Suggestions for Writing Condolence Notes, and Choosing Funeral Quotes
Knowing what to say to someone who has lost a loved one will always be a challenge, especially if you’re grieving yourself. We want to offer comfort, but we don’t want to say “the wrong thing.” We search and struggle to find the best words to express the inexpressible, while recognizing that mere words will never totally dull the sting of such an immense loss.
One of the most powerful and inspiring ways to begin a funeral reading, close a sympathy note, or offer comfort to the bereaved is to include an appropriate sympathy quote.
Even a strong writer may find it difficult in this context to sit down, focus on the task, and write something meaningful. To assist you, we’ve gathered a few tips for writing condolence notes, choosing sympathy quotes, and selecting appropriate funeral poems. Our goal is to relieve some of the naturally occurring stress you’ll be experiencing as you try to get your thoughts and feelings down on paper.
Deciding what to write in a condolence note
The most difficult part of writing a condolence note or sympathy card may be just getting started. The most important thing to remember is that, whatever form of sympathy note you’re writing, it must come from the heart. Take a few moments before you start writing to simply remember and appreciate the deceased.
- What were they like?
- Did faith play an important role in their lives? What were their favorite hobbies or pastimes?
- Do you have special memories of them?
- Did they have a favorite song or poem that they often spoke of?
- Did they ever mention wanting to have a certain funeral poem read or a specific song played at their services?
The following suggestions are generally appropriate whether you are writing a sympathy card, preparing for a funeral reading, or just trying to think of comforting words to say to a loved one who has experienced loss.
Keep it short, simple, and warm.
Simply acknowledging the loss you’re sharing with loved ones will be a comfort to them.
Share a memory.
Sharing memories can help survivors (including you) take important steps on their healing journey.
Help them remember what it was that made their loved one so special to you, and it will help them appreciate what they loved about him or her as well.
Be respectful and acknowledge the deceased’s positive qualities.
Were they kindhearted? Curious? Gentle? Generous or creative? Be specific and use these descriptive words when you relate your memories.
If you are writing a sympathy note to the family (as opposed to preparing for funeral readings) an offer of help will be appreciated. Actions sometimes speak louder than words when you are trying to help a grieving friend. Be specific.
- Saying “let me know what I can do,” will probably not be adequate, as most people in this situation will not want to add to your burden, and they may not even realize what type of help they need.
- Are you a good cook? Offer to bring food. Are you in a position to babysit? Offer childcare as they sort through the deceased’s belongings and work to get their affairs in order.
What not to write.
You don’t know how another person feels, so “I know how you feel,” is never appropriate, even if you think you do. The family will not need to be reminded that the deceased was “so young,” or seemed “so full of life,” or that they are experiencing a terrible loss. Again, keep it short and respectful, and share a warm memory.
Include a sympathy quote.
Sharing the beautiful words of others in a bereavement quote is often the best way to express condolences or sympathy.
Bereavement quotes for use in a sympathy card
Until we meet again, may God
Hold you in the palm of his hand.
– Irish Prayer
It is not length of life, but depth of life.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Those we love remain with us for love itself lives on,
– Unknown Author
It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.
Say not in grief ‘he is no more’ but live in thankfulness that he was
– Hebrew proverb
Choosing appropriate funeral quotes for a eulogy
A sympathy quote can be a moving and inspiring way to begin a eulogy. Choosing an appropriate passage will set the tone for the remainder of your piece, and will help inspire you as you work through your thoughts and feelings. Many famous writers and leaders have faced this same struggle and have written concise, moving, insightful funeral quotes to inspire us to celebrate the beautiful lives or of our loved ones.
“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.”
– Abraham Lincoln
“That we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes part of us.”
– Helen Keller
“The Song is ended, but the melody lingers on.”
– Irving Berlin
When you are born, you cry, and the world rejoices. When you die, you rejoice, and the world cries.
– Native American proverb
There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.
