Writing a condolence note is never easy—and it may seem even tougher when writing one for a client. It’s a struggle to reach the right level of emotion, say something meaningful, and be genuine. Juggling all this to create a few sentences is hard!
Depending on how well you and your client know each other, you can send a small, inexpensive sympathy gift basket or a hearty charcuterie and cheese gift basket with a personal note. If you didn’t know the person who died, this presents a different set of challenges. There are no fond memories to share, no past heartwarming stories to bond over.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Step 1: Understand Client Email Etiquette
- Step 2: Pick an Appropriate Subject Line
- Step 3: Start Writing Your Email
- Step 4: Check Out Some Example Condolence Messages for a Client
- Step 5: Send Off Your Condolences
Writing professional condolence notes, though, follows a rigid etiquette code. In some ways, this makes them much easier to create, unlike typical condolence protocol. If you’re trying to come up with the right condolence email for a client, here are some tips you need to know.
Tip: If your client recently lost a loved one, sharing our post-loss checklist with them is one way you can lend some practical support.
There are a few ironclad codes for client email etiquette. No matter what type of email you’re sending, a professional tone is paramount. Including cute emojis, slang, abbreviations, and shortcuts don’t work. This is true for a condolence note, too. You may come across as flippant and uncaring—even if that’s the last thing you want!
Expressing the right level of emotion is essential, too. Being dry and unsympathetic is cruel. During this difficult time, support is crucial. Don’t veer into the other extreme, either. Melodramatic levels of sympathy are very inappropriate.
If you’ve never met the person who died, this may seem very insincere. Don’t make your relationship, or connection to the deceased, more than it is.
What should you put in the subject line of a condolence email? It may be tempting to leave it blank if you don’t know what to say. Sending an email with a blank subject line is rude, so resist the temptation. Avoid being wordy, either. As usual, being succinct is the best option.
How would you categorize the focus of your email? It depends on how well you know your client. If you don’t know them well, consider the categories of greeting card sections in the supermarket. You can use these categories to fill in the subject line of your email.
Using a word or phrase like ‘Condolences’ or ‘With Sympathy’ are great options. If you knew the client or the deceased well, a more personalized option is best. Try something like ‘So sorry for your loss’ or ‘Sad News'. Any of these choices are appropriate subject lines.
Choosing what to say will help narrow down the wilderness of options. When making these choices, remember the golden rule: never assume. It’s easy to do when crafting a condolence note. When struggling for something to say, cliches are easy.
What if you wrote something like “they’re in a better place now” or “I’m sure you’ll miss them very much?” You may have committed a variety of social faux pas in two short phrases.
Never assume that someone’s beliefs or relationships align with your own. This is especially inappropriate in a condolence card. The focus should be on them, never you.
If they didn’t believe in an afterlife, that type of condolence is meaningless. Assuming that your client and the deceased had a positive relationship is also a mistake. Unless you’re sure they had a great relationship, you may very well put yourself in an awkward situation.
Doling out advice is also a professional mistake. A condolence card isn’t the place to impart life wisdom or act as if you know what they’re going through. Even if you’ve suffered the loss of someone close to you in the past, no one wants a sermon. Giving advice is the last thing an emotional person needs. They need support and empathy, which are the two main goals of a condolence email.
By avoiding these pitfalls, you're well on your way to a kind condolence email. Professional email etiquette favors brevity, including condolence notes. Consider what you’re trying to communicate.
The main goals are: acknowledging their loss and pain and offering your support. With those goals, you can craft an email without breaching any professional boundaries. Below, we’ve crafted some examples so you can brainstorm a personalized version.
When writing condolence messages, you can use the letter-writing methods learned in school.
If you don’t remember anything at all, no worries! We’ve got you covered with a few personalized options that you may customize how you wish.
- I heard about the loss of your relative. I’m so sorry about their passing. Know that you’re in my prayers during this very difficult time.
- I’d like to extend my heartfelt sympathy for the death of your relative. My thoughts are with you, and I’m sorry for your loss.
- I was so sad to hear about your tragic loss. Please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you right now. I hope memories of them bring you comfort.
- I heard about your relative’s passing. This must be a very difficult time for you, and I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m keeping you in my thoughts.
- I’d like to give my heartfelt condolences for the death of your relative. Thinking of you during this difficult time.
- Please accept my deepest sympathies during this very difficult time. I hope the memories you have with your relative comfort you. I’m so sorry for your loss and I am keeping you in mind.
- I’m so saddened to hear about your relative’s passing. I hope you have many family members and friends to gather around you during this difficult time. Please accept the deepest condolences from us.
- I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your relative. I hope sharing memories with family and friends is comforting.
- I’m so sorry about the difficult time you must be experiencing after the death of your relative. Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers, and I hope that you have good memories to comfort you.
- I hope you find comfort in good memories during this difficult time. Please accept my heartfelt condolences during this time.
After sending an email, there are a few options. You could leave your condolences in email form, and not bring it up again. If you don't know the client, this may be more appropriate than a more personalized approach.
If you’ve known the client for a long time, though, other avenues are more appropriate. Letting your condolences disappear into an empty void is a mistake too many people make.
With that in mind, avoid making this same mistake yourself. There are a few situations you may find yourself in that need a decision on how to follow up with your condolences.
For instance, what if you see them in person soon after you send your note? You shouldn’t avoid the topic as if walking on eggshells. They are aware of their loss, and pretending it didn’t happen only favors you.
Yet, offering a shoulder to cry on may be inappropriate. You can verbally repeat the contents of your condolence card when you meet them, though. This can replace an awkward conversational beat, so you don't have to ask how they're doing.
Following up is paramount situations where you have something concrete to offer. For instance, if it were a family member, you could offer to bring them meals or help with the funeral. In this case, though, you can ask how they're doing.
Other types of follow-ups may seem like you’re pressuring them to respond to your email. Of course, this is the last kind of pressure they need right now! Saving follow-ups for a few weeks or months afterward is a better idea.
Many people who have dealt with loss may prefer the presence of a physical card on their desk, rather than an email. These reminders that others are thinking about them can make all the difference. Consider sending a physical card, too, and maybe even a sympathy gift basket if you knew your client well.
Sending a Memorable Note
Writing a note, whether it’s a condolence message for a friend, family member, or client, can be difficult. Expressing sympathy and care, while maintaining a professional tone, is hard. The ideas above can serve as a great jump-off point and give comfort to your clients.