A sympathy card is a small reminder that you’re not alone. After a loss, it’s hard to feel like there are brighter days ahead. A card that says sorry for your loss might seem simple, but it goes a long way to making you feel supported in a time of need.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Do You Have to Respond to a Sympathy Card?
- Etiquette for Responding to Sympathy Cards
- How to Thank Someone for a Card With Money
- How to Thank Someone for a Sympathy Card With a Gift
- How to Thank Someone Who Only Sent a Sympathy Card
- How to Respond to a Sympathy Card With Flowers
- How to Respond to a Sympathy Card With a Memorial Donation
If you receive a sympathy card, whether on its own or with another gift, it is considered proper etiquette to thank the sender. They took the time to think about you when it mattered most. It only makes sense to do the same to thank them for their kindness.
Knowing how to respond to sympathy cards can be tricky. With so many different ways to say thank you, where do you begin? In this guide, we’ll share how to respond to sympathy cards and the best wording to use depending on the message you’re trying to send.
Do You Have to Respond to a Sympathy Card?
First, is there any reason to respond to a sympathy card in the first place? These cards are sent out of compassion and kindness. It’s understandable that you’re busy with other important matters if someone is sending you a sympathy card. For example, you could be dealing with a new injury or diagnosis or the loss of a loved one.
The simple answer is that a thank you note isn’t needed for everything and everyone. If you’re busy with life and other concerns, there is no reason to rush to send sympathy cards. In some cases, you might decide not to send a response at all. This is all up to your personal preference, and there is no clear “right” or “wrong” answer.
The only time you should absolutely respond to a sympathy card is when it comes with an additional gift. This could be flowers, a donation, or anything else that goes above and beyond a simple card. In this case, a response is usually the right way to show you appreciate this gift.
Alternative responses to sympathy cards
Though the most common way to say thank you after someone thinks of you is with a card, this isn’t necessary for sympathy cards. A formal note can be a nice gesture, but it can sometimes be too much effort for a simple card.
Alternatively, if you choose to do something in return, you can call or text someone. A simple “thank you” message goes a long way. If you’ve received a large number of sympathy notes, sending a text, email, or call is much more practical. Sending a “thank you” shows that you really took notice of someone’s kindness, no matter how small.
Etiquette for Responding to Sympathy Cards
There’s an etiquette around most types of cards and gifts. When someone sends a token of their kindness, whether it’s flowers or a card, it’s important to let them know you appreciate this thoughtfulness.
However, you don’t need to send a sympathy note for a card. This would just result in a never-ending cycle of needing to send cards back and forth. That being said, it’s still always considered appropriate sympathy card etiquette to call, text, or email someone to say thanks if they took the time to send a card.
If the sender included money, flowers, or another gift with their sympathy card, you might want to do something a little bit extra. Sending a simple thank you card is more than enough, though it’s understandable if you choose to send a text or email instead. Most people recognize that it can get busy after you lose someone special. Do what you can when you can.
How to Thank Someone for a Card With Money
If someone sends a card with money, this is an incredibly thoughtful gift as funerals and final arrangements can be quite expensive.
When someone sends some funds to help make this burden a little lighter, it’s truly a meaningful gift. Make sure they know how much you value their kindness with these “thank you” messages and actions below.
1. Thank them in the funeral program.
If someone helped you pay for funeral expenses, it’s thoughtful to acknowledge them for going above and beyond. An easy way to do this is by including their name in a section titled “thank you” in the funeral program or memorial program. This also is a great memento for their good deed.
2. Bake them something special.
A small way to repay this kindness is to bake them something special. Whether you choose a family recipe or simple cookies, everyone loves to receive something sweet. Gifting baked goods is a small but sweet way to show appreciation.
3. “Thank you so much for the donation in [Name]’s honor. It would have meant so much to them.”
Many times it can be polite to ask for a donation in lieu of flowers or another funeral gift. If someone made a donation to a cause that mattered to you, your family, or the deceased, let them know this doesn’t go unnoticed with a message.
