How to say ‘Sorry for your loss’ professionally

Luka Kovac

Last updated on: December 1, 2022

Losing someone dear is often traumatic and nerve-racking. 

As we all know, it is good to be there for people who have suffered a loss recently.

However, it is hard to find a perfect balance between professional and personal approaches when it comes to writing proper condolences, isn’t it?

So, if you want to be sure that you are writing the perfect professional condolence message for a coworker, you are at the right place. 

In this article, I will show examples of sympathy messages for coworkers and explanations for why you should use them.

How do you say sorry for your loss professionally-cover

How do you say condolences to a coworker?

As one can guess, there is no universal way to create a condolence message for a coworker. 

If only we would never have to write them again. 

However, life is not a fairytale, people die, and we have to try to comfort those in grief. 

In the following paragraphs, I’ll offer some general rules for writing a professional condolence message.

Rule #1: Be concise and clear 

Although it seems fine to write an essay on how everything will be okay, it is not. 

A long condolence email can often be stressful and exhausting to read during a period of grieving and emotional distress. 

Instead of writing a long condolence message for a coworker, keep it short. A few lines will serve. 

Only then, if you see that a coworker wants to continue the conversation, can you write longer messages and maybe meet them in person. 

💡 Pumble Pro Tip

To learn more about how to be concise and clear, check out our guide about improving  your work message skills:

Rule #2: If you know something heartening from the deceased’s life, mention it

Coworkers often become true friends, so they get to know a lot about each other. 

Therefore, in case you know any story about the deceased’s life, mention it briefly in the condolence message to a colleague. 

I am sure it will be appreciated. 

Rule #3: Refrain from mentioning the cause of death

A well-mannered condolence message for a coworker should not include the cause of death. 

Mentioning the cause of death can only make a grieving colleague overthink the painful event and go through the same agony again. 

What is the best condolence message?

Let me be honest, there is no best condolence message. 

How a professional condolence email should look varies depending on who you write it to and how close you are with them.

Therefore, your approach cannot be the same when you write a condolence message for a coworker or, for example, a boss. 

To help you, I have made a list of useful sympathy messages for coworkers that you can use in your condolence email or team chat message. 

Of course, feel free to combine these messages to get one in accordance with your feelings. 

Condolence message for a coworker you are close with

As we all know, it is of paramount importance to have good communication with your coworkers and to stay in touch with them.

In addition, it is very likely that you will eventually become friends with the people you work with. 

Consequently, you will share both good and bad, and when one suffers, the other should be there for them. 

Here are some examples of what to say to a coworker who lost someone:

“I am thinking of you during this difficult time. I’m so sorry for your loss.”

“I am here for you. Let me know if I can be of any help.”

“My heart goes out to you my friend. Stay strong, and let me know if you need anything.”

“Please accept my condolences. You are strong enough to go through all this, but still, call me if you need anything.”

“I am deeply sorry for your loss. You know you have all of my love.”

Why is it good to use these condolence messages for coworkers you are close with?

Firstly, it is critical to let close coworkers (basically friends) know that they are not alone during tough times. 

Showing them your deep love and support by using the messages mentioned above will surely help them recover. 

Moreover, your coworkers will see that they have someone to rely on. 

Secondly, by using these condolence messages, you will show a great understanding of the emotional suffering that your close coworker goes through. 

As it is well-known, understanding is one of the crucial aspects of every healthy human relationship.

Therefore, let your grieving colleague know that you will help them carry out their activities. 

For example, you can take care of their work for the time being. 

Of course, before taking over a colleague’s work, it is important to announce it on team chat apps like Pumble, so that the other colleagues know. 

Below, we can see a screenshot of how notifying your colleagues should look. It is clear and written on time.  

John notifies his colleagues about ensuing changes via Pumble, a team chat app
John notifies his colleagues about ensuing changes via Pumble, a team chat app

Finally, a few words of encouragement are always welcome in difficult situations. 

Even the mentally strongest people can break under the huge weight of someone’s death. 

Hence, your words of encouragement and offer of help are something they may need. 

Condolence message for a coworker you do not know so well

It is completely okay to empathize with the pain of people you hardly know and see if you can help in any way.

Then again, you need to be careful — you do not want to use cliches in your condolence message or make someone feel uncomfortable because of your sudden interest in their mental and emotional state. 

Therefore, I recommend you follow the first rule I mentioned above — always be concise and clear.

Take a look at our examples:

“Please accept my heartfelt/warmest/deepest condolences.”

“Sending my condolences.”

