When someone you know is mourning, sending a sympathy card is a thoughtful way of expressing your condolences and support. It’s a simple gesture that reminds your loved one that you’re thinking of them and that they’re not alone in their grief.

If you’ve never sent a sympathy card before, don’t worry, it’s pretty much the same as sending any other kind of card or letter in the mail. To help guide you, we’ve outlined everything you need to know about addressing a sympathy card to someone special. 

How to address a sympathy card: examples and guidance

Before we cover what to write in a sympathy card and how to address it, let’s discuss who you should send a sympathy card to in the first place. 

When it comes to sympathy card etiquette, it’s acceptable to send your condolences to anyone who is grieving. This could include the parents, siblings, cousins, friends, or even colleagues of the deceased. You can send individual cards or one collective message to the family — whichever you’d prefer.

How to choose a sympathy card

When it comes to choosing an appropriate sympathy card, you have a few options. You can choose one with a pre-written message about condolences, select one with a sentimental quote about loss, or find a blank card with space to write your own message. Even if you pick a card with a message already written inside, we suggest personalizing it with a few words of your own. 

Read more: How to send condolences

How to address a sympathy card

When addressing a sympathy card, begin by greeting the recipients. You can include a salutation, like “Dear [name],” or just begin by writing out each of their names. If you’re writing to a collective group, you can address the entire family instead of listing out each name, for example, “Dear Fall Family.” However, if you do choose to list out each name, make sure to include everyone, including any children. 

Also, you can use the names you typically refer to them by, such as nicknames or names of affection. There’s no need to include their full first and last name or proper name if you usually refer to them by another name. For example, when writing to a family member, you can address them as Grandpa or Uncle J in the card, as long as you’re being respectful. 

After that initial line, you can begin expressing your sympathy. What exactly you write in your sympathy card message is entirely up to you. Maybe you’ll offer your condolences, reflect on a special memory of the deceased, or suggest specific ways in which you can help. 

For example:

Dear Uncle J,

I’m heartbroken over the loss of Aunt April. I will always remember her contagious laugh and adventurous spirit. Please know that you’re in my thoughts during this difficult time. I’m always here for you, and if it would help, I’d love to lend a hand by babysitting my cousins. 

Much love,

Em

How to address a sympathy card envelope for an individual 

Now that you’ve written your message, it’s time to fill out the envelope. So, what is the proper way to address an envelope for a sympathy card?

If you’re addressing a sympathy card to a friend or relative, it’s just like addressing a normal card or letter. 

In the center of the envelope, write the recipient’s first and last name on the first line, followed by their street address on the second line, and their city, state, and zip code on the third line. 

For example:

Josh Fall 

554 Maple Court

Montpelier, Vermont 65601

While you might call this person by another name, such as Gramps or Uncle Josh, it’s best to include their proper name on the envelope to ensure it’s delivered to the correct person. You can always include their preferred name in the actual sympathy card. 

In the top right-hand corner, include your name and return address (write it out just as you did with the recipient’s address). This provides the recipient with your address in case they’d like to send you a thank you card, but it also tells the postal service where to return your card if it’s undeliverable. 

Before sending your card, be sure to include a postage stamp in the right-hand corner of the envelope. 

How to address a sympathy card envelope for a group 

When it comes to sending a sympathy card message to a group that resides at the same residence, you can address them individually or collectively on the envelope. 

For instance, if you’re addressing an entire household, it’s appropriate to write “The Fall Family” or “The Family of [Name of the Deceased].” Alternatively, if it’s a married couple, you can address “Josh and Mary Fall.” 

If the members of the household have different last names, you can include all of their names on the first line, for example, “Josh Fall, Leonard Brown, and Cindy Lane.” If there are too many names, it’s appropriate to include something like “Josh Fall and Friends” or “Josh Fall and Family.” 

Once you’ve determined how you’d like to address the group, you’ll fill out the envelope as you normally would:

The Fall Family

554 Maple Court

Montpelier, Vermont 65601

As always, remember to include your return address in the left-hand corner and a stamp in the right-hand corner. 

When to send a sympathy message

Now that you’ve decided who you’d like to send a sympathy card message to and what to say, when do you send it? We recommend sending a message as soon as possible, particularly within the first few weeks of the passing. If you miss this window, you might consider waiting and sending a sympathy card at a time that may be especially hard for your loved one, such as the holidays or around the deceased’s birthday.

When you know someone mourning a loss, a sympathy card provides a way to offer your love and support. And remember, it doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out message, just a few thoughtful words can make a big difference. 

Read more: 25 alternative ways to say “rest in peace”