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Sending Condolences: Hurricanes and Natural Disasters

Although all Americans and many people throughout the world have been touched by various disasters, some have been touched more deeply. These are people who have lost or been separated from loved ones, whose homes or businesses have been destroyed, or whose future has been turned upside down in one way or another.

Graphic with some pointers on writing condolences for natural disasters.

For those who have experienced a profound loss, it is very helpful to hear from others. Receiving notes and calls helps to reduce isolation, loneliness, and helplessness. Yet for those outside the experience it can often be hard to know what to say to someone whose life has been changed by suffering and loss. Here are some suggestions and examples to reduce the difficulty and awkwardness.

Suggestions: Send an email or a note through regular mail. Don’t be embarrassed if you can’t think of the “right” words. Just write what you feel. Acknowledge the other person’s loss. Express your care, concern, or understanding. Close with an expression of sympathy.

Example 1.
Dear _____,

Words cannot express how sorry we are about the recent tragic events that have touched you so deeply. Your loss is huge, and we can only imagine the hurt you feel.

We want you to know that you are in our thoughts and prayers. Please accept our condolences and our hopes for your healing and renewal.

With sympathy,

Example 2:
Dear _________,

I am so sorry about the heartbreaking losses you have experienced through the Hurricane. Please accept my deepest sympathy.

As you move through the difficult days and weeks ahead, you will be present in my thoughts. If there is anything I can do to ease your loss, please let me know. I would be grateful for the opportunity to help you.

With sincere sympathy,

Example 3:
Dear ____,

We are deeply sorry to learn about your losses caused by the hurricane and its terrible aftermath. Please know that we are all thinking about you and your coworkers as you piece together your lives and your work.

You have our sincere condolences.

Example 4:
Dear ____,

 

Talking with ______, I learned about how the Hurricane has upset your plans for school [retirement, business]. I am very sorry this has happened. I know it must be extremely difficult for you and others in your situation.

I simply want you to know I am thinking of you. I wish you the best possible outcome as you navigate this very difficult time.

Sincerely,

I hope these examples are helpful in writing notes of sympathy and condolence. Please see our article on a more general guide on how to write a note of condolence when you aren’t able to change anything about the situation, as well as some notes on writing the most difficult of condolences.

Lynn

Further reading on condolences related topics: Writing Condolences, Sending Condolences for the Loss of a Pet, Thanking a Group for Condolences, Thank You for Condolences

Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.

4 comments on “Sending Condolences: Hurricanes and Natural Disasters”

  • Thank you for these helpful suggestions. I am sure they can be applied also to other difficult situations that call for expressions of sympathy, when words are hard to find.

  • Thanks for your good advice about and wonderful examples of condolence notes. Those notes are the hardest 3 lines to write.

    After a death, I am often at a loss for words, so I turn to Pat McNees’s book, Dying:A Book of Comfort. It is a collection of poems, essays and thoughts about death and grief. I have sent the book (and a note!) to countless friends after a death. Everyone thanks me, and finds something in it that provides comfort.

  • Marilynne, thank you for recommending Pat McNees’s book. It’s wonderful that you have given it to people who could really benefit from it. Condolence messages can be read in moments, but a good book can provide lasting comfort.
    I look forward to reading it myself.

  • Thanks for your helpful notes templates. I used one sending for condolences to a business partner.

    Thanks again
    LS

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