Planning a funeral can be overwhelming. On top of the grieving process, you’re expected to be a good host, and keep track of the efforts people make to support you. Not to mention continue living your day-to-day life. It might be too much to get out of bed, let alone go to work or keep your house clean. During this time you can be forgiven for not maintaining thank you note etiquette.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Step 1: Understand Funeral Thank You Card Etiquette
- Step 2: Pick Out the Cards
- Step 3: Choose What You Want to Say
- Step 4: Send the Thank You Cards
Even if you’re not in the proper state of mind to write thank you cards, a time will come when you’re ready. This may be less out of a sense of following proper etiquette, and more out of the desire to get some closure. It could also help you begin the healing process.
When that time comes, make sure you set yourself up for success. Read on to learn more about traditional funeral thank you cards, as well as some tips and tricks for writing them.
Virtual funeral tip: These steps also apply to thank you notes for virtual funeral attendees. If you host a virtual funeral using a service like GatheringUs, you should still plan on sending some thank you letters. Not everyone in attendance necessarily needs to receive one, as you'll read below. But many of your virtual guests may have provided some much-needed help or send a touching gift.
Step 1: Understand Funeral Thank You Card Etiquette
When you plan a funeral for a loved one there are so many moving parts to manage. This is especially true in the event of an unexpected death. With so much to keep track of, figuring out thank you cards is not a priority. Still, there are a few steps you can take to make this process simpler down the line. It helps to know some of the basic etiquette rules surrounding funeral thank you cards.
You don’t need to feel obligated to send a thank you card to everyone who reached out. Anyone who goes above and beyond should be thanked. This includes people who sent flowers or other personalized sympathy gifts.
Think about the people who donated to a charity, or contributed financially to help you. Note: you don’t need to include the amount. Thanking someone for making a donation is enough.
You should also write thank you cards to people who provided tangible forms of support. They might have organized a meal train or helped you make funeral arrangements. Or it could have been sitting with you when you didn’t want to be alone. Whatever they did, make sure you let them know how much it helped.
People who took part in the funeral in a personal way also deserve a thank you. Write these notes even if the individuals were compensated for their services or provided with an honorarium. This list could include pallbearers, musicians, or clergy.
Two or three weeks after the funeral is usually when people send out thank you cards. But no one is going to think badly of you if it takes longer. Even if it takes you a few months, it’s not too late. You can apologize for the delay, explain you haven’t been feeling up to the task, and segue into your thank you.
Until you’re ready, you can do a few things to get organized. Set aside two manila folders or large envelopes. Use one to store sympathy cards or other correspondence that don’t need a reply. And use the second to gather cards that do. These could include donation notes or cards that came with a gift. You can also keep a piece of paper in the envelope to jot down details you want to include in your notes. And hold onto return address information. It makes it easier to send out cards later.
This is also one of those tasks that you should ask for help with. If you have a friend who is well- organized or well-spoken, let them help you. They can pick the cards, keep information organized, and even write messages for you. If people want to help, let them.
Step 2: Pick Out the Cards
The cards you select may depend on the level of emotional energy you have. You could use this time as a form of catharsis. If you like writing purchase blank notecards and write a customized note for each individual.
If handwriting lengthy cards seems daunting, purchase thank you cards with a pre-printed message inside. Then you can just add two or three sentences to personalize it.
Step 3: Choose What You Want to Say
Whether you opt for a blank thank you note or one with a pre-printed message, be sure to include specifics. If they brought you a casserole or made a donation, be sure to specify that in the card. This is where the notes you kept will come in handy. It will let the recipient know you aren’t sending out generic cards to everyone.
Remember that you can break your list into manageable chunks. That will prevent you from falling into a rut and writing very bland replies. Still not sure where to begin? We have more suggestions to help you with this challenging (but important!) task. Here are some ideas to get you started:
How to say thank you for the flowers
- Thank you for the lovely arrangement of flowers you sent for (name’s) service. They were beautiful, and they added a bright spot to a difficult day.
- As you know, orchids were always (name’s) favorite. Receiving your sympathy message with her favorite flowers was so special.
