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How To Express Your Thanks After Loss. Tips & Examples!

Tips For Writing Thank You Cards & Notes

After the loss of a loved one, there is often a long list of tasks to complete. Completing all of these tasks can seem daunting, especially when you are grieving your loved one.

Thank you cards can seem like an unnecessary task to add to what may seem like a never-ending to do list. You may even feel too emotional or depressed to begin to express thanks. While people will not be expecting thank you cards, it can be a thoughtful and beautiful way to show your appreciation to those you provided support during your time of grieving.

Those that were there for you during your time of grieving will understand if you do not send a thank you card immediately. No one is expecting a card by a certain date or within a certain timeframe.

The best time to send a card is when you are ready. Do not force yourself to write one if you are not ready. Feel free to try writing one card and see how it feels. If it feels uncomfortable or painful, wait to write more. If it feels doable or even therapeutic, begin to write as many as you can. There is no rush.

In addition to being therapeutic for you, writing thank you cards can be therapeutic for those that you are sending the cards to by making them aware they played a vital role in helping you grieve. It shows that you appreciate their support during the difficult time you were experiencing reinforces the bond you have. It can also be helpful for them to know that you acknowledge their support and they may see you as someone they can trust when they are in a time of need. 

Preparing To Write Thank You Cards

There's no perfect way when it comes to writing thank you cards after loss. It truly depends on every family's situation and comfort zone and circumstances. Here are a few tips to help get you started.

WHO TO INCLUDE ON YOUR THANK YOU CARD LIST

After experiencing a loss, it often feels like a whirlwind. It can be difficult to remember all of the people that helped you, provided support, or provided a vital service. In thinking about who to write a thank you card for, there may be a long list of people.

Review the following list to help you identify the people you would like to send a card to. Remember, it is not necessary to send a card to everyone mentioned on the list below; whoever you choose to send a card to is completely up to you.

People That Sent Flowers, Cards, Gifts Or Donations

Anyone who sent or brought flowers to your house, the funeral home, or the burial site can be sent a thank you. You may also write cards to people who left flowers or other tokens at any memorial sits set up for you loved one. 

Additionally, individuals, families, or groups that sent cards of sympathy can be sent a thank you card. This may also include work groups or organizations that the deceased was a part of. 

Don't forget individuals or groups that made a donation in memory of your loved one. This can be especially relevant if donations were sought in lieu of flowers. 


Friends & Family That Helped Out Financially Or With Tasks/Chores

Anyone who helped you or your family financially during the difficult time of grieving should most certainly receive a thank you from the family. Also, don't forget people who helped you with daily tasks such as cleaning, cooking, taking out your trash, etc.

This can also encompass anyone who bought meals, gift cards, or other gifts to help support you during your time of grieving and funeral planning. Also neighbors, friends, or family that provided childcare, pet care, or other valuable services during your time of grieving would be appreciative of a written thanks. 


People That Were There As A Physical Show Of Support

Close family and friends who helped the deceased in their final years, months, or days would surely appreciate an expression of thanks and gratitude. This may also included nurses, doctors, medical staff, hospice staff, and other caregivers. 

Those that spent extra time sharing special memories about the deceased with you or your family including close friends or family that provided a listening ear or shoulder to cry on as you coped with the grieving process and funeral arrangements can be included on your thank you card list. 

Anyone who went out of their way to do something special such as sending memorabilia or a personalized photo jewelry of the deceased or those who helped to design or purchase personalized thumbprint gifts would certainly appreciate a written thank you from the family.

If you are feeling overwhelmed as you begin to write, try breaking up into sections the people that you are writing cards for. These sections or groups may include family, close friends, religious figures, acquaintances, work colleagues, etc. Start with writing thank you cards for one or two sections per day. Thank you cards do not need to be completed and sent all at the exact same time. 

TIMING OF A THANK YOU CARD

It may feel uncomfortable getting started writing if a significant amount of time, months or even a year, has passed since the loss of your loved one. As you begin to write, do not worry about how much time has passed.

The first year after grieving the death of a loved one is extra difficult and people understand that. It is better to send a thank you card long after the death rather than not at all.

While the sooner is better, there is no specific timeline for when to write a card. If it has been a significant amount of time, simply acknowledge that it has been a long time.

People will understand that you have been grieving and busy with daily life, so there is no need to include a long explanation or excuse for your delay. Simply stating “While it has been quite some time since the passing of our loved one, I did not want to miss an opportunity to express my thanks to you during my time of grieving” is more than enough.

SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS

Since writing thank you cards after the death of a loved one can be very emotional, be sure to set yourself up for success in the process. Do not start writing until you feel 100 percent ready.

Be sure you have everything you need when you begin writing, including stationary and pens, a drink and/or snack, and a quiet space to focus and give your full attention. By taking care of yourself, this process will go much more smoothly and will help you manage difficult emotions that may come up. 

One of the most important things you want to gather before you begin to write, is the list of those you are writing cards to and their addresses. The list should include everyone you intend to write a card to along with their full name and mailing address.

If you are afraid of missing anyone, ask a family member or close friend to look over the list and see if you included everyone. 

