The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > In My Humble Opinion (IMHO)

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 12-12-2009, 09:07 PM
freckafree freckafree is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Thank you notes for condolence cards: Yea or nay?

Miss Manners and Emily Post both say "Yea." One should write thank you notes for condolence cards received.

I can't imagine a more onerous thing for a bereaved family. I'm kind of stickler for the formalities -- handwritten thank you notes for gifts, etc. -- but the past three times I've experienced deaths in my family (all out of town -- no need for a local obituary), I've been reluctant to let it be known of my loss, because I did not want to be burdened with writing thank you notes for condolence cards.

When my mom died, I did send thank yous to everyone who wrote a personal note of condolence, and of course for flowers, gifts of food, etc., etc. I ended up not acknowledging sympathy cards signed with a name and perhaps "So sorry for your loss," not because I was making judgments but because I...never got around to it. I truly appreciated those cards, so I felt guilty about it, to boot.

If you send a condolence card, do you expect a written thank you note? If you receive condolence cards, do you send written thank you notes?
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 12-12-2009, 09:16 PM
stpauler stpauler is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Minneapolis
Posts: 6,248
It seems like once a month we have a death in our office and a manila envelope is shuttled around where we sign the card, throw in some money, and cross our name off of the list. A couple weeks later, a thank you card is given and we have another manila envelope shuttled around the office where we read it, cross our name off the list and hope not to be stuck with it by being the last to receive it.

The whole thing is a etiquette pain in the ass. I wouldn't want to be the jerk to be the first not to send the thank you card, but I hate it with a passion.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 12-12-2009, 10:08 PM
AuntiePam AuntiePam is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by freckafree View Post
If you send a condolence card, do you expect a written thank you note?
No. I've received a couple of thank-you notes though, and with such thoughtful comments that I felt like I needed to send another note in response. Where does it end?

Quote:
If you receive condolence cards, do you send written thank you notes?
Yes.

Last edited by AuntiePam; 12-12-2009 at 10:08 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 12-12-2009, 10:10 PM
Quasimodem Quasimodem is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Yes.

Just a thank you note is sufficient, however.

That person thought enough of you to send one, and that is their expression of empathy/sympathy.

It needs to be recognized.

Thanks

Quasi

Last edited by Quasimodem; 12-12-2009 at 10:11 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 12-12-2009, 10:13 PM
MoodIndigo1 MoodIndigo1 is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: Montreal, Canada
Posts: 1,958
I think a note should be sent, but it doesn't have to be right away. People will understand if they receive a thank-you note 3 or 4 months down the line.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 12-12-2009, 10:22 PM
freckafree freckafree is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
OK, Quasi and AuntiePam, we are of an age, so I hear you.

Quasi, you say "Just a thank you note is sufficient." Can you give me an example of what that would be?

What I'm thinking is...

"Thank you for your card. The support of friends at a time like this means so much."

Ugh. I feel like I've been raised by wolves for not knowing this.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 12-12-2009, 10:55 PM
Quasimodem Quasimodem is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
"Thank you for thinking of us/me"..... and the rest of what you said up there, freckafree!

As far as you being raised "by wolves", sometimes at a time of sorrow, we don't always know how to express ourselves, so don't sweat it, my friend. You'll be fine.

Quasi
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 12-12-2009, 11:54 PM
pravnik pravnik is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: TX
Posts: 13,378
Quote:
Originally Posted by freckafree View Post
"Thank you for your card. The support of friends at a time like this means so much."(
That's perfectly fine. If you don't feel up to it yet, wait until you do. Everyone understands.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 12-13-2009, 12:08 AM
MitzeKatze MitzeKatze is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
I was raised on Emily Post and Miss Manners types of manners (and I can still quote arbitrary and archaic rules of etiquette that my own children never even heard of) so yes, I do write thank you notes for condolence cards.

