How to Write a Bereavement Thank You Message

Updated

When you lose someone close to you, many of the other important people in your life typically offer condolences. Their support can help you cope with one of life’s greatest challenges, grief.

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Naturally, when you feel emotionally prepared, you’ll want to thank the friends and family who were there for you when you needed them. Many of us consider it very important to let the people who helped us through an emotionally trying time know we appreciate them. Sending bereavement thank you notes is one way to do so.

Don’t worry if you’re not sure what to include in a bereavement thank you note or email. The following tips and examples will make the process of expressing your gratitude in an authentic way much easier.

When Is It Appropriate to Send a Bereavement Thank You Note?

There are no official etiquette rules or expectations in regard to when you should send a bereavement thank you note. Most people understand that grief is an overwhelming experience. Expecting someone to promptly send a thank you note after a loved one’s passing is unreasonable. You likely don’t have to worry about offending anyone if you don’t send a thank you note right away.

However, if you do feel you can emotionally handle the process of sending bereavement thank you notes relatively shortly after putting your loved one to rest, a good rule of thumb is to do so about two to three weeks after the funeral.

You also don’t need to worry about sending a thank you note to every single individual who attended a loved one’s service or viewing. Doing so is completely acceptable if you’d like to, but it may also be impractical if your loved one’s funeral had many guests.

Instead, you may simply focus on sending bereavement thank you notes to individuals and families who sent flowers or gifts, provided financial support, made donations to relevant causes, or offered any other support that you would like to formally acknowledge. 

You might also want to send notes to people who may not have attended the funeral, but nevertheless made the experience less stressful for you in some capacity. For example, you might send a thank you note to a coworker who took on your work responsibilities while you made funeral arrangements.

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Steps for Writing a Bereavement Thank You Note

Naturally, when you feel emotionally prepared, you’ll want to thank the friends and family who were there for you when you needed them. Many of us consider it very important to let the people who helped us through an emotionally trying time know we appreciate them. Sending bereavement thank you notes is one way to do so.

Don’t worry if you’re not sure what to include in a bereavement thank you note or email. The following tips and e

Step 1: Make a list

This is a simple step, but it’s a crucial one. You probably want to make sure you send bereavement thank you notes to everyone who offered their support when your loved one passed.

This step may be fairly easy to complete if you had a guestbook at the funeral. You can quickly refer to it to see who attended. This can help you ensure you don’t overlook anyone.

Just keep in mind that some people may have forgotten to sign the guestbook. Additionally, there may be people who were unable to attend the funeral but offered their condolences in other ways. Take the time to remember everyone who played important roles in your grieving process before completing your list.

Step 2: Think of specific ways people offered support

Some bereavement thank you notes may be fairly generic. If you want to express gratitude to people who attended the funeral simply, you can send a fairly standard “thank you for being there” note.

However, if other people were more directly involved, offered their support in specific ways, perhaps something more personal would suit them.

Some people may have helped you make the funeral arrangements. Others may have been there to listen when you needed someone to call. Maybe someone offered support to other family members and friends who struggled. For instance, maybe a relative or friend helped keep your kids occupied while you took some time to grieve.

Go through your list and make a note of anyone who was there for you in a very specific way. You’ll likely want to take time drafting a more detailed bereavement thank you note or email when responding to condolences they offered.

Don’t be afraid to ask for support

Looking back on the way people helped you after a loved one’s passing can be a very emotionally draining experience. Additionally, because coping with a loss is also mentally and emotionally draining, you may have forgotten the ways some people supported you. That’s okay.

Don’t be afraid to involve other people in this process. They can help you with this important responsibility when drafting bereavement thank you notes becomes too emotionally stressful. On top of that, they might remember key details you’ve forgotten. Just be sure to offer them an extra-special thank you when you’ve sent your last note.

Step 3: Get organized

Once you have your list and you’ve made notes about the specific ways some people offered assistance, it’s time to take care of all the remaining practical steps. They include:

Making categories

Sending thank you notes is a draining process. So it’s wise to be as efficient as possible. Yes, you certainly want to express your gratitude clearly and genuinely, but you also want to consider your own emotional needs.

Some people find it’s easier to complete the process efficiently when they make categories of people to whom they’re sending bereavement thank you notes. For instance, you can go through your list and make a category for the people who simply attended the funeral or called to say “Sorry for your loss.” A similar (but separate) category may include people who had to travel far to be at the funeral.

You can make another category for the funeral home staff and anyone else involved, such as a member of the clergy. The next category may include people who supported you in very specific ways. They’re the ones whose bereavement thank you notes you’ll want to spend the most time on.

Gather contact information

If you don’t have the contact information for everyone on your list, track down that info. Remember that (depending on your preferences) a thank you note doesn’t need to be something you handwrite.

In many circumstances, it’s often entirely fine to send an email. If an email address is the only contact information you have for someone on your list, you might feel free to use it.

Get supplies

Even if you do email some people, there could be others to whom you’d prefer to send handwritten notes. You might also want to use special stationery.

Browse your options at a stationery or card shop. Make sure you know how much stationery you need. Purchase it all at once to save money and time.

Delegate

If other people are helping you with this process, assign them duties if it makes sense to do so.

For example, if you made a category of people to whom you’re going to send relatively generic bereavement thank you notes, another family member might be able to draft and send those for you. This gives you more time to focus on the thank you notes that require more specifics.

Bereavement Thank You Note Examples

It’s important to remember that your bereavement thank you notes should be genuine and heartfelt. They should also be somewhat different depending on how they supported you. 

