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.
- 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).
- The Pallbearers.
- Musicians who perform at the funeral.
- 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.
How late is too late to send a sympathy thank you note?
So the funeral of your loved one was over a month ago (or several months, or even a year or more). You forgot to send thank you notes, or you just didn’t have the heart to do it at the time. Now you’re feeling better, and you’re wondering: Is it too late?
The answer is “No, it’s never too late.” But you will need to acknowledge the delay in sending the note. For example, preface your thank you with something like this: “I’m sorry it took me so long, but I do want to thank you for your kindness…” Or, “My apologies for the delay in sending this, but your gift of flowers for Joe’s funeral service was lovely, and I wanted to thank you…”
You may also want to choose a set of note cards that are not formal thank you notes. They would be blank inside and allow you room to write. The recipients of these cards will appreciate getting the note, even though the funeral was quite some time ago.
How do you remember whom to acknowledge?
One important tool to keep handy when a loved one has passed is a simple notepad and pen.
- Keep it handy, and note each call and visit; do not depend on your memory. The list will be invaluable when you are ready to send your sympathy thank you notes.
- You can assign a friend or family member to keep this record.
- Be sure to note first and last names and telephone numbers. It can be a great comfort in future days to see the support you were offered.
- Remember to include those who were especially helpful or thoughtful just before your loved one passed away. That sweet nurse who did extra acts of kindness at the nursing home or that lovely neighbor who brought meals during your loved one’s illness should be thanked.
What do you say in a thank you note?
All you need to write is a simple sentence or two. Write your message in preprinted sympathy cards (add your note along with the printed sentiment), or purchase blank note cards…