So drücken Sie Ihr Bedauern glaubhaft aus

Abschied zu nehmen, wie wir es gerade tun, ist nicht einfach. Je nach Anlass mischen sich eigene unangenehme Gefühle mit denen des Empfängers. Man kann nie wirklich sicher sein, wie groß die Betroffenheit auf der anderen Seite ist. Deshalb gehört es zu den schwierigsten Aufgaben überhaupt, schriftlich sein Bedauern über einen Abschied auszudrücken. Doch hier finden Sie auch für diese Fälle Hilfe.

Mögliche Anlässe, sein Bedauern auszudrücken, gibt es einige. Hier die wichtigsten:

  • Ein Mitarbeiter verlässt aus eigenem Antrieb die Firma,
  • jemand verlässt unfreiwillig die Firma,
  • ein Kollege steigt in eine andere Abteilung auf,
  • ein Angehöriger eines Mitarbeiters ist erkrankt,
  • ein Familienmitglied ist verstorben.

Sie haben es sofort gemerkt: Nicht alle diese Anlässe sind gleich deprimierend. Ein Aufstieg auf der Karriereleiter wird eher Freude als Bedauern bedeuten, zumindest für denjenigen, der geht.

Berühmte Vorlage

Da der Jahreswechsel bevorsteht, möchten wir Sie an ein zu diesem Anlass oft gesungenes Lied erinnern: „ Nehmt Abschied, Brüder, ungewiss“. Das sagt Ihnen nichts? Wenn Sie die Melodie hören, erkennen Sie es sofort.

Es ist ein altes schottisches Lied mit dem kryptisch erscheinenden Titel “Auld Lang Syne”. Es beginnt mit der ergreifenden Strophe:
“Should auld acquaintance be forgot And never brought to min’?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot And days of auld lang syne?”

Auch das bringt Sie nicht weiter? Dann schauen Sie doch einfach in unser Online- Heftarchiv. Entweder geben Sie den Titel als Stichwort ein oder Sie rufen gleich die Sonderausgabe 12/2010 auf. Dort finden Sie den ganzen Text und auch eine Übersetzung.

Grundlagen des Bedauerns

Let us return now to our examples of cases of regret. They all have something in common: You as the writer want to express regret. As we have already stated, this is easy if the recipient has chosen to leave to improve their career.

1. In Verbindung bleiben

Even if that is the case you still have to express your thoughts and feelings. But it is not such a big issue as the person leaving is positively looking forward to a bright future. The reasons for your regret are that you want to stay in touch and not be forgotten while your colleague is facing up to new challenges.

And, as always, it is best to start your letter with the right perspective – which is? Right: The recipient’s. Try to see the promotion with his or her eyes. And use it as a door opener:

  • I am so pleased you have got this promotion. You have earned it.
  • Now you are on the next level up. Congratulations.
  • How happy you must be to get promoted. Congratulations.

Eigene Perspektive
Only then you should mention your own perspective:

  • For me this means I am losing a very qualified colleague.
  • On the other hand I will miss your expertise and helpfulness.
  • One part of me is full of regrets as I enjoyed working with you very much.

Insider tip from your British editor Maureen Brown

You would want to avoid the impression that you are flattering to please but at the same time show that you are sincere. So it is a good idea to make your own suggestions for the future rather than just waiting for them to come up with the proposals.

Wunsch für die Zukunft
Express your thoughts and feelings without playing on the other’s heart strings. That would appear ingratiating.

Exercise: Wunsch auf Augenhöhe äußern

Now it is your turn again. Find at least 3 ways to express a wish and offer something in return.

  1. :::::___
  2. :::::___
  3. :::::___

Answer key

If the person is leaving to start a job at a new company, you have to be sensitive about what you offer. Make sure not to give internal matters away!

Medienübergreifend kommunizieren

The formulations above are meant for different media. In most cases you will not write a postcard or even a letter but prefer a face-to-face talk or – if that is not possible – a phone call or an e-mail. Our suggestions can be used for either situations.