How to say thank you for a donation of time or money
- I apologize for the delay in sending this. I want to thank you for the donation you made to (name of charity). This charity is important to us because (reason for importance). Your donation will help this charity continue its valuable work.
- I need to thank you for organizing a meal train for us. Not having to think about what to eat every day has been so helpful as we deal with this tragedy.
- Thank you so much for participating in the meal train after (name’s) death. The food you prepared nourished both our bodies and spirits.
- It was so kind of you to organize a grocery delivery to our house. It was a great help. Not having to worry about going to the store during a sad and stressful time was a relief.
- Thank you for organizing a fundraiser to benefit the charity that was so close to (name’s) heart. It would have meant so much to him to know his death was able to help benefit that amazing organization.
- Thank you for contributing to the GoFund Me that was set up to help our family. Thanks to you, we were able to pay for the funeral in full. And we’re using the leftover funds to support our family while we figure out our new life.
- Thank you for playing (song) at (name’s) service. It was their favorite song, and your rendition of it was so touching. I will always treasure the memory of hearing you sing it.
How to say thank you for emotional or logistical support
- I’m writing to express my gratitude to everyone at (deceased’s place of employment) for reaching out to support us. (Name) thought of you as their second family. Your support means more than we can express.
- I can’t begin to let you know how much your support has meant to me in the past few weeks. Thank you for taking the time to help me make the funeral arrangements for (name). Your friendship has been invaluable during this difficult time.
- Thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping with childcare and transportation over the past few weeks. Your help has been critical while we work out our new normal.
- Thank you for mowing our lawn. It was a relief to not have to worry about that task.
- Thank you for being by my side. Having you come over and keep me company while I grieved has meant so much. You are a true friend.
- I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you setting up a Facebook group to help keep people informed of our situation. Knowing you would get the information to whoever needed it was extraordinarily helpful.
- Thank you for traveling so far to attend (name’s) funeral. I know it was a long journey, and it meant a lot that you were there.
- Thank you for the great efforts you’ve gone to support my children. You have helped them maintain some semblance of normalcy. Taking them out to the park and having them for sleepovers has given them something positive to focus on. And it gave me space to grieve.
- I appreciate you for serving as a pallbearer. (Name) loved you and was so grateful for your friendship. Thank you for lifting them up in friendship one last time.
- Thank you for presiding over (name’s) service. I appreciate that you personalized the service and made it all about their life.
- I know we haven’t spent much time together outside of work. It meant a lot that you took the time to come to (name’s) funeral. It made me feel supported on a difficult day.
- I really appreciate you joining us for (name’s) service. I know we haven’t seen each other as much as we used to. It was touching to see you there. And meant a lot that you shared in the mourning process with us.
- Thank you for being there for me whenever I have needed you. No matter how late it is, I know I could call and you’d pick up in a heartbeat. Your friendship has gotten me through so many nights.
How to say thank you for the gift card, present, or item
- I’m writing to thank you for the Starbucks gift card you sent. Planning a service on top of work has been exhausting, and this was a touching pick-me-up.
- I appreciate the gift certificate to the spa. It’s been so hard to focus on myself. Thank you for reminding me how important self-care is.
Step 4: Send the Thank You Cards
This is another area where friends or family can step up to help and support you. Even if you write all the cards, have someone help you by addressing the envelopes. Hopefully, you have all the addresses you need. If you don’t, a friend could reach out on your behalf to collect any missing addresses.
When you sign the card, be sure to sign it with your last name. Make sure to mention the last name of the deceased if it differs from your own. That detail will be especially important if you have been delayed in sending cards. If the person you’re reaching out to only knew the deceased, they may not know who you are. Including their last name helps eliminate any guesswork or confusion.
Tips and Tricks for Funeral Thank You Cards
Writing a thank you card may be the last thing you want to do after a funeral. However, recipients will appreciate knowing that their gift was received. Even more important, it will help you to revisit all the people who reached out to you. And it will remind you that even after the loss of your loved one, you are not alone.