4. “My family appreciates your generosity. Thank you so much.”
If someone gifted money with their sympathy card, keep your response simple. You can send a card, text, email, or even pick up the phone. If possible, let them know how you plan to use this money. For example, tell them that it will go towards funeral flowers or the burial marker.
5. “Thank you for the money given at [Name]’s passing. Your contribution was donated to the American Heart Association in [Name]’s honor. Thank you for making this possible.”
Sometimes you don’t personally need the gifted money to prepare for funeral or burial arrangements. If not, you can still put these funds to use by making a donation in the deceased person’s honor to a cause that meant something to them. Sharing where you made the donation with the sender helps them feel included.
How to Thank Someone for a Sympathy Card With a Gift
If someone sent a sympathy card with a gift, make sure they know their efforts are valued. Common gifts might be gift cards, flowers, or even something sentimental like family photos.
Taking a few minutes to thank them with one of these messages or actions below is really powerful.
6. “The flowers you sent for [Name]’s funeral were stunning, and I know they would have loved them. Thank you for your kindness.”
For a flower gift, show your appreciation. If possible, mention what the flowers looked like and how they impacted you. Funeral flowers are a small reminder of life, warmth, and beauty on the darkest of days.
7. “I can’t thank you enough for your generous gift. My family will be sure to put it to good use.”
If someone sent a small gift, keep your message short and sweet. If possible, share how you’ll use it. However, the sender will understand if you’re too busy to give a longer message.
8. “Thank you for the food you brought to our family’s home after [Name]’s passing. It was delicious, and it was exactly what we needed.”
Another common gift is food. Food is one of life’s basic forms of comfort, and having something sustaining to eat in a time of need is very helpful. Let the gift giver know that you appreciated this delicious act of kindness.
9. “Thank you so much for sending along so many touching photos of [Name]. These brought us so much joy in this difficult time.”
If someone took the time to send you family photos or photos of the deceased, let them know how much this meant to you. Family photos are truly invaluable, especially after a loss.
10. “I am so grateful for all of your help leading up to [Name]’s funeral. I don’t know what we would have done without you.”
Finally, if someone was there for you in a time of need, thank them for lending a helping hand. Actions truly speak louder than words, so be sure you’re there for them when the opportunity presents itself.
How to Thank Someone Who Only Sent a Sympathy Card
Lastly, thank someone even if they only sent a sympathy card. A sympathy card might be small, but it’s still very meaningful. This kindness is always appreciated, so letting them know that you received your card goes a long way.
11. “Thank you for all of your support. Your words of comfort were truly touching.”
It’s not easy to know what to say after someone experiences a loss. Thank the card sender for taking the time to think of the right words in this difficult time.
12. “Thank you so much for your beautiful card. I appreciate you being there for me.”
For someone who you might not be very close to, less is more. Don’t feel pressured to write more than you feel comfortable with. This type of simple message is more than enough to show thanks.
13. “I appreciate you calling to check on me after my loss, and thank you for the card. I am so thankful to have you as a friend.”
The ones who are there for you in your hardest moments are the truest of friends and family. Acknowledge the strength of your relationship with a kind message like this one above.
14. “Thank you for your beautiful card and for attending [Name]’s funeral. The story you shared about your holiday party still brings a smile to my face.”
It’s also important to thank someone if they attended the funeral, particularly if they shared a personal story about your loved one. Attending a funeral is never easy, so make sure they know their presence was appreciated.
15. “This passing was so hard for me. I am so thankful for your support. It really means a lot to me.”
Last but not least, it’s okay to admit that this experience has been difficult. Being vulnerable with how you feel is its own form of strength, so don’t be afraid to include this in your thank you message.
How to Respond to a Sympathy Card With Flowers
It’s traditional for family members and friends to send flowers as a form of condolences after a loss. Flowers are a sign of rebirth and innocence, often sending a message of hope through a dark time. If someone sent a sympathy card paired with flowers, respond with one of these message ideas below.