ASK FOR HELP

Writing thank you cards can be a daunting task, especially if you have dozens of people to write cards to. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Ask others that were close to the deceased for their help in writing cards. It can often be more manageable to decide and conquer such a large task.

Signing cards on behalf of the family of the loved one is appropriate and can help you more easily divide the task. While handwritten cards often have a special touch, funeral homes may also offer pre-printed thank you cards with a space for a brief message and signature and there are also options online to order customized thank you cards.

DECIDE ON THE TYPE OF CARD

The final step in preparing to write thank you cards is to decide on the type of card you wish to send. You may create your own cards using supplies you currently have or designing a card online.

You can also buy cards from a store or check if the funeral home or religious institution you used for the service has premade cards. Another type of card you may consider is an e-card, or a special card that you can send online, or a meaningful email.

While written cards are traditional and considered the most formal, with email being a main source of communication, it is not considered disrespectful or inappropriate to send a card via email. 

While some people prefer handwritten cards, if you have many cards to send, do not stress about ensuring they are all handwritten. You may also choice to send the majority via email but save the most important ones to handwrite.  

Tips For Writing Thank You Cards

Now that you have a plan of attack, let's get you going in the write direction with some tips for writing your thank you cards.

BEGINNING TO WRITE

The first step in writing a thank you card is to think about how you want to start your card. Depending on the person you are writing to, there are various ways to begin a card. 

  • “Thank you for your sympathy” may be a good start for someone who sent you a sympathy cards or flowers. 
  • “Thank you for your support” can be an appropriate start for those that helped you plan the service or brought meals. 
  • “Thank you for your prayers” is a good start for anyone that offered prayers, including clergy or religious figures that presided over the service. 
  • “Thank you for your thoughtful words” may be appropriate for someone who delivered a eulogy. 
  • “Thank you for your generous donation” is a great start for someone who donated to a cause or organization in honor of your loved one. 
  • “We greatly appreciate the time you took to…” may be a way you begin to thank someone who provided support by running errands or helping with other tasks. 

SAYING THANK YOU MEANINGFULLY

Compared to other notes or cards you may send to people, thank you cards do not need to be very long. The main point is for them to be meaningful.

After the first sentence expressing thanks, be specific about what the person did for you. Let them know that you remember specifically what they did and that it is uniquely appreciated. You may share a characteristic of the deceased and thank the person for specifically honoring that characteristic.

For example, if the deceased loved musical theater and the person donated to a children's theater group, you may mention the deceased’s love for musical theater and how specific and thoughtful their donation was. 

If the person was particularly close to the deceased, you may also include a memory that the deceased shared with you about the person. For example, if the deceased mentioned that the person was a creative public speaker and thus asked them to give a eulogy, you may mention that the deceased raved about their creativity and you appreciate them bringing their skills to the eulogy. 

While it may seem daunting to come up with unique messages for each thank you card, do not feel overwhelmed with the wording and what to write. While you should try to keep the cards as specific as possible, it is okay if some cards are similar. No one is expecting perfection.

For people that you feel truly went above and beyond their call, you may want to include a small gift with their thank you card. If they were particularly close with the deceased.

ENDING A THANK YOU CARD

To end your thank you card, express one final time your thanks. This can be as simple as “Again, many thanks for your support” or “I cannot thank you enough for your sympathy and prayers.”

Remember to then sign your full name and if you would like include the name of other family members.

Depending on who you are writing to, for example if you are writing to a workplace or office, it may also be best to include the full name of the deceased if you have not already done so.

Examples Of What To Write In A Thank You Card

Thank you card example to someone who sent flowers:

Thank you for the flowers you sent in honor of my grandmother, Ana. Your thoughtfulness and sympathy was much appreciated by my family and me. The arrangement was gorgeous and my grandmother would have adored them. We are forever grateful for your support and condolences. 

Thank you card example to someone who spoke at the service:

We greatly appreciate the time you took to craft and deliver such a beautiful eulogy in honor of our grandfather, Michael. The stories you told about him brought such comfort and humor to us during our time of grieving. We know our grandfather would have loved to hear you retell stories from your high school days. Your thoughtfulness was the perfect way to honor his memory. Thank you so very much. 

Thank you card for someone who provided support by helping with errands:

Thank you for providing support to me and my children after the passing of my wife, Maria. The time you took to take the children to their extracurricular activities while I planned Maria’s services provided a relief and sense of normalcy for us as we were grieving. Maria loved attending their events and would be so happy to hear that you supported them at their practices and rehearsals. We cannot thank you enough for your support.

DELIVERING THE CARD

The final step in the process of writing thank you cards is to deliver the cards. The most traditional way to write and deliver thank you cards is to write them by hand and deliver via mail. However, showing that you are thankful if the most important part.

The delivery can be whatever is most convenient for you. You may mail cards, drop off cards off in person, or send e-cards. If you see someone frequently, such as at church or work, it may be easiest to hand deliver their card.

Similarly, if someone lives far away, sending their card via mail or e-mail is likely the best option. If you do not know someone’s address, do not be afraid to simply ask.