I do not 'expect' to receive a thank you note for the condolence cards I send, but I do take notice of it when I do receive one. Mostly, I am happily surprised that someone else was taught the same as I.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 12-13-2009, 09:20 AM
CrazyCatLady CrazyCatLady is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
I don't expect a note, and I feel guilty when I get one, because as you say, I can't imagine anything more onerous for someone who has just lost a loved one. The idea that someone put themselves through that, just to tell me something I already knew, makes me feel really crappy.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 12-13-2009, 11:32 AM
Tamex Tamex is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Quote:
Originally Posted by stpauler View Post
It seems like once a month we have a death in our office and a manila envelope is shuttled around where we sign the card, throw in some money, and cross our name off of the list. A couple weeks later, a thank you card is given and we have another manila envelope shuttled around the office where we read it, cross our name off the list and hope not to be stuck with it by being the last to receive it.

The whole thing is a etiquette pain in the ass. I wouldn't want to be the jerk to be the first not to send the thank you card, but I hate it with a passion.
Where I work, we do the same thing with the condolence card, but the thank you card is posted on the bulletin board rather than being passed around. This is eventually removed after a few weeks, but I'm not sure who removes it, to tell you the truth.

A supervisor who recently got married passed around her thank you note just like you described, and even had a place to initial that you read it. I laughed my butt off when I got it, since she used to be my supervisor, and was always making you initial everything so that she could prove later that you read it. OK, I can't come back to her later and say I wasn't thanked for the couple of bucks I put in the card!
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 12-13-2009, 11:43 AM
MitzeKatze MitzeKatze is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by CrazyCatLady View Post
I don't expect a note, and I feel guilty when I get one, because as you say, I can't imagine anything more onerous for someone who has just lost a loved one. The idea that someone put themselves through that, just to tell me something I already knew, makes me feel really crappy.
I don't know if this will assuage your guilt at all, but for me when I started writing Thank You notes for the condolences received when my father died, it was not a chore at all. It was therapeutic, sort of a closure I guess, and it really made me feel better and helped me deal with the grief. Beyond realizing how much support you have, and how many people care, it is also an organized, almost mundane task that restores a semblance of normalcy and routine that is lost after a death in the family (especially a sudden, unexpected death).
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 12-13-2009, 01:30 PM
Markxxx Markxxx is offline
BANNED
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Chicago,IL
Posts: 14,962
If you get a gift with the card, such as money then you should send a thank you card.

I wouldn't call it a burden. It's not that hard. My mum died (dad died four years ealier) when I was 16 and in college. I handled the death, arranging the funeral, the wake, buying the casket, the cemetary plot, I made travel arrangements to get my brother in from the Virgin Islands, and I hosted the after funeral brunch at my house. AND I sent the thank you cards

This happened in Dec of 1980, and I still had to study for finals at college, find a new place to live (I couldn't live in the house after she died as she didn't leave it to me) and put the dog and cat to sleep because no one wanted them.

Sure it was hard but you can do it, if you want to.

Not sending a card is just tacky. If a kid of my age can do all that and much more, an adult should breeze through it.

I hate to sound so harsh but c'mon, you do what you have to do.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 12-13-2009, 01:50 PM
Harmonious Discord Harmonious Discord is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
You should send a thank you card with just about what you included in your example. More can be added relevant to the occasion.

This is why it is so exasperating when people drop off a card at the funeral home without an address and they don't put their address in the registry. This is in large the purpose of the registry. I don't care if you are an aunt. I don't have your current address.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 12-13-2009, 03:35 PM
Scarlett67 Scarlett67 is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: The Middle of Nowhere, WI
Posts: 10,664
This is the perfect time to call up those people who said, "Please let me know if there's anything I can do." Have them help you write the thank-you notes.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 12-13-2009, 03:42 PM
MitzeKatze MitzeKatze is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scarlett67 View Post
This is the perfect time to call up those people who said, "Please let me know if there's anything I can do." Have them help you write the thank-you notes.
I think that would be tackier than not sending Thank-Yous at all.

If Thank You notes get skipped everyone (a) understands, (b) doesn't notice or (c) doesn't know that etiquette dictates one in such a situation. Chances are good that those who said, "...let me know if there is anything I can do." are the same people who are on the receiving end of the thank you notes, so you would basically be asking them to thank themselves.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 12-13-2009, 04:32 PM
Scarlett67 Scarlett67 is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: The Middle of Nowhere, WI
Posts: 10,664
Quote:
Originally Posted by MitzeKatze View Post
I think that would be tackier than not sending Thank-Yous at all.

