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There are three types of condolence situations that may happen with your closest friends. One, they may have lost a spouse, which is devastating; two, they may have lost a parent or other relative with whom they were very close, which is nearly as devastating; and three, they may have lost a relative with whom they were not necessarily as close.
Loss of a Spouse
If it’s a spouse, your initial response is going to be a tearful hug, or a phone call if they don’t live nearby. But don’t neglect the sympathy note as well. Your first note should go out immediately, and just be something short, such as “I’m here for you.” The main thing is just to get something to them quickly that lets them know you’re ready to lend a shoulder, and follow it up with plenty of support and caring.
In the meantime, you should take some time to sit down and write a heartfelt letter, expressing how sorry you are that your friend is going through this pain. Don’t forget to praise the deceased’s virtues, and bring up one or two happy memories that you all three shared together. Finish by telling your friend how much you care and that you hope he or she will lean on you for support during this time of grieving and loss.
This is a good format to follow, but the words should be your own. This is your best friend, and he or she will be offended if the words you put into your heartfelt letter seem to have come from some sort of a form letter.
Loss of a Parent or Close Relative
This follows the basic format:
I’m so sorry to hear about your Mother’s passing. I know how devastating it is to lose your parents. It makes you feel suddenly so alone in the world, especially if you don’t have any brothers or sisters. I just want you to know, you are not alone. Consider me your sister. I’ll always be here for you, and I hope you’ll let me lend you a shoulder to cry on whenever you need one.
Once again, start out with a heartfelt expression of condolence, and this time instead of sharing a memory you can empathize with her situation. If your parents are still alive, you might say something like “I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose a parent.” Follow up with a strong show of support and make sure she knows she’s not alone.
Loss of a Relative
This is basically the same format, only not quite as heartfelt.
I’m so sorry about your Uncle Joe. I know how fond you were of him. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help. You know I’m always here for you.
The Male Perspective
A man might write his best friend a note more like this:
I’m so sorry about your Father. Losing a parent is about the worst thing in the world. If there’s anything you need, or you just want to talk, I’m always here for you.