How to say "Thank You"

Following the loss of a loved one, there are countless expressions of sympathy demonstrated towards us.  While we are grateful for each and every one of them and the sentiments brought forth, often the strains of grief make it difficult to pick up our pens and begin the task of saying "thank you".

There is guidance available to help you through this process.  The first question often asked of me is, "who do I send a thank you note to?" In answering this I'm always mindful of the emotional strain and utter fatigue a family faces following a wake and funeral.  While it is important to recognize acts of kindness, it is equally important not to overwhelm a person who is grieving.  My personal advice is that you thanked people who attended a wake or a funeral in person so written notes should be sent to those who did something over and above that.  For example, those who sent flowers, food, memorial contributions to a charity, are examples of thank you note recipients.  Anyone who demonstrated an overt act of kindness and compassion towards you is worthy of a written acknowledgement of thanks.

Below is an excerpt taken from an article entitled,

While it may be difficult to write sympathy thank you notes while you are grieving, it is important to acknowledge acts of kindness and support. If you aren’t up to the task, a family member or close friend can write the notes on your behalf.


There is no official time frame, but within two-three weeks of the funeral or memorial service is appropriate

Who should receive sympathy thank you notes? 

You don’t need to send a formal thank you note to everyone who attended the funeral/visitation or sent you a sympathy card. Instead, a thank you note or acknowledgement should be sent to anyone who has done something extra, including:

  • People who sent or brought flowers.
  • People who sent or brought food.
  • Those who made a memorial donation or helped your family financially (do not mention the amount of the contribution). The charity will notify you of donations made in your loved one’s memory.
  • Friends who have been helpful in tangible ways (e.g., brought food, provided transportation, done babysitting, assisted with a luncheon).
  • Clergy presiding at the funeral (These people also receive an honorarium; see Clergy.).
  • Anyone who went out of their way to do something special such as sending you a photo of your loved one or sharing a poignant memory.