How to Write a Heartfelt Thank You Letter to Family

Updated

Expressing gratitude is a great way to reduce stress and increase overall happiness. Plus, when others receive appreciation through cards, letters, or email, they’re also going to start feeling those same benefits. 

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And it’s not just for a little while. Those feelings stay in your brain for months on end, causing good things to happen. If nothing else, that’s the perfect reason to write thank you letters to friends and family to increase positivity all the way around.

Let’s face it, some days we need a bigger boost than others. So, let us take the guesswork of the how-to and get you into sharing some joy with others.

Keep reading for six super easy steps to get you from the greeting to a spell check so you can craft a seamless thank you letter to anyone in your circle of family and friends. 

When Should You Write a Thank You Letter to Your Family?

Etiquette experts will tell you that there's tremendous power in crafting a thank-you letter. After an interview or important meeting, upon receipt of a gift or note of condolence, big and small favors, or, especially, following emotional support and comfort after a significant loss, you hold the most critical key to ensuring the wheel of gratitude still spins.

Hand-written notes, as opposed to emails or text messages, are widely regarded as the more favorable method for delivering the best thank-you letter. Why? There's a time and effort put into the hand-written note that isn't possible with electronic communication, including choosing the card or letter, a suitable pen, and a stamp. That, and then there's, finding the space and time to gather thoughts before one even begins crafting words of gratitude. 

The hand-written note is its own little symphony, so let's break that down a bit more and find out why each element (or instrument) matters.

Paper and Cards 

You might have a few pieces of blue-lined notebook paper lying around. Nonetheless, you wouldn't (likely) choose it for a letter of gratitude after familial grief support, let alone after an interview. Instead, blank cards or decorative paper are better suited. 

Pro-tip: Buy appropriate cards or paper stock in bulk to have a ready supply. 

Suitable Pens

Your handwriting could fall short if you don't have the right pen. For instance, a fine-tipped rolling ballpoint pen won't write smoothly on rigid cardstock. But at the same time, a felt-tipped marker won't look professional. So, what do you do? Test out the paper and pen ahead of time.

Stamp

Often overlooked, the proper stamp is the icing on the cake of any piece of handwritten mail. Opt for a seasonal stamp, and your letter may lose its luster. Choose a cartoon, and you risk looking unprofessional. 

Pro-tip: Suitable stamps should work for any occasion or time of year.

One last thing. It's never too late to send a letter of gratitude, whether a month or a year after the fact. A letter, once received, is the memory that remains.

» MORE: Need help with funeral costs? Create a free online memorial to gather donations.

Steps for Writing a Thank You Letter to Family

Each of the steps works whether you’re sending your letter of gratitude via email or a handwritten thank you note. Just remember to send it out as soon as possible, so that you don’t forget to send one at all. Read on for ways to show gratitude in just a few simple steps.

1. Greeting 

At the beginning of your thank you letter, address the recipient appropriately. If you’re on familiar terms, then use something informal and friendly. Otherwise, if it’s a great aunt, say, then use a more formal salutation. Here are some examples.

Informal:

  • Hello, [Name].
  • Hey, [Name].
  • Hi, [Name].
  • Use a nickname

Formal:

  • Good Morning, [Auntie].
  • Dear [Uncle Bob]:
  • The [Ed Johnson] Family,

2. Starting out

Instead of dialing right into the thank you, why not start with a reason that someone often comes to mind. Starting a letter this way lets people know that you’re trying to connect with them on a personal or deeper level than just acquaintances. Just be as authentic as you can.

  • "I hope this card (letter or email) finds you well.”
  • “I saw this and thought of you.”
  • “Yesterday, I was reminded of you when…”
  • “Do you remember that time when…?”

Most people appreciate the little sentiments, especially from close friends and family members.

3. Say, thank you

The next step is to express your gratitude. Choose simplicity and try to get to the point quickly. Don’t forget to mention exactly why you’re showing an appreciation by mentioning specifics. Take a look at a few examples here:

  • “Thank you for the basket filled with delicious bread and honey.” 
  • “You remembered! Thank you so much for my penny press from Wall Drug.”
  • “Thank you so much for your donation to Camp Michigamme in our mother’s name.” 
  • “We had such a lovely time last weekend. Thanks for inviting us to join you up at the cabin.”
  • “We’re so grateful for the lovely potted plant and letter of encouragement you sent last week”.

Pro-tip: if you send the note via email, put ‘Thank You’ in the subject line. 

4. Explain the impact 

Don’t abruptly end the letter now. People appreciate hearing more. Tell them how they’ve helped, offer some specifics, and remember to be personal.

Because this is a letter to family members, you’ll want to communicate as much as you can. Here’s how to start:

  • “The sympathy basket you sent was so thoughtful. It got us through the tough days of not wanting to cook. The bread was especially delicious with your homemade honey. Thank you for making things easier during this difficult time.”
  • “I have been collecting those pennies since we were kids. Thanks, big brother.”
  • “The time at the cabin was more than just relaxing. We appreciate getting to know my siblings again after all of these years. Thank you for being such wonderful traveling companions.”
  • “It’s heartwarming to know that we have an amazing family that is always looking to add some comfort in our lives. We appreciate all you do for us.” 

