Guide to Funeral Thank You Etiquette for Family & Guests

Updated

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Have you recently lost a loved one and you aren’t sure how to handle the task of writing thank you notes? We’ll help you understand when you should send a thank you note and what you should say. Also, look for tips on mistakes to avoid. 

Jump ahead to these sections:

We’ll also discuss funeral thank you etiquette for the attendees. Is there ever a time when a person attending a funeral should send a thank you note? We’ll give you examples of when this might be appropriate. 

Tip: These guidelines also apply to virtual funerals, whether you're hosting a small Zoom funeral on your own or using a professional service like GatheringUs

Funeral Thank You Etiquette for the Deceased’s Surviving Family

A funeral thank you note is a formal way to respond to condolences. Most of the time, funeral thank you notes are sent through the mail instead of emailed or texted. Sometimes, families gather together to write the letters and other times, one person handles the task. 

Funeral thank you notes can offer gratitude for gifts the family received, such as flowers, bouquets, photo frames, and pieces of jewelry. Don’t forget to write thank-you notes for the things people did for you while your loved one was sick or right after the death.

Here are some sample letters to inspire you as you prepare to complete this task.

When do you say thank you?

Dear Sally,

My siblings and I would like to thank you for all the months that you lovingly cared for our mom. We know that the job was exhausting and that Mom wasn’t easy to be around at times. Regardless, you were so loving and respectful to Mom and we can’t thank you enough for your service.

We would also like to thank you for going above and beyond the call of duty. We know that caring for Mom’s dog wasn’t part of your responsibilities, but you gladly did it anyway. We also appreciate all the home-baked treats you made while Mom was napping and the loving hugs you gave us when it all became too much to handle.

Mom was lucky to have you. We couldn’t have survived the last few months without you.

The Ethel Windsor Family

How can you say thank you?

Dear Monica and Stan,

Thank you so much for the beautiful azaleas that you delivered to the funeral home. You remembered how much our mom liked pink. What a thoughtful gift this was!

My siblings and I were all happy to see you at mom’s funeral. We loved the stories you shared about Mom and Dad, and the photos that you gave us mean so much to us. 

You both were such amazing friends to our parents throughout the years. We have such fond memories of growing up next door to your family. It was wonderful seeing you, even though we wish it were under happier circumstances. Thanks so much for supporting us during this difficult time.

The Esther Krump Family

What shouldn’t you do?

As you write the funeral thank you notes, here are some things to avoid. 

  • Don’t feel like you have to write a thank you note to everyone who attended the funeral or sent a card. They would not expect to receive a letter of appreciation.
  • Don’t overlook thanking people for kind acts they completed during your loved one’s illness and after their death. For example, thank people for meals, rides to the airport, and mowing your grass. 
  • Don’t forget to thank the people who participated in the funeral. Write a note to the soloist, minister, and pallbearers. Thank the people who prepared a repast after the funeral and for those who helped carry the flower arrangements to the cemetery. 
  • Don’t write the exact amount that the person contributed to the memorial fund on the thank you note. Instead, leave that detail to the nonprofit organization that received the funds. They should offer the essential tax documents to the people who donated to the cause. 
  • Don’t write a generic thank you note to cover all of the gifts you received. For example, thank your friend for purchasing the bouquet of sunflowers instead of sending one card that says, “thank you for the gift.”
  • Don’t compare your grief to another person’s suffering. Avoid saying, “I now understand how you felt when your mom passed.” 
  • Don’t forget to thank people in person. The first time you see a friend after the funeral, you may tell her, “Thanks again for the plant you sent to the funeral home.” You can also simply say “Thank you for coming today” to the funeral attendees if you don’t know what else to say. 

Funeral Thank You Etiquette for Attendees

Most articles about funeral etiquette do not suggest when an attendee should write a thank you note. After all, this practice does not often happen. 

We want to give you some examples of times when you may consider writing a thank you note to the deceased’s family. 

When do you say thank you?

Dear Frederick, 

I was so sorry to hear about your mom’s recent death. As you know, she was a significant influence on me during my youth. I would like to sincerely thank you for the help your entire family gave to me during my troubled teenage years. 

When I arrived at your house, I was going down the wrong path in life. My own parents were alcoholics, and I was removed from their home at 14. When I arrived on your doorstep, I had already been kicked out of six other foster homes. 

But then I met your mom, and she was so kind and patient. She treated me like she treated you. Thank you for allowing her to do this. I realize now that this was probably hard for you.

The next two years were the best years of my childhood. When I left for the Navy when I turned 18, I vowed that I would do something special for your mom someday. Unfortunately, she died before I could make that happen. 

Thank you again for sharing this wonderful woman with me. I, too, am grieving her loss.

How can you say thank you?

To the Family of Roberta Peterson,

On behalf of the Backpacks for Buddies organization, I would like to thank you for all you have done to raise awareness of our organization. We received over 230 filled backpacks from your mother’s memorial services, which means that 230 children were able to start their first day of school with the appropriate supplies.

While we would like to thank you for organizing this drive, we would also like to offer our sympathy for the recent death of Roberta. As a teacher of 40 years, she spent most of her life educating the youth in our community, and we would like to thank you for her service.

This backpack drive was a lovely way to say goodbye to such a special woman. Thank you, again for your support for our organization. We are sorry for your loss.  

What shouldn’t you do?

  • Don’t forget to offer your sympathy when you write a thank you note for the family. You may also consider sending a sympathy gift basket to the family in mourning. 
  • Don’t forget to thank the family for choosing your organization for the memorial fund. 
  • Don’t compare your sadness with the family’s grief. While it is appropriate to say that the death saddened you, don’t say you are grieving more than others.
  • Don’t wait too long to send a note. When sending a sympathy message, it is best to complete it right away. 

Other Funeral Etiquette to Consider as a Member of the Family or an Attendee

If you will be attending the funeral either as a member of the immediate family or as another attendee, here are some pieces of etiquette to consider:

  • Be aware of the length of the line. It’s common for people to line up during a visitation to view the body and express condolences to the family. Whether you are a member of the family or an attendee, be aware of others in the line and keep the conversation to a minimum. 
  • Be aware of the tone you set at the funeral. You’ll hear laughter at a funeral. It is normal to share funny stories about the deceased when people gather together for a service. You might avoid being too loud and boisterous at a funeral, though. This might set the wrong tone for the event.
  • Don’t bring or open gifts at the service. You may want to give a sympathy gift to a member of the family. It’s best not to bring the gift to the funeral if it can be helped. If someone gives you a gift, you may consider putting it aside and opening it after the service is over. 

If you're looking for more on funeral or memorial service etiquette, read our guides on funeral photo etiquette and funeral flower etiquette.

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