“I’m so sorry for your loss. My thoughts are with you.”

“I heard that _____ has passed away. Please accept my condolences.”

“I heard what happened. May you have strength and peace during this difficult time.”

Why is it good to use these condolence messages for coworkers you don’t know so well?

Sometimes less is more. 

The aforementioned, slightly shorter messages are good ways to pay respect and let your colleague know they have your support. 

However, if you see that your colleague wants to continue the conversation, indulge yourself in it, and see how you can help. 

💡 Pumble Pro Tip

To learn more about the importance of empathy among colleagues, visit our blog post:

Condolence message for your boss

In a lot of companies, there is a kind of boundary between a boss and employees. 

Therefore, it is not easy to talk about private matters with a person you have never ever been close to. 

Having all this in mind, I recommend you stick to encouraging messages that will be shorter, but still kind in moments of grief. 

I do not recommend writing a message that might sound sycophantic, i.e. like you are just writing a condolence message to gain some kind of advantage or become the boss’s favorite employee.  

Here is my suggestion on what to write in a sympathy card or message to your boss:

“Please accept my condolences on the death of your ____.”

“I am so sorry to hear about the passing of your _____.”

“I wish to express my deepest condolences to you and your family.” 

“Losing someone close is a tragedy. Sending you my thoughts and prayers.”

“You have always supported workers. I hope that now we can do the same for you. May you have the strength to go through this painful period.” 

Why is it good to use these condolence messages for your boss 

All these messages, except maybe the fifth one, are neither too emotional nor personal. 

On the other hand, if your boss fosters an empathetic leadership style and you have a more friendly relationship, feel free to use the messages you would send to a coworker you are close with. 

After all, you are the only person who can assess your relationship with the boss. So, I do not doubt that you will choose the kindest combination of words to show your support. 

Condolence message on behalf of the company to send to a customer

If you, by any chance, hear that one of your customers has lost someone dear, it would be nice to reach out to them and express your condolences. 

You can do it on behalf of the company or personally. 

However, I recommend sending a condolence message on behalf of the company, because it looks more professional.

Here are some messages that might illustrate how to express condolences in an email on behalf of the company:

“We are sorry to hear about your loss. Please accept our sincere condolences.”

“Although we have not met personally, we know how difficult it is to lose someone close. May she/he/they rest in peace.” 

“We offer you our deepest condolences.”

“On behalf of the company, I offer you our warmest sympathies.”

“We are so sorry about your loss. As we consider you a trusted client, please tell us if we can help in any way.” 

Why is it good to use these condolence messages for customers?

First of all, by expressing condolences, you will pay respect to your client or customer. 

Secondly, a condolence message on behalf of the company might come as a positive surprise and bring a little comfort to a customer. 

Finally, by offering condolences, you subtly assure them that they have enough time for themselves before you start doing business again. 

Condolence message to send to a deceased colleague’s family

We can never be aware that we are hanging out with someone for the last time. 

The death of a colleague often comes suddenly, and we do not have enough time to prepare for it. 

Whether we talk about a guy we have never spoken to or a colleague who is like a sister/brother to us, we often do not know how to react when we hear that they are gone forever. 

It seems that we are simply used to them, and when they go for good, nothing is the same anymore.

Here are a few examples from which one can pick the most appropriate condolence message on the death of a colleague:

“I will never forget (name of a colleague). I was very lucky to work with him/her. May he/she/they rest in peace.”

“You can be proud of your daughter/son. She/He/they were/was an amazing person. May the memories of her/him/them live forever!”

“(Name of a colleague) was a diligent and reliable person. He will never be forgotten. May he/she/they rest in peace.”

“It was a privilege to work with your son/daughter for so many years. Please accept my condolences. If you need anything, please contact me.”

“I’m so sorry for your loss. The office will never be the same without him/her/them.”

Why is it good to use these condolence messages for a deceased colleague’s family? 

If you worked with the deceased colleague, it would mean a lot for their family to receive a condolence message from you. 

You can use the messages I mentioned above, and in addition, you can give a personal reason why you will remember your deceased colleague.

In other words, use any anecdote or professional achievement to emphasize his/her importance for you or your company. 

How do you express condolences to a coworker for a death in the family?

Shock. Denial. Suffering. 

These are the three words that might describe the state of a person who heard that his parent, spouse, or sibling had passed away. 

Many would say that the loss of a sibling or partner is the most difficult thing that one can experience.

Marian Osterweis wrote about emotional reactions to tragedies in his book “Bereavement: Reactions, Consequences, And Care”. He confirms the idea that among the reactions to particular types of bereavement, suffering after losing a partner is one of the strongest ones. 

