Being there for someone experiencing grief may feel overwhelming, but the truth is that you don’t have to do anything grandiose. Sometimes, the most comforting thing you can do — really, the only thing — is to let the bereaved person know that you’re here, that you care, and that you see their pain.
A personalized sympathy card is the perfect way to do this.
By making your own sympathy cards online, you’ll be able to tailor your condolences to each recipient, offering a small yet significant gesture to help them through a very difficult time.
And, creating a unique sympathy card is easy to do — just follow the steps below.
How to Make a Sympathy Card in 4 Easy Steps
1. Get Started
Depending on how adventurous or creative you’re feeling, there are two ways to get started:
- If you’d like some placeholder text and graphic elements to kick-start your creative process, then start with a pro-designed greeting card template.
- If you’d prefer a blank slate, open a card-sized blank canvas instead. (You can do this by going to the Create a home page and then clicking Greeting card from the top row under Start with a blank canvas.)
2. Type Your Sympathy Message
From the left-hand menu, click Text to enter your sympathy message. Then try out different fonts until you find one that evokes your desired mood.
Need help getting started with wording? Here are some recommended phrases for a sympathy card:
- With deepest sympathy
- Sending you love in this difficult time
- Sharing in your pain
- Wrapping our arms around you
- You are not alone
- We’re here with you
- Wishing you comfort and strength
- I’m so sorry for your loss
- Words can’t help your pain, but we’re here for you
- Sending love and blessings
- Wishing you peace and comfort in this difficult time
Tip: For more ideas to craft your condolence message, check out this quick guide to meaningful sympathy cards with ten examples.
3. Choose Your Imagery
The wording of your sympathy card is certainly important, but the imagery also plays a big role in the overall feeling that your card evokes.
To find the right tone for your message, turn to one of Create’s many built-in imagery options:
- Use the Images tab to choose from among millions of stock assets, including both illustrations and photos. If you do not yet have a particular image in mind, try universal symbols of sympathy such as flowerscandles, sunsetsor nature landscapes.
- Use the Graphics tab to insert a more casual graphic like a hand-drawn heart, bouquet, or flower pattern. For a uniquely personal touch, use the Drawing tool to add in a handwritten note or even your own signature!
Another creative and moving option is to upload your own photo of the deceased. Simply go to Images> Upload to insert a favorite photo — one that calls to mind happy memories or celebrates something special about the person who has passed.
Tip: If you’re looking for just the right stock photo, try these suggestions for finding photos that express grief in a meaningful way.
4. Download Your Card for Sending
When you’re finished designing your card, click Download and choose your preferred file type.
If you’ve used a stock asset that requires licensing, you’ll be prompted to choose a plan before downloading. (If you want to download your sympathy card for free, simply remove the licensed image and choose any free graphic instead.)
If you’re wondering which file types are best for actually delivering your sympathy card, refer to these general guidelines:
- Email: Any file type will work just fine as an email attachment: JPEG, PNG, or PDF. To send your Ecard in the body of an email, choose JPEG or PNG.
- Social media: For Facebook, Instagram, and most other social media platforms, JPEG or PNG would be best. (Here’s a handy guide to social media sizestoo.)
- Printing at home: Any file type would be fine for a home printer: JPEG, PNG, or PDF.
- Printing at a professional shop: First, turn on the bleed marks by clicking the gear icon in the lower-left and then toggling on Show bleed marks. Expand your imagery to fill the newly-enlarged canvas, and then download your print-ready PDF.
5 Etiquette Tips for Writing and Sending Sympathy Cards
Worried about getting the etiquette right when sending a sympathy card? Below are a few tips to keep in mind — but not to stress over!
In a time of grief, acknowledging the loss in any way you can is far more important than being a stickler for social rules. Prioritize being kind and you really can’t go wrong.
1. When Should I Send a Sympathy Card?
Etiquette experts like Emily Post typically recommend sending a sympathy card as soon as you’ve received news of the loss. That may be immediately, several weeks, or even months after.
There’s no expiration date for grief, so even if it seems “too late,” there’s nothing to be lost by sending a heartfelt card. If the loss is less recent, simply make a brief apology for the delay and carry on with your message.
2. Who Should I Send Sympathy Cards to?
It is most often recommended to send sympathy cards to the closest surviving relatives that you know personally, such as the widow (er), the child, or the parent of the deceased.
Then again, immediate family is only one type of relation, and grief affects us all regardless of family ties. It would be perfectly appropriate and kind to send a card to anyone whom you know will be deeply affected by the loss, family or not.
Tip: If you make sympathy cards online in Create, it’s easy to create a base card design and then customize a unique message for each recipient. All you’ll need to do is enter revised text and download your new file.
It’s much more acceptable these days to send your condolences online than it was even a few years ago. If you’re sharing your message on social mediathough, be mindful of the recipient and their social media preferences and habits.
If the bereaved does not use social media or does not often share private matters online, then consider sending your condolences by email or direct message instead.
And, if the recipient does use social media, take the time to make sure — double sure, triple sure even — that they’ve shared the loss themselves on their own account. You do not want to accidentally announce something online that they were not comfortable sharing themselves.
4. What Should I Write in a Sympathy Card?
When it comes to writing your sympathy message, the best tip is to be sincere and empathetic. Validate the card recipient’s pain, share in their grief, and let them know they’re not alone. Your words won’t stop the hurt, but they can bring a small moment of respite and even a smile to their face.
The most important etiquette tips revolve around what not to say in a sympathy card. Try to avoid any words or phrases that could come across as diminishing or belittling, such as:
- I know exactly how you feel.
- It’ll get better.
- It had to happen some time.
- At least [XYZ] didn’t happen.
- Try to think positively.
- God / the universe has a plan.
- This was for the best.
- Every cloud has a silver lining.
- [The deceased] is in a better place now.
5. Should I Give a Sympathy Gift?
Gifts are by no means required for a meaningful sympathy card, and if a gift is not in your means, then a simple card is more than enough.
If you do choose to give a gift, consider the wishes of the family. Some families will ask for charitable donations, memorial funds, specific types of flowers, or even no gift at all.
If you’re close to the family and feel comfortable doing so, sometimes a cash gift would be most meaningful.
Alternatively, you could give the gift of time by offering to babysit, make a home-cooked mealor clean their house.
Showing up for a grieving loved one is as simple as sending a thoughtful card. And, now that you know how to make a sympathy card in Create, you’re only a few minutes away from sharing your condolences with someone who could really use the support.
Why not get started with a greeting card template?
Cover image via Mary Long.