Pro-tip: explain the impact, but save some details for a coffee or dinner together.

» MORE: Honor a loved one with an online memorial. Create one for free with Cake.

5. Signing off

Although closing a letter is simple, consider how formal you would like it to sound based on the previous few steps. Here, you might add some thank you quotes if they are appropriate, or use one of these simple options:

Informal:

  • I owe you one,
  • Many thanks,
  • Hugs,
  • Love,

Formal:

  • With gratitude,
  • Warm wishes,
  • Bless you,
  • Kind regards,

Then, sign or type your name in a manner suitable for your audience.

6. Proofread your letter

If you’ve typed an email, this will be an easy task. Otherwise, just give your letter a quick read-through to correct any little errors you see.

If you’ve forgotten to mention anything, put a ‘p.s.’ at the end with whatever you need to say.

Example Thank You Letter to Families

From siblings to extended family and even neighbors, writing any letter of heartfelt gratitude comes with some boxes to check off. Now that you’ve got those six simple steps in mind, here are a few examples of what that looks like from start to finish. 

Example letter for a specific family member

Hey, ladybird! 

I saw this card, and it reminded me of when we went to the cabin with Mom and Dad. Do you remember that neighbor lady who made those excellent pickles? Mrs. Crowley, I think? I thought she was about 60 or 70 years old back then, but I was chatting with Dad the other day, and apparently, she’s still working in her garden every year.

Also, I received the loveliest little trinket in the mail yesterday. It’s beautiful! I plan on wearing it until it falls off. Thank you so much for remembering my birthday. I appreciate that you go out of your way to find such unique and beautiful gifts. So, thank you, thank you. 

I know you’ve been busy lately, but I would love to get together. Plus, I need to show you how well my new bling works with my wardrobe. How do you know me so well? 

Thank you for always being so thoughtful.

Love you,

Pattie

Example letter to family for support 

Good Morning, Auntie—

I saw your favorite flower yesterday and thought of you. There was a bee enjoying its pollen, but I wasn’t quick enough to snap a photo; otherwise, I would have sent it to you.

I also wanted to say thank you. I feel like I don’t say it enough, but I am always so grateful for your support these last few years. You and Uncle went out of your way to make sure I could get into college and have enough money to buy food and pay my bills.

Last week, I was filling out a scholarship application and had to answer some questions about what makes me the best candidate and why. It gets easier to talk about what I’ve been through, but it never really gets easier, you know? Anyway, I’ve attached it to this email so you and uncle can read over it.

I mentioned how I wouldn’t be here without your support. I was never taught gratitude when I was living with my parents, but you changed that. From the time I stepped into your life, I’ve known nothing but appreciation and thankfulness for what you’ve helped me achieve.

I look forward to the day when I can start to pay you back.

Hugs,

Sara

Example letter for family and friends after a funeral

The Puralewski Family,

I hope this card finds you well. 

First, I wanted to let you know how grateful we all are for the help and support you’ve been showing to our mom since Dad died. She’s needed friends and neighbors like you to be supportive and present as she maneuvers through this grief. She’s relayed all of the times you’ve checked in on her, too. That makes her feel safer in the neighborhood.

I understand you recently had some friends offer to help her with the upkeep of their home. Thank you for suggesting them. She’ll need some help with the lawn work and maintenance here forward. Let me know if there’s anything you need from me on that front. 

Mom also mentioned that you sent over some thoughtful gifts after the funeral. Thank you for that. I believe she treated herself to a dinner one evening instead of trying to cook for herself. It’s a strange feeling to be cooking for one suddenly, so I know she appreciated the gift.

I am enclosing my phone number and email with this letter just if you need to get a hold of me or any of my siblings.

Again, thank you so much for all you’ve done. You’ve warmed our hearts during this difficult time.

With gratitude,

Joe Snyder and Family

Example thank you letter to family for their hospitality

Dear George and Judy, 

It was lovely to see you both after all this time. To have such a wonderful conversation made my visit that much better.

Before I forget, I just wanted to make sure I dropped a note to tell you how grateful I am for you opening your home to me while I visited Michigan. It's been so long since we were able to have a conversation that it was nice to catch up fully. Mom and dad were already so busy preparing for the wedding and hosting soon-to-be in-laws that I am sure they also appreciated the extra breathing room. Besides, I believe I got a better deal and less stress.

I hope I wasn't too much of a bother coming in late on Friday night. We were delayed at the restaurant, having a great time catching up with old friends. It's surprising to see so many familiar faces still around town. You remember the Smiths, don't you? Their eldest, John, was my classmate, and it seems he and his partner are already parents of teenagers—time flies, I guess. Still, I was happy to hear about everyone's life stories and growing families.

As I mentioned, my house is always open if you’d like to visit the West Coast. Now that I know you like visiting wineries, Henry and I would love to take you to see some of the ones near our home. One nestled in a valley just north of here that we discovered last summer is also women-owned and fully sustainable. We take our pups and enjoy the afternoon by their pond. It's one of those remarkable finds that only the locals know about. 

