Monday, August 31, 2020

When Words Matter: Tips on Writing Sympathy Thank-You Notes

Appreciation can make a day, even change a life.  Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.  ~ Margaret Cousins

Upon the death of a loved one, it is customary to send written thank you notes as soon as possible, usually within two weeks of receiving a gift. But if ever there is a time when you’re entitled to ignore the rules of etiquette, or a time when immediate thanks is neither expected nor required, it is when you are in mourning. It is perfectly acceptable to express your gratitude for gifts of flowers, donations and other acts of kindness later, when other affairs are in order and when you may feel more up to the task. It is also appropriate to delegate this task to those family members and friends who are willing and able to do it on your behalf.

It may be helpful to decide first which people you wish to thank in writing, and construct a list of names and mailing addresses. Your list might include whoever officiated at the funeral or memorial service, pallbearers, people who sent cards, flowers, gifts, or donations, and anyone else who provided gracious gestures, special services or other acts of kindness.

Bear in mind that it is not necessary to send personalized, hand-written thank-you notes or letters to everyone on your list. It is perfectly acceptable to send the sort of pre-printed, generic cards you would find online or in a card shop, or to use the ones provided by your funeral home or mortuary.

Sending a thank-you via e-mail may be acceptable in some cases, especially if the recipient is a close friend or close relative, or if the gift does not warrant a more formal acknowledgement. Use your own good judgment, recognizing that if you can do so, it’s always more thoughtful to send a regular card via land mail.

If you send a generic, pre-printed card, and you have the energy to do so, it is always gracious to personalize it with your own words, following the steps below; if you decide to include a note of your own, strive to be genuine, brief and to the point. There is no need to include any personal news.

As you compose your own thank-you note or letter, follow these simple steps:
  • Address the recipient personally, using his or her name: “Dear John” or “Dear Mrs. Jones.”
  • Express your gratitude in a short, simple and heartfelt manner. Mention the specific favor or gift, say something positive about it, and compliment the giver for his or her thoughtfulness (or generosity).
  • Briefly describe how you will use the gift, so the giver will know how much it was appreciated.
  • End your note with a second “thank you” and a sincere good-bye, and sign your name.
Sample Thank-You Phrases

• Thank you for your thoughtfulness.

• Thank you for your support and generosity during this sad and difficult time.

• Thank you for your kind and thoughtful card.

• Thank you for the heartfelt letter you sent to me.

• Thank you for sending the beautiful floral arrangement.

• Thank you for your thoughtfulness in sending the generous donation in [name’s] honor.

• Thank you for your generous gift to help us through the hard times following [name’s] death.

• Thank you for your generous gift, which we used to help pay for the services.

• Thank you for your thoughtfulness in helping me with [name the service].

• Thank you for attending the services and the lovely floral arrangement.

• Thank you for taking the time to come and share in the remembrance of [name].

• Thank you for your beautiful and comforting words in the eulogy you delivered for [name].

• Thank you for sharing your memories of [name].

• Thank you for your services at the funeral of [name] and your comforting council.

• Thank you for serving as a pallbearer.

• Thank you for being such a dear and reliable friend, and for all your help at [name’s] funeral.

• On behalf of my [sister, brother, mother, etc.] I thank you for the generous donation you sent to honor the memory of our [name].

• Thank you for sending the wonderful pictures of [name] as a child.

Sample Positive Statements

• Your generosity and support during this difficult time is greatly appreciated.

• Your presence helped to lighten our burden.

• I was grateful to hear your wonderful memories of [name].

• It was a comfort to the entire family.

• Your words were a source of strength for my family and me in this difficult time.

• Your kind thoughts are greatly appreciated.

• This was a kind and beautiful symbol of remembrance.

• Your assistance helped alleviate the pressure of so many mounting bills.

• Your help and support means the world to us.

• Words cannot express our gratitude to you.

• Your generosity will be remembered always.

• Our gratitude is unending.

• I will be eternally grateful to you.

• Your generosity and kindness move me to tears.

• Your friendship, kindness and support are a priceless gift.

• Your thoughtfulness and support have been a blessing.

• You’ve been a helping hand in our time of need.

• We are fortunate to have you in our lives.

• Your contributions to the service brought us comfort.

• Your comforting words gave me hope.

• Sharing your memories of [name] reminded us of some very happy times.

Gratitude Quotations

Another effective way to express in writing your gratitude for another’s kindness is to borrow the noteworthy words of other writers and build upon them. A quick Internet search yields a great variety of notable quotes. Here is just a sample:

Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless. ~ Mother Teresa

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough. ~ Meister Eckhart

Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom. ~ Theodore Rubin

Courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest in the grateful and appreciating heart. ~ Henry Clay

The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention. ~ Oscar Wilde

Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves. ~ James Matthew Barrie

Voices of Experience

Perhaps the best input on the subject of writing thank-you notes following the death of a loved one comes from those who speak directly from their own experience. Read a series of comments on this topic from members of our online Grief Healing Discussions Groups, posted in I Don't Know How to Deal with This.

Your feedback is welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question, or share a tip, a related article or a resource of your own in the Comments section below. If you’d like Grief Healing Blog updates delivered right to your inbox, you’re cordially invited to subscribe to our weekly Grief Healing NewsletterSign up here.


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