If Thank You notes get skipped everyone (a) understands, (b) doesn't notice or (c) doesn't know that etiquette dictates one in such a situation. Chances are good that those who said, "...let me know if there is anything I can do." are the same people who are on the receiving end of the thank you notes, so you would basically be asking them to thank themselves.
Well, obviously you wouldn't ask them to write their own.

Which part do you think is tacky, asking someone to help you, or not writing them yourself personally?

Miss Manners approves of getting help with writing them, by the way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Miss Manners, Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, p. 706 (bolding added)
. . . [L]etters may be written on behalf of those who have difficulty in doing them themselves, . . . What Miss Manners considers important is that a personal expression of feelings about a death be acknowledged in an equally personal fashion, by, or on behalf of, the closest survivors. This may be done over a period of many months . . .
She does give permission to ignore a plain sympathy card with just a signature, as a death is properly acknowledged with a handwritten personal note, not a Hallmark card with a tacky poem and your name scribbled on it.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 12-13-2009, 04:41 PM
freckafree freckafree is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scarlett67 View Post
She does give permission to ignore a plain sympathy card with just a signature, as a death is properly acknowledged with a handwritten personal note, not a Hallmark card with a tacky poem and your name scribbled on it.
I'm glad to hear this, because acknowledging this kind of card with a handwritten note seems very bass-ackwards.

I think the generic "thank you" card that funeral homes often supply -- the one that says, more or less, "I don't know what you did, but you apparently did something that I should thank you for" -- is beyond weird.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 12-13-2009, 05:04 PM
MitzeKatze MitzeKatze is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scarlett67 View Post
Which part do you think is tacky, asking someone to help you, or not writing them yourself personally?
I think the not writing personally is tacky. If you need help it should be limited to addressing the envelope or some other non-personal aspect. The "thanks" should come from someone who is thankful. It means nothing coming from someone else. "By the way, person I may or may not know, that mutual friend says thank you for whatever it was you did" just isn't the same.

Quote:
Miss Manners approves of getting help with writing them, by the way.
Odd that. Are you sure she approves of having others write your thank yous? I know she came down hard on wedding showers where the guests are asked to address their own envelopes for thank you cards, I never would have guessed she disapproves of that but is all in favor of delegating the entire task.

Quote:
She does give permission to ignore a plain sympathy card with just a signature, as a death is properly acknowledged with a handwritten personal note, not a Hallmark card with a tacky poem and your name scribbled on it.
She and I agree upon that. Although I do go a bit further (as noted above) and think that it is okay to not expect the bereaved to send a thank you note at all...everyone understands and I do not think it is a huge breach of etiquette if one is simply not up to the task. (Which is also why I feel it is better to not send a thank you than to have someone else write it for you.)
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 12-13-2009, 05:53 PM
Scarlett67 Scarlett67 is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: The Middle of Nowhere, WI
Posts: 10,664
[QUOTE=MitzeKatze;11883923]Odd that. Are you sure she approves of having others write your thank yous?[\quote]

I think the passage I quoted is pretty clear that yes, she thinks it's OK.

Quote:
I know she came down hard on wedding showers where the guests are asked to address their own envelopes for thank you cards,
But no one asks to be bereaved, whereas if you throw a wedding for yourself, you're pretty much asking for gifts. Big difference between a toaster oven and a personal note expressing thoughts on your recently departed loved one.

I also deplore the practice of having shower guests address their own thank-you notes and similar shenanigans,* but as I said above, presumably the helper would not be writing their own.

Quote:
I never would have guessed she disapproves of that but is all in favor of delegating the entire task.
Again, I think a wedding (joyous, voluntary occasion that may or may not be marked with a huge party with lots of expensive, unnecessary trappings) and a funeral (tragic event often dumped on the family unexpectedly, and leaving many heavy tasks in its, uh, wake that the family must deal with despite their sorrow) are apples and oranges here.