16. “Thank you so much for the lovely flower arrangement you sent after [Name’s] death. He/she loved flowers, and this was such a thoughtful thing to do. Thank you.”
If your loved one was someone who appreciated a beautiful flower arrangement, let your recipient know. This is the kind of information that makes their gift seem all the more meaningful.
17. “The wreath you sent to the funeral was beautiful. Thank you for remembering my loved one in my time of need. I appreciate it.”
It’s also common to send a wreath in honor of someone’s life. These are far from inexpensive, so make sure your gift giver knows you recognize this act of kindness. No matter what the wreath was used for, show how much it mattered to you.
18. “Seeing tulips at [Name’s] funeral added a touch of hope and beauty. He/she would have loved them since they were his/her favorite flowers. Thank you so much.”
Flowers carry a lot of meaning on their own. Sometimes this meaning is ingrained in our culture, but other times it’s deeply personal. If someone took the time to consider your loved one’s wishes, this is worth appreciating.
19. “Dear friend, your beautiful flower arrangement was a stunning surprise on an otherwise sad day. Thank you so much for your kindness. ”
Though flowers don’t heal the pain of a sad day, they are a small beacon of sunshine. Above all, they're a reminder that hope is always just around the corner. Flowers have long been used to share joy, change, and express sympathy.
20. “You were so kind to think of my [relative] and send such beautiful flowers. It would have meant the world to him/her to know our family received so many flowers. Thank you so much.”
Receiving flowers after a loss isn’t just a way to express sympathy. It’s also a form of respect. Thank those who take the time to think of you in your moment of need, no matter your relationship.
How to Respond to a Sympathy Card With a Memorial Donation
Lastly, many choose to send a memorial donation in lieu of flowers. This could be sent by request, or it might be a way to honor the deceased. Either way, a memorial donation is a beautiful tribute to someone’s life and legacy. Here’s how to respond to a sympathy card paired with a memorial donation.
21. “Thank you so much for your generous donation to [Organization]. This was [Name’s] biggest wish, and I know he/she would have appreciated it.”
If your loved one wanted a donation made in his/her honor, acknowledge what this means to your family. Donations have the ability to make a big impact in someone’s life. No matter how much or how little was given, it adds up to a real difference.
22. “Dear friend, I can’t thank you enough for your help raising money for my [loved one’s] funeral. It eased the burden from my shoulders in a time of need. Thank you so much.”
For a friend who helped you raise money for a charity in honor of a loved one, use this message. Having someone’s support in your time of need is like a weight lifted from your own shoulders. You should never have to face a loss alone.
23. “Thank you for making a donation in my family’s honor. This loss is difficult, and it helps to know we have so much generosity in our lives.”
Though nothing takes away the pain of a loss, it’s important to know you have others behind you. These kind actions bring your family closer together, even in times of crisis.
24. “Thank you. Your donation in [Name’s] honor will surely make a real difference. Thank you for caring so much about a cause near to our hearts.”
When someone takes the time to make a donation in someone’s honor, they want to know the impact of that positive action. Let them know that this cause is important to your family, and you hope to see a positive change in the world because of it.
25. “As you know, [Name] was passionate about [cause]. Your support towards [Organization] would have brought a smile to his face. Thank you for your contribution.”
Last but not least, if this was a cause your loved one was passionate about, share this memory. Good deeds are one of the many ways to bring honor to a loved one’s legacy into the future.
The Art of Saying Thank You
Knowing how and when to say “thank you” is truly an art form. While sending funeral thank you cards is a great first step, this might not be necessary or the right step depending on the situation. Let the ideas and wording above be your guide.
The most important thing to remember is that good deeds deserve to be noticed. Whether someone sent a small card or a monetary donation, they’ll appreciate you taking the time to acknowledge their generosity. These “thank you” messages are their own form of support.