Post-Funeral Thank You Notes

Nov 4, 2009 | 8 comments

List and PenThere’s an alarming trend in paid newspaper obituaries, the general thank you note to the public. The family places a notice in the classified obituaries section that reads like this:

The family of John Doe would like to thank all of their relatives and friends for the kind expression of sympathy extended to them during their bereavement (then naming specific people) Name of Funeral Home, contact info


The family of Jane Doe wishes to thank their many friends and relatives who reflected on her life. Your sympathy and thoughtfulness will always be gratefully remembered and deeply appreciated. Name of Funeral Home, contact info

Perhaps these ads are placed as a way of thanking people who may have been inadvertently overlooked to receive a personal thank you note in the confusing days after someone has died. Part of the challenge of writing thank you notes is keeping track of what everyone did. That’s one reason for sign-in books at funerals and memorial services, so the bereaved family can know who attended and they can thank each person. It also helps to have a friend make a list to keep track of who brought food and what they actually provided.

These thank you ads should not replace the writing of actual thank you notes. The grandmothers and great-aunts who drilled the importance of writing a personal thank you note into the psyches of the Baby Boomers have died. Younger generations, the text-messaging crowd, know nothing about the niceties of sending a few words of thanks, and that’s a shame.

The writing of thank you notes can actually be a healing activity, an opportunity for grieving individuals to count their blessings. Thank each and every person who helped in whatever way they contributed with a short note, written by hand on a piece of paper. It can be on stationery, a blank art card, a Thank You card – heck, even notebook paper works. All right – you can send a thank you note by email, but write something.

A basic thank you note expresses your gratitude for the kindnesses extended to you during this very stressful time. It can be as simple as, “Thank you for your presence at the funeral. It’s comforting to have you in my life right now.” You don’t have to write a letter – it’s a note. You can say plenty in three sentences.

Vary the note based on what the person did for you. Start with two sentences specific to the recipient:

“Thank you for being a pallbearer. Having you carry (name) to the grave means a lot to us.”

“Thank you for the delicious casserole. It helped sustain us when none of us felt like cooking.”

“Thank you for your moving words at the funeral. We will remember your tribute always.”

“Thank you for your card. We were so moved by the outpouring of support we received.”

“Thank you for the flowers you sent. They were so fragrant and lovely.”

“Thank you for traveling here to attend the funeral. Your presence meant so much to us.”

Your third sentence can be a sign off you use for everyone. “We are (or I am) so blessed to have you in our lives (my life).” “Mom would have been pleased.” “Thanks again for all you did for us.”

Of course, if you want to say more, feel free. It just seems that people are scared off from writing thank you notes, perhaps thinking that it requires essay-length effort. No, when the death of a loved one blows your world apart, thank you notes are little pieces of writing that add up to a quilt of gratitude for the people in your life that come together in support.

And when you sign off, sign it “love,” or “with love,” no matter to whom you write. Expressions of love are what living is all about. Share the love, as it has been shared with you.

Time Flies Card CoverNeed nice blank cards for your thank you or condolence notes? “Time Flies” features an image of an hourglass with wings set inside an ornate circle. The image came from a photo taken of a crypt gate in the historic Woodland Cemetery in Stamford, CT, established in 1859.

Packages of 12 folded note cards on elegant, substantial white linen paper with envelopes are only $15 plus shipping and available at the To Die For Shopping page at

A Good Goodbye