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?

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.

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? :slight_smile:



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.



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.

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. :frowning:

“Thank you for thinking of us/me”… and the rest of what you said up there, freckafree!:slight_smile:

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.:slight_smile:


That’s perfectly fine. If you don’t feel up to it yet, wait until you do. Everyone understands.

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. :slight_smile:

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.

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!

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.)

[quote=“MitzeKatze, post:19, topic:521058”]

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.

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.

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.

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.