Don't worry about thanking anyone for their condolences immediately after you receive them. No one expects you to follow the rules of social etiquette while grieving the loss of a loved one. When thanking people, think about the gratitude from the perspective of the deceased. Think of the joy he would have felt to have such an outpouring of love and comfort during the time of his transition. Though you are sad, take a moment to appreciate being surrounded and supported by genuine love and concern.
Wait until you're ready. No one is expecting you to reply right away, if at all. People who send condolences only want to comfort you during your time of need. Don't feel rushed to thank them for their kind words. Take time to grieve and concentrate on feeling better.
Decide what medium you feel comfortable with. There are several ways to thank people for their condolences; you can give them a call, go by for a visit or send a card. Choose the method that best fits your emotional state.
Choose a length that's comfortable for you. If you feel like writing a long letter of gratitude, do it. A few sentences, or simply the word, "Thanks," is also fine. There is no right or wrong way.
Express your appreciation of their thoughts and prayers during your difficult time. Write something comforting, like "Thank you for your beautiful flowers and card. I know Mom would have loved them." If you're calling or thanking someone in person, begin with "I just called (or stopped by) to thank for you reaching out to me. The gesture meant a lot."
Be specific. If the person you're thanking provided you with helpful tips for getting through the pain, prepared or bought you food, babysat your children, or brought you life-affirming gifts like plants or art, express how much her thoughtfulness specifically helped you through.
Be honest about your feelings. If the person you're thanking asks how you are, tell the truth. If you're still feeling sad, lonely or scared, say so. Know that you don't have to pretend to have it all together. You can admit to having a hard time. The person you're speaking to might have some additional comforting words to continue to help you through your loss. Realize you can't heal if you don't admit you're hurting.
Oubria Tronshaw specializes in topics related to parenting and business. She received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chicago State University. She currently teaches English at Harper Community College in the Chicago area.