone whose bereavement has touched your heart.
"The written word often brings great comfort when an individual is coping with loss. Many letters of condolence are cherished and saved for years. A friend wrote to us of his appreciation for letters received upon the death of his wife several years ago:
'After reading them the first time, I put the letters aside in a shoe box, fully intending to reread them in a month or two. I stalled for fear that they would rekindle my deep sadness. Now, nearly six years after my wifeís death, I read them afresh with an open heart. There are horrible pangs, of course, but itís not my pain the letters renew, itís the tender and loving memoriesónot only of my wife, but of those many caring friends who committed their feelings to paper.'
"So often we experience profound moments both in writing and reading a letter of condolence. For the writer, these moments frequently occur as feelings of compassion are transformed into words. For the bereaved, who is reading your letter at a time of vulnerability, the world may be experienced in a totally new way. A letter of condolence provides the opportunity for a very special form of writer/reader interconnection, one that proclaims, simply, 'I acknowledge your loss, and, in some measure, I share your pain.'
"This is the essential human message in all letters of condolence."
Allow the following sentences to help you begin your note. Or, if you'd like, choose a quotation, reading, or historic letter to speak for you, then add a personal note. Many bereaved have told us that they were particularly touched when condoling friends included with their sympathy note a poem, reading, or copy of a historic letter.
• We are all grieving with and for you.
• My heart goes out to you as you grieve the loss of your ______.
• It was with a profound sense of loss that I learned of _____'s death.
• All of us at Eco Incorporated were shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of your lovely wife, Sarah.
• Please accept my heartfelt condolences on your miscarriage--I know how much you were both looking forward to welcoming this child into your lives.
• Today marks the sixth anniversary of Bob's passing, and I just wanted you to know that we celebrate his life and that you are in our thoughts today.
• We were so sad to hear that your father is in intensive care. We are thinking about all of you and hoping for the best.
• I was sorry to hear of your divorce; this is a time of transition for you, and I want you to know that I am here for hugs and hikes.
• We want to express our most heartfelt sympathy on the loss of your lovely home in the fire last Wednesday.
• It was with heartfelt compassion that I heard about what you've been going through--thank you for letting me know.
Close your letter with a thoughtful note or phrase:
• My affectionate respects to you and yours.
• Our love is with you always.
• You are in my thoughts and prayers.
• You know you have my deepest sympathy and my love and friendship always.
• My heart and my tears are with you.
• We share in your grief and send you our love.
• We offer our affectionate sympathy and many beautiful memories.
• My thoughts are with you now, and I send you my deepest sympathy.
• We all join in sending you our heartfelt love