For those that particularly supported you during your time of grieving, delivering the card in person can be a great opportunity to bond. It can be therapeutic to you both to reconnect after the loss and ensure that your relationship sustains throughout the grieving process. Delivering important cards in person, if possible, is a great way to show extra thanks.

Beyond The Card

You may feel like a card is just not enough to express your thanks. If you have extra photos of the deceased or prayer cards, it can be a beautiful gesture to include those along with the card.

This can also be a therapeutic way to part with extra photos of the deceased in a meaningful way. If there are certain items or memorabilia that the deceased left for a particular person or that you would like to pass along to them, you may include that with the thank you card as well.

Additionally, if someone provided a lot of emotional support during the service or other acts of service, you may send them a gift of thanks in memory of the deceased in addition to a card. Thoughtful gifts of thanks may include personalized fingerprint jewelry and keepsakes, cremation jewelry for ashes, and photo engraved jewelry, coins, or key chains.

Other people who you may consider to gift an extra gift include close friends and family of the deceased or those that went above and beyond in assisting you after the death of your loved one. Importantly, remember that sending a thank you card is more than enough.

There is no need to send anything beyond a card and no one will be expecting you to send anything at all. It is your time to grieve and if that is all you are able to accomplish during this time, that is more than enough.

Thank You Card Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to write thank you notes for someone that sent me a sympathy card?

If you wish and if you have the time, it can be a great idea to write a card for someone sending a sympathy card. If their words of sympathy were particularly helpful or comforting, that can be an appropriate message to convey in a thank you note.

How long should I keep sympathy cards that I received?

When writing your thank you cards, you may wonder how long you should keep sympathy cards that you received. This is completely optional. You may wish to keep them as keepsakes, take photos to keep a digital copy, or recycle them after a few weeks.

Do you have to write thank you cards after a funeral to an estranged family member or friend?

Who you write thank you cards to is completely optional. If you do not feel comfortable writing to an estranged family member or friend, that is okay. If you still wish for them to receive a card but do not feel comfortable writing one, you can ask a relative or close friend to write it and sign it on behalf of the entire family. 

Should I use a blank card or something with a printed verse or quote to send as thank you’s after a funeral?

This is something else that is completely up to you! Blank cards as well as those with a printed verse or quote are both appropriate to send. If you are struggling to think about what kind of card to send, you may find some inspiration by thinking about what kind of card best represents the deceased.

What do I say in the thank you card to the funeral director(s) who organized the funeral?

Funeral directors organize funerals for a living so they definitely do not expect a long card of thanks from every family they work. A quick card thanking them for their planning and for supporting your family during your time of need is more than enough.

What do I do if it’s been months since the funeral and I still feel too emotional to write thank you cards?

If it is too emotionally stressing to write thank you notes, understand that it is okay not to send any out. Guests and those that support you do not expect a thank you and likely may not even remember if you do not send one. They were there to offer love and support.

In the future if you feel like you want to express your appreciation, it is fine to do so then. They will be touched by the gesture and appreciation whenever it is received. And always remember, showing up for your family and friends in their time of need is the best way to show appreciation for when they showed up for you!

Is there anything I should avoid saying in thank you cards?

Thank you cards are meant to be brief ways to express thanks and gratitude. They are meant to be short, simple, and not particularly detailed. Some things you likely should not mention are specific dollar amounts of any donation, gifts or donations received from other people, anything that went unexpected at the service, and details about the deceased’s death.

Do I need to thank people who donated online in honor of my loved one?

If you have an online fundraiser or memorial donation site for your loved one, you may find dozens or even hundreds of people donating. Since word spreads fast on the internet, you may not even know all of the people who are donating and there may be some anonymous donors.

For something like this, it can be best to post a general message on the website or on social media to everyone who donated expressing your thanks and appreciation. You may also send an email to all of the donors. If there were a few people who donated an exceptionally large amount of money, you can also decide to send them a thank you card separately.

Do I need to thank people who only came to the service?

If you would like to, you can thank people who only came to the service, but it is not necessary. You can also decide to thank people who overcame particular obstacles to come to the service, including those who traveled from out of state, those that are disabled, or those that had to arrange for time off work or for childcare. 

My child wants to include a note in the thank you card – is that inappropriate?

Incorporating children’s thoughts into the writing of thank you cards can be a great way to help them process their grief. If your children want to participate and you feel as though they are ready, it is definitely appropriate to have them participate. Older children may take the lead on writing a few cards in which you can review before sending.

Younger children may include a short note underneath your longer note or simply sign their name to the card. Additionally, if children themselves received sympathy cards or other forms of support from classmates, teachers, teammates, coaches, or other peers or adults in their life, it can be extra special to have them write a thank you card to those that supported them.

A Most Appreciative Show Of Gratitude

Writing thank you cards might be on the last of your to do list after the loss of a loved one, but it can be a beautiful gesture if you decide to write them. The most important thing to remember while writing is that they do not have to be perfect.

Simply show gratitude and appreciation from the heart. And if it helps, think of these as a way to further honor your deceased loved one by spreading positivity and thanks.

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August 6, 2021 by Jeri K. Augustus