Making Sympathy Cards

Sympathy cards are part of life. As a cardmaker, this type of card can be one of the most difficult occasions to stamp. I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to create a sympathy card that will be meaningful to the recipient, and as a result it sometimes causes us to overthink or worry about saying the wrong thing. True confession time – I’ve even delayed sending sympathy cards because I’m so concerned with getting it “just right”. As a result of my own struggle with this very important cardmaking occasion, I decided to do some research on sympathy cards. I’ve compiled a collection of resources you can use to help you with creating sympathy cards AND writing meaningful messages inside them. I’d love to hear from you and get your insight on making sympathy cards. Leave me a comment.

3 Easy Techniques to Use When Making Sympathy Cards

Watch my video tutorial showing 3 easy techniques that you can use to make sympathy cards. Each technique focuses mainly on using the basic supplies: stamp images, dye ink, and cardstock. Then download the pdf for your own files.

Tips for Making Sympathy Cards

Creating sympathy cards doesn’t have to be complicated as long as you focus on the tone of the design. However, knowing that sympathy cards are often kept and/or displayed for a long time, it is easy to feel pressure to create something just perfect. The good news is that what you write on the inside of the card is the most important aspect of the sympathy card so your main focus should be on your personal message. Here are some tips for making sympathy card designs.

  • Keep it simple and elegant.
  • Stay true to your signature design style.
    • If you are a simple stamper, stay simple. If you work outside of your comfort zone you won’t feel confident about your design.
  • Images of things in nature are always appropriate.
  • Use soothing colors and patterns.
    • Monochromatic designs are always soothing.
    • Earth tones pair well with nature images.
    • Soft colors promote peace.
  • Focus on the greeting sentiment.

3 Easy Techniques for Making Sympathy Cards

Masking Paper & Simple Collage
  1. Cut a piece masking paper the same size as the focal point piece of cardstock (4” x 5-1/4”). Using a large punch or die, cut a hole in the middle of the masking paper. Attach the masking paper to the cardstock. 
  2. Use blending brushes to color in the hole. 
  3. Stamp images around the edges of the hole overlapping the hole space.
  4. Remove the masking paper carefully.
  5. Stamp the greeting.
  6. Optional: Use an embossing folder to emboss the entire piece of cardstock.
Distinktive Watercoloring
  1. Stamp a Distinktive image onto Fluid 100 Watercolor Paper with Classic Dye ink.
  2. Use a Water Painter brush to spread water over the image. If using multiple colors of ink that touch, let each color dry before working right next to a new color unless you want the colors to bleed. Use a cloth or paper towel to blot up excess water.
  3. When the watercolor paper is completely dry, stamp any additional images (like the greeting or details) and attach to the card front.
Watermark Background 2 in 1 
  1. Cut 2 pieces of paper the same size 3-1/2” x 5”. One piece is Fluid 100 Watercolor Paper, and the other is Basic White cardstock.
  2. Use blending brushes to apply 2-3 colors of classic ink to the piece of watercolor paper. Cover the entire side of this piece with lots of ink. The colors can be blended in lines or circles.
  3. Spritz an image (red rubber works better than photopolymer) with water (2-3 spritzes) and press it onto the watercolor paper letting it sit for a few seconds. Lift up the stamp and then immediately press it onto Basic White cardstock. The color lifted off from the watercolor paper will make a lighter second impression on the Basic White.
  4. Blot the excess water left behind by on the watercolor paper with a tissue to reveal the beautiful watermark.
  5. Continue the process of spritzing, pressing, lifting, repressing, and blotting until you create the background you desire.

Tips for Writing Sympathy Messages

While the stamp art on the front of the card sets the tone for the message you want to send to someone who is grieving, the message you write on the inside of the card is the most important part of the card to its recipient. We all want to “say the right thing” to someone who is experiencing loss. The first thing we need to remind ourselves of is that there isn’t anything we can write, say, or do that will truly take away any pain that a person is experiencing. (We are not that powerful.) The goal of sending a sympathy card is to show an act of love and compassion to another person who is experiencing a very human reality – death. Our job as a card sender is simple: Acknowledge the loss, show respect for the deceased, and send a piece of your heart.

  • Be yourself.
    • Use your own words
    • Your own handwriting matters
    • Use first person as if you are standing in front of the one grieving “I will miss her, too.” instead of “She will be missed.”
  • Acknowledge the loss and use the decedent’s name.
    • Clearly stating that someone has died shows your ability to share in their grief and are willing to be a part of what they are going through.
    • Be as specific as you can in how you will remember their loved one and what they meant to you.
    • Share a specific memory that celebrates their life.
    • Share something you appreciate about the decedent.
    • Send a picture if possible.
  • Offer practical support in a specific way if feasible.
    • Instead of saying, “if there is anything I can do…” offer something you can actually do and when you can do it.
    • Follow up after a time to offer again or assist in another way.
  • Send it even if time has passed.
    • It is more important that the card is ultimately sent than being sent within a given period of time.
    • Consider sending cards on the anniversary of the death or for the first holidays/birthday without the loved one.


Name the decedent. Acknowledge the loss. Identify with their grief and pain. Let them know you care

usurnsonline What to write in a sympathy card.

What Not to Say

For the most part, if you are focusing on the person who has suffered the loss and use the tips for good messages above, you will be writing a successful sympathy message. A good rule of thumb is to not use cliche’s or give advice based on your own experience. Loss of any kind will generally trigger our own feelings or memories of our own times of grief which can lead us to focus on our own response instead of focusing on their feelings. Here is a list of things we may be tempted to say but we should avoid (from usurnsonline What to write in a sympathy card.).

  • “At least he/she isn’t suffering anymore.” (That doesn’t take away the pain the person left behind feels.)
  • “You’re still young enough to have more kids” or “At least you have two other kids.” (This dismisses the loss as if it means nothing.)
  • “You can get another pet.” (This ignores the unique spot this pet had in the person’s life.)
  • “I know just how you feel.” (We all grieve differently, and no two circumstances are ever the same.)I know how you feel
  • I’ve lost a [parent, child, pet] too
  • You’re going to grow in this situation
  • You can always marry again / adopt / have another baby
  • She/he was so young
  • It was their time to go
  • Sentimental and vaguely religious (but ultimately meaningless) quotes
  • Anything that starts with “at least…”
  • I didn’t make the funeral because…

Resource Sites Used for this Post

myfarewelling.comSympathy Messages: What to Write in a Sympathy Card. This site has a very easy to read article with very useful tips. This is a great place to start reading.

LovePop40 Sympathy & Condolence Message Starters. This site has a wonderful explanation of sympathy vs. empathy vs. condolences and easy to use sympathy and condolence message starters

thepioneerwoman.comWhat to Write in a Sympathy Card to Offer Meaningful Support. This site has a lovely Pioneer Woman way of dealing with sympathy situation and sending cards.

shutterfly.comSympathy Messages: What To Write In A Sympathy Card. This site has very specific things you can use to help write messages for specific losses like father, mother, husband, wife, and pet.

thepencompanyWhat to write in a sympathy card: a definitive guide. This site has it all! An incredible resource for writing sympathy cards from start to finish.

usurnsonline What to write in a sympathy card. This site has a wonderful Easy Sympathy Card Message Template with sentence starters, and creators of the N.A.I.L. IT Acronym. It also has a great list of what NOT to say.

what’syourgriefHow to write a Sympathy card. This site has some helpful examples of an entire paragraph of written text for a sympathy message.

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