It is common to receive support following a death. It often comes in the form of flowers, meals, or memorial donations, as well as the intangibles such as transportation for out of town loved ones or help, at the home, the hospital, or funeral home. In the days, weeks, and months after the funeral, do you need to acknowledge these kindnesses by writing a formal sympathy thank you note?
Funeral homes often supply the bereaved with note cards for this purpose. Sympathy thank you notes can be a simple acknowledgement or take the form of a longer letter. It’s very thoughtful to take the time to thank individuals who have made an effort to support you and remember your loved one. Many people find it therapeutic to write sympathy thank you notes and answer condolence letters and cards; it’s a chance to acknowledge someone’s thoughtful gestures and talk about the deceased. But some people are so overwhelmed with grief they’re just not up to the task.
I always felt it was important to write the notes and then I spoke with a grieving widow. She shared that every time she sat to write the notes she broke down in tears. She finally decided that this was a job she could not do. In another case, a bereaved daughter was unable to do much of anything in the six months after her father died. She was finally ready to tackle the thank you notes but wondered if it was too late.
It is never too late to acknowledge kindness but, people who cared enough about you and the deceased to support you in some way do not want to cause you any more pain so if you just can not bear to write the thank you notes, it is okay not to write them. Another alternative is to ask one or more of the friends or loved ones who offer assistance if they would help write the notes. It’s important to remember that no one who made the effort to comfort the bereaved did so expecting anything in return. No one wants to add an extra burden to someone grieving a loss.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, available in ebooks for "Illness & Death," "Suicide," "Miscarriage," "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store.