3 Things to Say on a Sympathy Card When You’re Not Close to the Family

3 Things to Say on a Sympathy Card When You’re Not Close to the Family

Dear Ms Cards Etiquette,
My wife’s ex-husband recently died of cancer. Is it appropriate for me to send a sympathy card to her adult step-children and their mother? What do I say on the sympathy card? We are all on good terms, though we are not close.
Charles T.

With Sympathy Card
Many people wonder if it is OK to send cards to the “ex’s” family members, for the holidays, funerals or birthdays. The answer depends if you are all on friendly terms. “Friendly terms” means that you do not have to be close, but you are able to be in the same room and at least make small talk.

If all of you are on friendly terms, as you are, Charles, then it is absolutely appropriate to send cards of any type: birthday, sympathy or thinking of you.

If you are not close, however, then keeping the card short and to the point is best. Simply a line or two expressing your condolences along with your signature is fine. (More than that is awkward since you won’t know enough about the other person to know what to say anyway.)

Some appropriate things to say:

  • I’m very sorry to hear of your loss. You are in my thoughts and prayers in this difficult time.
  • Please accept my condolences for the death of [his name]. My thoughts are with you.
  • I am so sorry. May God be with you. (This is appropriate if you know the other person is religious.)

Remember, Charles, you don’t need to say a lot. Sometimes the fact that you are sending anything at all will speak volumes.

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