Quote:
(Which is also why I feel it is better to not send a thank you than to have someone else write it for you.)
We'll have to disagree on this, I guess. Surely if it's understandable that survivors may not be up to the task, we can be understanding if they enlist some help in doing it.
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 12-13-2009, 07:23 PM
jsc1953 jsc1953 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
I'm pretty sure Miss Manners (I can get chapter & verse if needed) has said that it's not necessary to reply to a card. But she's referring to a store-bought card, where the sender has done little more than add his/her name.

I just went through this, and my rule of thumb: if the card included a personal reminiscence or expression of condolence (more than just a "sorry for your loss"), I sent a note thanking him/her for their kind thoughts. And of course, donations and flowers also got a thank-you note.
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 12-14-2009, 09:18 AM
Anaamika Anaamika is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
Huh. I usually send cards but I sent a real condolence note not too long ago and never expected a thank you note back. She thanked me verbally, over the phone, does that count?
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 12-14-2009, 10:40 AM
Cat Fight Cat Fight is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
I would never expect a thank you note for a condolence card. If I see them in person, they might say something, but I would almost feel worse sending a card if I knew they then had to send me something back. I think I'd even prefer a Facebook status update thanking everyone for their condolences!
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 12-14-2009, 10:47 AM
jali jali is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
I had a little breakdown after my mother died and I ran into someone who was very angry with me for not sending an acknowledgement for the condolence card she sent.

I was shocked and hurt that she felt justified in berating me for not sending a thank you for her Hallmark card especially since I was so lost after my mother's death.
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old 12-14-2009, 10:58 AM
kunilou kunilou is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Posts: 17,436
I guess I'm of a certain age, as well. When our parents died, my sisters and I divided up the condolence cards and made sure everyone who sent them received a reply from one of us. Even if someone only goes to the drugstore, buys a card, signs their name and drops it in a mailbox, they're still going out of their way, and I want to acknowledge that.
Reply With Quote
  #26  
Old 12-14-2009, 01:28 PM
SpartanDC SpartanDC is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2000
I don't think I'm "of a certain age" but I did send thank-you cards for people who wrote me after my father died (every card I received was hand-written -- I guess I know some classy folks). That said, doing so would have never occurred to me had it not been for my etiquette-minded wife.
Reply With Quote
  #27  
Old 09-11-2012, 03:11 PM
jkaytech3 jkaytech3 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Thank you notes for condolence cards: Yea or nay?

I say yea but by priority. My wife is now with her Jesus for 3 plus weeks. I have been researching the subject on the internet and have found thank you notes/cards should be sent anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months. Since I am at 3 weeks I am already late by a week. Here is what I am going to do. I am sending preprinted thank you cards (those with words of thanks already printed) adding my hand written personal notes to those who came to the services from out of town and made donations or sent flowers. For those who sent cards I will send thank you cards within the next 2 weeks.
Reply With Quote
  #28  
Old 09-11-2012, 04:09 PM
Freddy the Pig Freddy the Pig is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Quote:
Originally Posted by freckafree View Post
I think the generic "thank you" card that funeral homes often supply -- the one that says, more or less, "I don't know what you did, but you apparently did something that I should thank you for" -- is beyond weird.
They're to be sent to people who showed up at the wake and signed the guest book.
Reply With Quote
  #29  
Old 09-11-2012, 07:51 PM
PandaBear77 PandaBear77 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by freckafree View Post

If you send a condolence card, do you expect a written thank you note? If you receive condolence cards, do you send written thank you notes?

1. No.

2. No.


I think it's ridiculous to expect someone whose world just completely fell apart to sit around writing a bunch of damn thank you notes when they have 10,000 other things to take care of not to mention trying to remember to breathe.

Funerals are not optional! People choose to get married and have weddings. People choose to have babies and baby showers and birthday parties and shit. Nobody chooses to bury someone they love. I deeply appreciated everything that was done for me when my mom died but there is no way I could have handled dealing with thank you notes; I was doing good to get out of bed and make it to work every day.

There is no way I'd ever expect anything from someone that's grieving. If they say thank you, that's fine -- if they don't, I'm certainly going to give them a pass.

