Offer Sympathy In a Case of Serious or Terminal Illness — Letter-Writing Tutorial


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.


1. Briefly express your sympathy.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.<br />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.


  • 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

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