Condolence Messages: How Long Should My Condolence Message Be?

Published: 28th April 2010
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You want to send a condolence message to someone you know who has suffered a loss. There is so much that you want to say, but you don’t know where to start. How do you say it all? Should you say it all? Maybe you’ll call them instead? But is that appropriate at this time? It can be a very confusing period for everyone involved after a death. Emotions are either running high, or seemingly non-existent. Decisions can be very hard to make, and when they are, you always wonder if it was the right one.

This article will help you put aside the fears of being inappropriate once you’ve decided to write a letter of condolence. The length of a condolence message is, like so many things during the grieving period, dependent on many factors. Some things to consider are:





  • Your relationship with the person you’re writing to





  • Their relationship with the deceased





  • Length of time since the death occurred






Keep the Condolence Message Short and Sincere

Generally speaking a condolence message need not be very long. This is not a time to “catch up” or address any outstanding “issues” you may have with the person you’re writing to. Basically the point of the letter is to acknowledge their loss and let them know you’re there for them. Those who are grieving are really not able to concentrate very well at these times, but a short sincere expression of your sympathy will be welcomed.

How Short is Too Short for a Condolence Message?

There are of course different levels of brevity you’ll want to consider when writing your note. If you had a very close relationship with the person, such as a dear friend or life-long neighbour, you won’t want to make it too brief. Writing too short of a communication at such a delicate time could cause an overly emotional griever to think you don’t care. They might believe that you don’t really care, or aren’t as close as they thought you were. Obituaries Help has great examples you can use for inspiration.

If you have a fond memory of the deceased, be sure to mention it, especially if it’s humorous. A little laugh at a time like this can go a long way. Just don’t draw it out. The secret to finding the right length lies in the principle of “quality over quantity”.

Of course if you didn’t know the deceased, or are only a casual acquaintance of the person, it’s much easier to keep the letter concise. A much more difficult balancing act is based on the recipient’s relationship with the deceased. You might know that your friend and their sibling didn’t get along, had a somewhat strained relationship. There are good examples of condolence messages at Obituaries Help online.

Put Yourself in Their Position

Different relationships have different dynamics so it can be very tough to know how long a condolence message should be. The best thing to do in cases like this is to put yourself in their shoes. What would you like someone to say to you at this time? It would be best not to go into personal details at this point in the letter, so just acknowledge the deceased’s passing and your sympathy. Keep it simple, and keep it kind. Remember, this was their parent, or brother or sister. There will be deep feelings of sadness present, in spite of past happenings.

Condolence Messages are Better Late Than Never

If for some reason you could not write sooner and several weeks have passed, the letter can be a little longer. Perhaps you were away on business or vacation and couldn’t write sooner. After you’ve expressed your condolences, let them know you were away, or indisposed. They were probably wondering why they hadn’t heard from you. Again though, don’t ramble on too much or ask potentially painful questions about the death. Rather, follow up with a phone call or perhaps a visit after giving sufficient time for the letter to arrive. In the end, what really matters isn’t how long your letter is, all that matters is that you write the condolence message and send it as soon as you can.

Resource Box:

Melanie Walters recommends ObituariesHelp.org for Condolence Messages, sample letters of sympathy and condolence, written examples of eulogies as well as help with all aspects of funeral planning. Also download free genealogy resources and read about building a family tree.

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