Last edited by PandaBear77; 09-11-2012 at 07:54 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #30  
Old 09-11-2012, 07:53 PM
PandaBear77 PandaBear77 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by jkaytech3 View Post
I say yea but by priority. My wife is now with her Jesus for 3 plus weeks. I have been researching the subject on the internet and have found thank you notes/cards should be sent anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months. Since I am at 3 weeks I am already late by a week. Here is what I am going to do. I am sending preprinted thank you cards (those with words of thanks already printed) adding my hand written personal notes to those who came to the services from out of town and made donations or sent flowers. For those who sent cards I will send thank you cards within the next 2 weeks.

Oh hon I'm so sorry! What a terrible loss

Take care of yourself first and foremost -- notes can wait and anyone who is expecting a thank you note from you is a total dick anyway.
Reply With Quote
  #31  
Old 09-11-2012, 08:04 PM
ThelmaLou ThelmaLou is offline
Member
 
Join Date: May 2010
Location: Texas
Posts: 5,099
The notes I received when my husband died meant THE WORLD to me. I wrote thank you notes to every one of them. It was not even close to being an "onerous task." I was glad for the opportunity to think about him and to connect with people because of him. All too soon, people stop talking about the deceased and make you feel somehow "not over your grieving" if you mention the person. It's a huge relief to be permitted and encouraged to talk about your loved one and not to pretend that you're "doing fine." I wasn't even close to doing fine for a couple of years. I'm the only one who remembers the date of his death and that's too bad. Of course, they read his name at the synagogue every year, and that's meaningful.

I have a close lady friend whose first husband died over 20 years ago two days after my birthday (she has been remarried for years). Because his date of death is so close to my birthday, I always remember it, and I always call her or send her a "thinking of you" note on that day. She's grateful for that and often tells me, "You're the only one besides me who still remembers."

People want to rush other people through grieving, thinking they can distract them or "cheer them up," or "take their mind off things," but it's an organic process and can't be rushed.
Reply With Quote
  #32  
Old 09-11-2012, 10:37 PM
jackdavinci jackdavinci is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
I felt kind of bad about never getting around to it, but I felt a lot worse about about my father dying and figured people would understand.

Plus when it came down to a choice between spending time organizing my father's mess of an estate and finding which family member had which condolence card, to make a list, and track down everyone's addresses especially people who relationship to my father I didn't know... well that was an easy choice.

I will make a point eventually of sending out notes to people who sent money to me personally or mass cards.

It's a nice thing to do but not an obligation.

I would say that if you are close to someone who has recently suffered a loss, in lieu of food, offer to help them with organizing the estate. It can be a tremendously arduous task, especially if the deceased was not organized. You could, for example, offer to collect the cards, and make a list of people to thank, with their addresses and what they contributed. Maybe buy them a nice set of thank you cards.
Reply With Quote
  #33  
Old 09-11-2012, 11:52 PM
Stendhal Syndrome Stendhal Syndrome is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
I started to do individual thank you notes to everyone who sent me a sympathy card or donated money for the kids/funeral and mailed out around 20-25 of them. But somewhere along the way, the task got dropped and I haven't picked it up yet. With the children and working full time and the grief and the feeling like I am going insane, I am not sure where I can fit the rest of the thank you cards. If anyone feels bad about that...well...too bad. I am glad they thought about me and my family and I appreciate that.

I have however verbally thanked quite a few of them.
I personally wouldn't expect a thank you for a condolence card. Imposing formalities during such an intense, painful time seems a little ridiculous to me.
Reply With Quote
  #34  
Old 09-12-2012, 01:15 AM
Trinopus Trinopus is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: San Diego, CA
Posts: 10,363
I've got a double standard: I would never expect anyone else to write a thank-you response to a condolence card (although if they did, I would think it nice) and, for my own part, I definitely would. Finer points of etiquette are voluntary, but appreciated. Anyone who would judge someone else harshly for *not* taking that extra time and effort is being far too judgemental.

Are condolence cards themselves much in vogue these days? When my father passed away, I got quite a few very nice phone calls, but no cards.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 07:06 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.