Again, it was so lovely to see you. I appreciate your friendly hospitality and warm linen (nice touch, btw). 

Take care, and please visit as soon as you can. We'd love to have you.

All the best, 

Jamie

Example thank you letter to family for gifts or money

Hello Aunt Michelle and Uncle Ray, 

I saw this card, and I instantly thought of you. 

Oh, my goodness! Above anything else, I love it when people give gift experiences. Thank you so very much for your thoughtfulness and generosity. 

Mark and I talked about how we hadn't taken professional photos since the wedding, so a balloon ride is a perfect opportunity to remedy that. In fact, we're planning a whole Saturday around it, including dinner nearby at this new farm-to-table restaurant that just opened. We can't wait – and we have you both to thank for such a fun, upcoming adventure.

Thank you again, and we both hope you're doing well! (We'll send photos.)

Love always,

Mark and Sophie

OR

Hello Aunt Michelle, 

We are so grateful for you thinking of us. A balloon ride is one of those perfect experience gifts that allow us to plan an entire day around the event, so who knows what we'll come up with. But we'll be sure to send you lots of photos afterward.

I also wanted to ask how things have been. Mom told me that Uncle Ray was experiencing knee problems and might be having surgery soon, so I just wanted to offer my help. I'm happy to help with chores or make dinners until Uncle Ray can get around, moving again.

You've always been there for mom and dad, so it's the least I can do to repay all those kindnesses. I make a mean Robin Williams pasta, so keep me posted.

All my love, 

Sophie

Example thank you letter to family on your birthday

Dear Sophie, 

Hey you, birthday girl. Wake up and get some coffee! 

Every morning, day after day, week after week, and year after year, there's a challenge that's just too big to overcome. But every day, you prove them wrong. You're another year older, another year wiser, and you're still here fighting. I am so proud that you've come this far. You - I - we are so much stronger every day.

That's why you're celebrating differently this year. First off, you're going to go to yoga today. Then. It's a mental health day. You're skipping work for some self-care. But you're going to keep repeating these words all day today:

  1. This year, I will love myself more.
  2. I have a right and an obligation to be the best version of myself.
  3. I am not perfect, but being perfect is an unachievable goal. And super time-consuming, so who wants that anyway.
  4. My failures are about to be my strengths. 
  5. I have to get back up no matter how many times I fall.
  6. If I feel sad, then I feel sad. If I feel anxious, then I feel anxious. It's okay to have any emotion, just not become one.
  7. I give myself permission to step away from the craziness of others.
  8. There's no more waiting to be courageous. My time is now.

Whenever you feel out of place, it's important to remember that the most effective support system is the love one gives to themself. By the end of today, you’re going to own a new truth, including loving who you are and being grateful for everything you're about to become.

Yours truly, 

Sophie

Example thank you letter to family after a long trip or vacation

Greetings, Dad!

I hope you are doing well! Mark and I miss you dearly.

We just got back from our trip, and the first thing I thought about was writing you a letter. I was constantly reminded of you and mom the whole time, but mostly you.

You would have loved our boat captain, André. Like you, Marlin Perkins and David Attenborough are his idols. And suppose you could get past his oddball movie quotes (sound familiar?). In that case, you'd hear Nietzsche and Suzuki in just about every other sentence. He said, "Man is the cruelest animal," but "To live is enough." 

So, there I am, experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime chance, a "first" moment I knew would happen again. I am just about to meet these giant mythic beauties. I realized that in the middle of all these spiderwebs of emotions, I wasn't just grateful to be your kid, but I appreciated your curiosity.

Dad, I have you to thank. You sacrificed so much for me to do and say and be everything my heart ever wanted. You fostered my love of the environment, but it's more than that. 

And so, just as I was about to meet a humpback whale for the first time in my life - scared, curious, and full of some childlike giddiness - I realized that the very moment where I was both afraid but unwilling to give in to my fear... that my strength and commitment to saving this planet - is because of you. 

And though some days it's like fighting against the wind to make some change, there are days that I will take with me for the rest of my life. That morning, I dove into the water with childlike wonder, realizing that I would stop at nothing to meet and then save these beautiful creatures. 

Because of you, I look north and south every morning, trying to be a worthy ancestor. You did that. 

Love you,

Sophie (and Mark)

Expressing Gratitude Leads to a Better You

Researchers have discovered that communicating gratitude has physical, psychological, and social benefits leading to a more robust immune system, better moods, and even stronger interpersonal relationships. 

Whenever you express it, you’re releasing serotonin and dopamine, which leads to increased self-worth and, ultimately, greater happiness. So, take time every day to be grateful—especially for all of the small things. 


Sources

  1. Holland, T. "The Power of Gratitude: What Happens to Your Brain When You're Thankful." Health Matters, Dignity Health, 14 November 2017. www.dignityhealth.org
  2. Sliwa, J. "A Grateful Heart is a Healthier Heart." News and Advocacy, American Psychological Association, 2015. www.apa.org
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