Offer Sympathy In a Case of Serious or Terminal Illness • Example Letters, Guides and Samples


This letter should respectfully acknowledge the reader's misfortune while offering comfort and support. Be brief, honest, and sincere as you write your message on a "thinking of you" or no-message card.

How to write this sympathy letter:

  1. Briefly express your sympathy.
  2. Offer your compassion and, if possible, include a shared memory, but avoid writing it as an epitaph.
  3. Offer encouragement and support.

Example Letter #1


I am so sorry to hear of your illness. It brings to mind the many times you have given your time to nurse others in similar situations. I would like to do the same for you. With your permission I would like to come over each morning to help you get ready for the day.

Example Letter #2


I have been thinking a lot about you and the discomfort you are experiencing these days. I wish I could do more to help, but rest assured that you are in our thoughts and prayers. Although we have lived far apart for some time, many of my fondest memories are of those times when we camped in the mountains. I hope we can do it again. Keep those spirits high! Jane and the children send their best.

Example Letter #3


I was devastated to hear of the severity of your mother's illness. When we were children she always gave us much-needed advice over a glass of cold milk and a plate of warm cookies. And as we have grown older, she has continued to give us wise counsel. She has always had remarkably clear perspective. I cannot help but feel that it is my turn to give something back. Please give me a call and let me know how I can help.

Example Letter #4


It was a shock to learn that John suffered a serious stroke. It still doesn't seem like a reality. After my neighbor suffered a stroke, he regained his ability to walk and speak although it took several months of therapy. I am hoping and praying for a favorable medical prognosis for John. I would be happy to drive you to his doctor's appointments if you should need the help. Just let me know what I can do.

Example Letter #5


I am distressed to learn of your recent health problems and what you must go through for a full recovery. You have been on my mind constantly for the past several days, and you are always in our prayers. I've been thinking about the times we played golf with the Doe brothers, and I hope it won't be long until we can do that again. As soon as you are feeling well enough to accept visitors, Jane and I would like to spend some moments with you. Until then, get well fast and please tell Ashley if there is something I can do to help either of you.

Write Your Letter Step-by-Step

1 Briefly express your sympathy.

Sample Sentences for Step 1
  • I am sorry to hear that your father is seriously ill.
  • When we learned of the serious nature of your illness, we were both shocked and saddened.
  • We are concerned that you have had more than your share of pain and illness recently.
  • I was distressed to learn of John's brain tumor.
  • When you told me last night about your diagnosis, I was unprepared for its seriousness.
  • The thought of the pain and suffering you are experiencing upsets me very much.
  • If I could remove this heavy burden from your shoulders, I would replace your heartache and pain with peace and joy.
Sample Phrases for Step 1
  • are concerned that
  • doesn't seem fair
  • is seriously ill
  • more than your share of pain and illness recently
  • not what he deserves
  • pain and suffering you are experiencing
  • saddened to hear that your father is so ill
  • serious nature of your illness
  • sorry to hear
  • such a serious
  • this heartache and pain
  • this heavy burden
  • told me about your diagnosis
  • unprepared for its seriousness
  • upsets me very much
  • was distressed to learn
  • were shocked and distressed to learn
  • were both surprised and saddened
  • wish I could remove

2 Offer your compassion and, if possible, include a shared memory, but avoid writing it as an epitaph.

Sample Sentences for Step 2
  • It must be so upsetting for you to see such a brilliant mind unable to communicate. I am still amazed, after all these years, by the knowledge of history your father shared with us on our trip to Kansas.
  • We are sure that your children are taking it hard, but we will continue to hope and pray for you.
  • Someone as lovely as you deserves all of life's richest blessings.
  • He has been such a positive role model for our children. I am so appreciative to this day for the assistance he offered Jane and me when we were having a difficult time coping with Ashley's problems. I would like to return the help now, if I can.
  • My mind kept racing back to all of the crazy things we did together as freshmen in the dorms. We were so invincible then, without a care in the world!
  • Your strength and tranquility are a complete mystery to me, but I am thankful that you have such a positive outlook.
  • Such an illness is sure to take a toll on anyone, yet from adversity sometimes good results happen.
Sample Phrases for Step 2
  • all the crazy things we did together
  • deserves all of life's richest blessings
  • hard for you to be housebound
  • has been a source of strength to me
  • has always been a fighter
  • has never failed to amaze me
  • have always admired your courage
  • inability to communicate
  • look forward to your recovery
  • making wonderful memories
  • must be upsetting for you
  • not going to take this lying down
  • realize how distressing this must be for you
  • strength and tranquility
  • such a brilliant mind
  • such a positive role model for
  • thankful for your positive outlook
  • trust you to have such a positive attitude
  • very hard to accept
  • will always appreciate the

3 Offer encouragement and support.

Sample Sentences for Step 3
  • If you need a shoulder to cry on, mine is always available.
  • Perhaps I could gather together some old family photographs and personal journals for you to reminisce over while bedridden.
  • If there is anything at all that we can do to ease your burden at this difficult time, please don't hesitate to ask.
  • When it is permissible for John to have visitors, we would like to see him. In the meantime, is there anything we can do for you?
  • Perhaps then we can reminisce over some of the crazy things we used to do together.
    Sounds like you could use a good laugh. I will be over on Wednesday.
  • This sounds ironic, but even when you are sick in the hospital, you are still my source of strength and inspiration. I want you to know that I treasure your friendship.
  • It gives me great comfort to know that you are in God's sure hands at this time. Please know that I will always be here for you.
Sample Phrases for Step 3
  • a shoulder to cry on
  • always be available to you
  • always be here for you
  • anything we can do for you
  • anything at all that we can do
  • be sure to follow the doctor's prescribed routine
  • best wishes during this difficult time
  • can reminisce together
  • comforting to know that we are all in God's hands
  • do to ease your burden
  • if you need a friend to talk to
  • in God's sure hands
  • like to help if I can
  • my turn to give you a hand
  • our thoughts and prayers are with you
  • please don't hesitate to ask
  • please let me know when we may visit
  • remain a source of inspiration to me
  • wander down memory lane together
  • will be coming to see you
  • would like to visit
  • your friendship is very valuable to me