How should we respond to a sympathy card?
November 28, 2006 5:40 PM   Subscribe

What is the polite way to acknowledge/respond to sympathy cards?

Due to the death of a family member we have received many sympathy cards from various acquaintances. Some of the senders are relatively close (e.g., friends and co-workers) while others are not (e.g., eye doctor).

What is the appropriate way to respond to such cards? Do senders expect a Thank You card in return? Is a non-reply considered rude?
posted by ciocarlia to Human Relations (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Not an etiquette expert, but I'd thank people if they happen to call or if I happen to see them (e.g. "Thank you so much for your thoughtful card.") but please do not feel obligated to send thank you cards or to initiate a thank you in your time of grieving.

I'm sorry for your loss.
posted by forensicphd at 6:00 PM on November 28, 2006

What forensicphd said. This is a situation that doesn't require any further exchange unless you really feel moved by something in particular. Etiquette as such, may dictate displaying these cards conspicuously if there is some sort of memorial service. Hope all goes well.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:04 PM on November 28, 2006

It's not necessary to send a thank you card in return for a sympathy card, the same way you wouldn't send a thank you card in return for a birthday card. Frankly, I'd actually think it was really strange if I received a thank you note for a sympathy card. Also, what forensicphd said.
posted by amro at 6:48 PM on November 28, 2006

What about for sympathy flowers? Any thank you required for that?
posted by dcjd at 6:53 PM on November 28, 2006

My sympathies to you and your family.

My understanding of the situation is that a letter or flowers requires a note in response, but a simple card does not. Basically, you do not have to put more work into thanking them than they did in sending the condolence in the first place. My guess would be that few people will be expecting thank-yous even for letters/gifts, so I doubt much of anyone would expect a card in return for a card.

A recent card received by my parents just said, "Thank you for sending the flowers for my mother's funeral. You are truly good friends." Simple and short is entirely appropriate for such an occasion.

Also, the bereaved are traditionally given longer than normal to send thank-yous.
posted by katemonster at 6:53 PM on November 28, 2006

I noticed a family at my church sent a card to the church body thanking everyone for their support during their time of loss a few months ago. It was posted on the bulletion board in the fellowship hall. If you have groups of friends/family you could do this for (where you can write one card that a large group of peopel will see), perhaps you would like to.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:39 PM on November 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

I sent a sympathy card to a friend a couple of weeks ago and received a thank you card in the mail a couple of days ago. I certainly didn't expect a card, but it was still a nice touch. I contributed to an endowment fund along with my sympathy card, and so that might have been the reason for the card, although the front of the card says simply, "Thank you for your sympathy," so at least somebody is manufacturing cards for exactly this reason.

I would send a thank you to anyone who sent flowers or a gift -- katemonster's note is a good one, I think. And anyone who sent a letter along with their card (an indication that they're personally affected) probably deserves a note from you as well.

Actually, I think all of katemonster's comment is perfect advice.
posted by limicoline at 7:50 PM on November 28, 2006

I received a thank you note for a sympathy card I sent, and I thought that was a bit strange. My card was not a gift. The thank you showed what a sweet person the bereaved was, but it was completely unnecessary, and left me with the odd feeling that I'd received more than I'd given.
posted by bingo at 8:45 PM on November 28, 2006

After my b/f died last year his family received hundreds of cards and his two sisters and I wrote thank-you cards to everyone, just a brief line in each one. I got the clear impression that in that part of the world and in their social milieu (church-going, rural Ohio) it was expected.
posted by essexjan at 1:48 AM on November 29, 2006

After my mother's funeral, I got several boxes of stationery with black borders (the black border indicates mourning of course). I sent a note each of her friends who attended the funeral, sent cards and flowers, brought over food, etc. For the people who were more like acquaintences, I wrote only a sentence or two. For her close friends, I wrote a letter sharing with them the stories my mother told us about them, and expressing my happiness that she knew such wonderful friendship.

I had read that this was the correct thing to do, and I wanted to do it because my mother would have liked me to and because her friends were grieving just as I was... it felt right to share with them how important they were to my mother. But honestly, as painful as it was, it was also healing, so I guess I really did it for me, too.

Having said that, I don't think that the notes are expected. If they weren't sent out, who would accuse you of bad manners, while you are grieving your loss? The notes are just a way of acknowledging that they are grieving too.
posted by Houstonian at 2:55 AM on November 29, 2006

I like to think of gifts and thank-you etiquette as a series of downward stages. If someone gives you a gift (flowers, charitable donation, etc.) then you go to the lower stage of a card. If someone sends you a card, then you move to the downward stage of a mention the next time you speak with the person.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 9:31 AM on November 29, 2006

« Older Wrought with Worry   |   What Computer app uses this sound? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.