How to Write a Sympathy Letter

Learn How to Write a Sympathy Letter to Help a Grieving Employee

Frustrated businessman with head in hands
••• Bill Varie/Stone/Getty Images

When an employee or coworker experience bereavement or grief, you can take steps as an employer to express sympathy. You can also help the individual manage his or her needs during the illness, death, or another sad happening.

No matter what else you do to sympathetically help your employee or coworker, it is almost always appropriate to write a sympathy letter. Condolence notes are always valued by employees during their time of grief.

This template will help you write your own sympathy letter. It emphasizes the factors that will make your condolence note convey the proper sympathy message.

Tools to Express Your Heartfelt Condolences

Write your sympathy message on company stationery with your name, address, and date. 

Email is also acceptable as a communication medium but can leave the impression that your correspondence was a business undertaking—not the sympathy message you were trying to convey.

Depending on your relationship with the employee, you may need to write a company note, but you might also want to write a second, personal note. 

Tips and Examples for Your Official Company Sympathy Letter

It is generally more formal than a note that you'd send to a personal friend or coworker. Start your letter with the reason for your sympathy. 

Example: We want to express our sympathy for the recent loss of your mother. Losing a close family member is always sad and we want you to know that we are very sorry for your loss.

Offer to assist the employee during the grief period without obligating company resources or setting a precedent that you will be unable to offer to all employees.

Example: Please let us know if there is anything that we can do to assist you as you deal with the loss of your mother.

Offer additional information about company resources that are available to the employee during their time of grief. End your note by reiterating your offer of support. The employee may not need or want anything from you but it is important that you make the offer—you will have demonstrated that you care.

Example: Human Resources staff members have helped you to access your benefits information and we have shared our bereavement policy with you. If you have needs that extend beyond the parameters of the policy, please let us know so that we can deal with your situation on an individual basis.

Past company practice has been to grant additional unpaid leave time to deal with death-related issues, out-of-state travel, and time-consuming legal problems.

Example: We are committed to helping you through this rough time in life’s journey. The loss of your mother is sad and we support your efforts to move forward. Please let us know how we can help.

Ending: Use your normal signature. Regards is a common sign off for a sympathy message. 

Additional closings include:

  • Warmly
  • Sincerely
  • With Warm Regards
  • Thinking of You
  • Best
  • Best wishes
  • With sympathy

Don't Make Assumptions

Keep in mind as you write your sympathy message, that it is unlikely that you know all of the details of your employee’s relationship with his or her relatives. Additionally, you will rarely have all of the details about an employee illness or a family member’s tragedy.

Therefore, limit the assumptions that you express in your sympathy letter and keep the message neutral. For example, an employee and her mother may have had a distant, unhappy relationship for years so don't write a sympathy message that assumes a close, loving relationship. 

Sample Sympathy Letter

Dear Elizabeth,

We’re so sorry to hear about your mother’s death. Losing a family member is always difficult. Please let us know if there is anything that we can do to assist you during this trying time.

You are eligible for three days of paid time off as stated in our employee bereavement policy. We have, in the past, granted additional unpaid time off for employees when travel and personal business related to the death required more time away from work.

Please let your manager or Human Resources know if you need to request additional time off. We can also work with a flexible schedule if any family business needs to be taken care of during work hours.

We are committed to helping you through this rough time in life’s journey. We sympathize on the loss of your mother and we want to support your efforts to move forward with your life's business. Please let us know how we can help.

Regards,

Susan

Human Resources Director