That means you’ll probably have to modify these examples somewhat. They exist to serve as inspiration—no example can predict what you might say from the heart. You can start off with them, but you should make some personal changes before sending the notes.

Tip: You can substitute words such as “I” or “me” with “we” or “us” if you want to send a note from your entire family, and not just yourself.

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For someone who attended the funeral

“Thank you so much for attending [loved one]’s funeral. It was wonderful to see you. Your presence made a difficult experience much easier. Please keep in touch, and know I’m always here for you too if you ever need me.”

For someone who traveled far to attend the funeral

“I deeply appreciate the fact that you attended [loved one]’s funeral. I know you had to travel a long way to get there. That means a lot to me, and if there is any way I can ever repay the favor, please let me know.”

For someone involved in the funeral, such as a funeral director

“Thank you so much for your help [describe the role they played, such as “making the funeral arrangements”] after [loved one]’s passing.

"You made what could have been a very difficult experience much easier. I truly believe the funeral did justice to [loved one]’s memory. I can’t say for sure that would have been the case if you hadn’t been involved. I’m deeply grateful for the role you played.”

For someone who offered guidance

“[Loved one]’s passing was very painful for me. However, thanks to you, I was able to get through it. Your guidance and support helped me realize I could overcome this experience. I’ll never be able to thank you enough.

"However, you should know that if I can ever be there for you when you need that kind of help, I would be more than happy to offer my support in any way I can.”

For someone who shared the burden

“You know [loved one]’s passing was a very trying experience. On top of coping with my own difficult emotions, I worried about handling the responsibility of [caring for my kids, staying on top of my work, etc.]. 

It turns out I didn’t have to worry about that. You stepped up and shared the burden. I can never repay you for that, although I’d love to. You need to know the help you offered [consider citing a specific example here] was incredibly valuable and meaningful. I’ll never forget it. Thank you for being a good person. I’m lucky you were in my life during that painful time.”

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For loved one who sent flowers or a gift

“The loss of [loved one] took a major emotional toll on myself and all other members of our family. When we first received the news, I believe I can speak not only for myself, but for several other loved ones when I say that some of us feared we would not be able to cope with our pain and sorrow.

Fortunately, we did not need to worry about that. While we did experience periods of deep grief, thanks to the support of our relatives and friends, we were able to continue moving forward with some sense of hope for the future.

The gift you sent told us that there will always be people out there who love us and care for us in our time of need. It was a very kind gesture, and it helped us all remain as positive as we could when doing so might have seemed impossible.”

For a coworker, boss, or client

“Thank you very much for the support you offered after my [loved one]’s passing. It is always helpful to be reminded that the people with whom I work aren’t merely colleagues or clients—they also genuinely care for me.

I also deeply appreciate the lengths you went to to ensure I did not feel burdened by my professional duties at a time when I was struggling to overcome the loss of someone very close to me. I take my work seriously, and I was worried that this experience would put unwanted strain on my career and professional relationships.

Knowing that I did not have to concern myself with those issues while I made funeral arrangements and tended to the emotional needs of myself and my family made this experience a little bit easier than it would otherwise have been. Thank you for relieving me of that burden.”

For a loved one who sent meals or a food gift basket

“We cannot thank you enough for the food you sent for the reception after [loved one]’s funeral. It seems you clearly understand that making arrangements in the immediate aftermath of a close family member’s passing can be an overwhelming experience. We wanted to ensure we organized a respectful funeral and reception, but we also had to make these arrangements while struggling with a range of painful emotions.

This could have been extremely stressful. Luckily, we got through the experience. Gestures such as yours helped us do so.

In a merely practical way, knowing we wouldn’t have to be solely responsible for ensuring reception guests were properly fed allowed our family to focus on other tasks while also attending to our emotional needs. On a more personal level, your gesture was a thoughtful reminder that there are many people in our lives to support us during a painful time.”

For a loved one who sent money to cover funeral costs

“Thank you very much for your generosity. You could have merely provided emotional support. That certainly would have been enough. I am extremely grateful that you took the extra step to support our family financially during this difficult time.

As you can imagine, the days in the immediate aftermath of [loved one]’s passing were stressful for numerous reasons. I had to cope with the emotional pain I was experiencing, offer some comfort to my family, and also make funeral arrangements, all while attempting to figure out how I would be able to cover all the expenses.

The money you sent played a huge role in helping me avoid getting overwhelmed. Knowing that I did not have to pay for the funeral entirely by myself gave me the freedom to spend more time tending to my needs and the needs of others who were close with [loved one].”

For a loved one who sent a donation in your deceased loved one’s name

“Thank you for your generous donation to [name of charity, cause, organization, etc.]. Both myself and the rest of our family tremendously appreciate the kind gesture.

As you know, [name of cause] was something about which [loved one] was very passionate during their life. Because we had the opportunity to plan and pay for their funeral in advance, they made it abundantly clear that in lieu of financial support, they preferred that anyone who wished to give money would do so by making a donation to that cause.

Such donations like the one you made have genuinely helped myself and my family manage our grief in a healthier way than we otherwise might. Every donation reminds us to celebrate the kind and giving spirit [loved one] possessed. It also helps us feel they still live on through the donations people like yourself have made in their name.”

Bereavement Thank You Notes: The Importance of Gratitude

Most people don’t know what to say or do when offering support to a friend or family member who’s lost a loved one. Those who managed to be there for you deserve to know just how much their help meant.

With these bereavement thank you note tips and examples, you can be sure you’ve expressed those feelings in a way they’ll fully appreciate.

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