– Albert Einstein
Finding an appropriate passage from The Bible, the Torah or other religious text is a beautiful way to celebrate the faith of your loved one. These passages provide desperately needed comfort to mourners, assuring them that their loved one lived a life of meaning, and has moved on to a more peaceful existence.
25 I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.
26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Trust in God; trust also in me.
In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.
I am going there to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
You Know the way to the place where I am going.”
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Romans 14:7-9. 10-12
None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself.
For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord;
so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.
For this is why Christ died and came to life, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God;
for it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bend before me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.”
So then each of us shall give an account of himself to God.
1 Corinthians 15:20-23
Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came also through a human being.
For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order:
Christ the first fruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ.
I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” said the Spirit, “let them find rest from their labors, for their works accompany them.”
Selecting Funeral Poems
Reading a favorite poem of the deceased is one of the most ancient and powerful ways to celebrate the life of a loved one who has recently passed away. Poetry (and song) has a unique ability to convey in just a few words what otherwise might take oceans of prose to express.
The inclusion of poetry in paying tribute may serve to express an emotion the deceased themselves held, such as a sincere expression of their faith. The purpose may be to comfort the gathered mourners and family members, or to spark warm memories.
But, as with bereavement quotes, choosing the best poem for your reading (or to place in the printed program of the ceremony) can seem daunting. If you are selecting a funeral poem for a mother or father, a piece about a parent’s undying love for his or her children would be appropriate, as would a poem about the lessons one learned from them.
Again, the important thing to remember is that the emotions come from the heart, and to keep it pretty short. If the poem you or they love is very long, it’s ok to use a short quote or selection from a longer piece.
This is also a powerful way to honor the faith of the deceased with a poetic passage from the Bible, or by selecting another praise poem that was important and comforting to the deceased or their loved ones.
A short selection of funeral poems to choose from:
What I Learned From My Mother
BY JULIA KASDORF
I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
and flick out the sexual seeds with a knife point.
I learned to attend viewings even if I didn’t know
the deceased, to press the moist hands
of the living, to look in their eyes and offer
sympathy, as though I understood loss even then.
I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
what anyone will remember is that we came.
I learned to believe I had the power to ease
awful pains materially like an angel.
Like a doctor, I learned to create
from another’s suffering my own usefulness, and once
you know how to do this, you can never refuse.
To every house you enter, you must offer
healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.
Not, How Did He Die, But How Did He Live?
Not how did he die, but how did he live?
Not what did he gain, but what did he give?
These are the units to measure the worth
Of a man as a man, regardless of birth.
Not, what was his church, nor what was his creed?
But had he befriended those really in need?
Was he ever ready, with word of good cheer,
To bring back a smile, to banish a tear?
Not what did the sketch in the newspaper say,
But how many were sorry when he passed away.
BY HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSON
Then the child opened its eyes,
and looked up into the angel’s beautiful face, which beamed with happiness,
and at the same moment they were in heaven,
where joy and bliss reigned.
The child received wings like the other angel,
and they flew about together, hand in hand.
Feel no guilt in laughter, he’d know how much you care
Feel no guilt in laughter, he’d know how much you care.
Feel no sorrow in a smile that he is not here to share.
You cannot grieve forever; he would not want you to.
He’d hope that you could carry on the way you always do.
So, talk about the good times and the way you showed you cared,
The days you spent together, all the happiness you shared.
Let memories surround you, a word someone may say
Will suddenly recapture a time, an hour, a day,
That brings him back as clearly as though he were still here,
And fills you with the feeling that he is always near.
For if you keep those moments, you will never be apart
And he will live forever locked safely within your heart.
Hope in God
PSALM 42: 1-3, 5, 8
As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
while men say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?
“Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Saviour and my God.
By day Lord directs his love,
at night his song is with me –
a prayer to the God of my life.
For more moving funeral quotes and passages, please visit our post on mourning quotes and inspirational resources.
If you are in need of assistance purchasing a memorial urn to celebrate the life and legacy of your loved one, please reach out to us with the form below or call us at 877-397-7252.