Etiquette for Responding to Sympathy Cards

During a time of loss, many people reach out with sympathy cards to offer comfort to those who have lost a loved one. Along with sympathy cards, some people send flowers, arrange for Mass cards, or make a donation in the name of the deceased loved one. All of these gestures should be acknowledged by the surviving members of the family.


It is considered proper etiquette to send a personal note of thanks to those who have sent a personal sympathy card, flowers, or donated to a charity in your loved ones name. You are not required to send a thank you note to those who sent pre-printed cards without a personal message attached, although you certainly can do that. Sending thank you notes to those who have offered their condolences for the death of your loved one is a cathartic experience for many people and it gives the surviving family members something meaningful to do after the services are over and life moves on. Each note should acknowledge the gesture that was sent and the personal message on the sympathy card.

Enlisting Help

The time after the death of a loved one can be an especially difficult time. It is perfectly acceptable to enlist the help of other family members or friends who can write on your behalf. They can also be worked on together to help ease the burden. Within a couple of months of the service is an appropriate time to begin working on the thank you cards. When planning to work on the sympathy cards, a plan will help you to be more organized and ensure that no one is forgotten. Gather together all of the cards and offerings that were given to you and your family. Compile a list of those who have given a personal card, flowers, donation or other condolence offering. Having the cards on hand will allow you to read the personal message before you write your thank you card. A heartfelt thank you that acknowledges the special condolences that were given to you will be appreciated.These notes should be handwritten personal messages of thanks for those who have offered their personal condolences to you.


The act of going through all of the sympathy cards can be a wonderfully moving experience. Simply seeing all of the people who were touched by your loved one and reading all of their personal feelings can help to work through the difficult feelings of grief. It is sometimes amazing to read how your loved one touched someone else’s life in a way that you may have never known. Reading through these condolence cards is not an easy task, but it can help you to remember your loved one and understand how meaningful that life really was to everyone that he or she knew. Death is one of the most difficult processes that human beings go through and saying goodbye to those who meant so much is never something done willingly. It is a natural part of life, but perhaps the most difficult part. Sympathy cards are a wonderful reminder of how one life can touch so many others.