“Make the most of your regrets; never smother your sorrow, but tend and cherish it till it comes to have a separate and integral interest. To regret deeply is to live afresh.”

Henry David Thoreau

Now let us turn to more serious cases.

2. Beileid ausdrücken

Although there are several stages between light and heavy regret let us now look at the worst case a human can experience: The death of a family member.

Exercise: Unterschied zum vorherigen Anlass

Write down how the writer’s reaction would be different compared to the above mentioned situation. ::::::_ ::::::_ ::::::_ ::::::_ ::::::_

Answer key

How can you deal with this situation? As we mentioned already in the headline, one important key word is “credibility”.

Glaubwürdigkeit herstellen
The first reaction to the news that you have to write a letter of condolence might be to look some formulations up on the internet. Some of the most well-known expressions of regret are:

  • we would like to express (offer) our deepest sympathy (condolences) on the passing of …
  • Our deepest sympathy (condolences) on the death of …
  • Please accept our deepest sympathy (condolences) on … death.

Exercise: Was halten Sie davon?

Write down what you think of these formulations, where you would use them and where not. ::::::::::::__

What we can gather from this exercise is the fact that your letter of condolence should be more individual the closer the relationship between you and the recipient (or the deceased) is. And here a stumbling block occurs. It is called “ Pathos”.

Pathos here is the exaggeration of consolation. Some writers use superlatives and other exaggerations to describe the deceased.


  • She was the nicest little woman in the world …
  • He was the most interesting partner I ever had …
  • I will never stop thinking of him …

These phrases are unrealistic and show a lack of sympathy. If we want to offer real consolation, we have to find a very personal approach.

Exercise: Formale Erfordernisse

Fill in three basic pieces of advice concerning the material for individual letters of condolence.

  1. ::::::
  2. ::::::
  3. ::::::

It is good to know which type of paper to use and how to start the letter off. But how can we handle the content?

Inhalte gestalten

As usual it is best to start with an outline draft. This makes it easier to find the rest of the words for every single special situation. As all individuals are so different it is almost impossible to give you a sample letter. But an outline is the basis for all situations.

1. Einleitung
Connect with the person who is suffering the loss. Express your feelings without pathos. Use your own words.

Exercise: Übersetzen Sie Einstiege

Ich war so traurig, als ich … gehört habe ::::::::::::__
Es tut mir so leid zu lesen, dass … ::::::::::::__
Wir bedauern so sehr, dass … ::::::::::::__
Ich war zutiefst geschockt zu hören … ::::::::::::__

Answer key

2. Bezug zum Verstorbenen herstellen
This is the part of the letter where you have to be careful not to let yourself be carried away with pathos. Keep in mind: no – well, not too much – exaggeration and no superlatives.

Exercise: Bezug herstellen

Übersetzen Sie:
Er war ein großes Leitbild für mich. ::::::::::::__
Ich erinnere mich noch gut daran, wie sie mir ein weibliches Rollenbild vorgegeben hat. ::::::_ ::::::_
Sie war mir eine gute Freundin und eine geschätzte Kollegin. ::::::_ ::::::_
Er hat mir in vielen Krisenfällen zur Seite gestanden. ::::::_ ::::::_

Answer key

3. Abschluss finden
Finally, and after saying what the person meant to you, it is important to bring attention back to the recipient of your letter. This can be combined with an offer to support and stay in touch. Of course, that depends on the closeness of your relationship and if you are willing to fulfill such support.

Vocabulary Box

broadcast – übertragen
deceased – Verstorbene(r)
face up to sth. – sich etw. stellen
flatter – schmeicheln
foundation – Stiftung
founder – Stifter
ingratiate – einschmeicheln
play on so. heart  strings – bei jmdm. auf die Tränendrüse drücken
promotion – Beförderung

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