In situations like these particularly, most families stick together. 

Therefore, bear in mind that the only thing one can give a coworker in those times is some additional support, while the true consolation lies within the family.

Nevertheless, we should try everything in our power to make our grieving colleague feel at least slightly better.  

Consequently, I have written a few examples of what to say to a coworker who lost a parent, spouse, or sibling.

Condolence message on the death of a parent 

Here are some examples of what to say if your colleagues suffered a loss of a parent: 

“Please accept my condolences. I hope that the lovely memories of your father/mother will give you consolation/comfort.”

“I am terribly sorry for your loss. Please accept my condolences. My thoughts are with your family.”

“I am praying for you and your family. I wish you comfort and peace during these difficult times.”

“Losing a mother/father is always painful and heartbreaking. I am so sorry, please accept my condolences.”

“My heartfelt sympathies are with you and your family. You are strong enough to get through this difficult time.”

“I am sending you these flowers hoping that they will bring you at least some peace and comfort. May your father/mother rest in peace.”

Condolence message for loss of husband/wife

In case your colleague lost a husband or a wife, these messages would be appropriate to send to them:

“May the fond memories of your time together bring you peace. God rest his/her soul.”

“I’m so sorry for your loss. She/He was an amazing person. May she/he rest in peace.”

“I hope these flowers will bring you some hope during these dark times. Please accept my sincere condolences.”

“Many cherished memories between you two will live forever. May them bring you endless courage to go through these days.”

“My thoughts and prayers are with you. She/He/They was a wonderful wife/husband. God rest his/her/their soul.”

Condolence message for a colleague who lost a sibling

The loss of a sibling is one of the biggest traumas a human can experience, therefore be careful what you would send. I recommend sending something like this:  

“It is unimaginable to me what you are going through right now. It is clear how important your brother/sister was to you. Please accept my deepest condolences.”

“May the memories bring comfort to you and your family. I am so sorry because of your loss.”

“Losing a brother/sister is heartbreaking. It is a terrible loss, but I know you are strong enough.”

“Please accept my warmest condolences. I wish you peace and lots of love to go through this time.”

“I am thinking of you and your family. May God rest your brother’s/ sister’s soul”

Why is it good to use these condolence messages?

For those of us who have, fortunately, never experienced such traumatic events, it is best to write and use a professional condolence message that is brimming with love, empathy, and support. 

Furthermore, if you by any chance knew the deceased personally and their relationship with your colleague, it would be good to shortly point that out in a condolence email.

In particular cases, one can also send flowers along with a condolence sympathy card.

Although sending flowers might seem like overstepping professional boundaries, in situations like this, it is not. That is due to the symbolic message that flowers bear — hope. 

What to avoid in a professional condolence email?

So far, you have probably gotten some idea of what to write in your condolence email to make it as polite as possible. 

However, bear in mind that there are things that you should avoid mentioning in your condolence email or message.

Here is what one should not do when they write a professional condolence message:

  1. Never compare someone else’s loss to your own.
  2. Avoid discussing the cause of death.
  3. Avoid using witty remarks and keep the tone courteous. 
  4. If you are unsure if your coworker/boss/customer is religious, avoid using religious motifs. 
  5. Avoid advising people on what they should do after their loss.
  6. If you do not know the nature of a bereaved’s relationship with the deceased person, avoid using the phrase “loved one” in a condolence message.

In summary: A sympathy message is important

As I pinpointed throughout the article, it is important to be there for someone in need. 

It is completely fine to send a supportive message if it feels right. 

Moreover, it can build healthier company culture and foster empathic communication among the employees. 

However, bear in mind people’s personal boundaries and choose the approach that is suitable for the relationship you have with the bereaved. 

All in all, do not underrate the contribution that a condolence message for a coworker can have during difficult periods. 

✉️ Have you ever been in a situation where you did not know what to say in a condolence message to a colleague? Maybe you know someone who had to write a sympathy message on behalf of the company? What are the main challenges in writing a professional condolence email? 
Let us know at blogfeedback@pumble.com for a chance to be featured in this or future blog posts. Also, if you found this blog post useful, share it with someone you think would also benefit from it.

Author: LukaKovac

Luka Kovac is a communication author and researcher at Pumble. His work is based on his knowledge of various communication methods, team-working ethics, and psychology. Since he is an experienced remote worker, his articles provide valuable insights into some vital strategies for successful communication and teamwork. When he’s not writing, he’s probably trying new interaction techniques and skills.

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