thank you

After our first date two decades ago, Doug wrote me a thank you note. I still have it.

My old-fashioned mother had taught me how important it is to write a note of appreciation. Yet it took me two years to finish writing thank you notes to all the people who supported me after Doug died suddenly.

It had nothing to do with gratitude. It had everything to do with pain. I spent a long time in denial. Every time I tried to write a note, reality came rushing back. Also, the early days were such a blur that I had difficulty remembering who had done what, or who I had already written to. And finally, I was overwhelmed by life.

People told me not to worry about it. They said no one expected a note, and that they would understand But it didn't feel right to me - in fact I was haunted by guilt. I felt it was important to let people know how much their thoughtfulness was appreciated. Also, if people made donations or sent flowers, I wanted them to know their gift was received.

I finally finished sending notes out, and it was such a relief. I did apologize for the delay.

I realize that the best approach would have been to try to write five notes a day. Perhaps a family member or friend can help you with cards if you are not up to it. There is no set time frame, but commonly accepted etiquette says that ideally, you should send a thank you within two to four weeks to:

  • Those who helped by cooking, baby sitting, pet sitting, driving during the funeral procession, etc.
  • Pallbearers, clergy and musicians involves in the services
  • People who sent flowers, gifts, or donations.
    • Note: Recipient non-profit organizations will often send out an acknowledgement too. When you write a note, do not reference the amount if you are aware of it - just refer to the giver's generosity.

Some say you should write a note to anyone who sent a letter. They would probably appreciate hearing from you.

Although it is not expected, others write a note to everyone who attended funeral services. (In my case, that would have meant cards to over 350 people, some of whom I didn't know and had no mailing address for.) Others limit notes to those who travelled long distances to pay their respects.

I tried to write personal notes on every card, and it was just too much. A sentence or two specifically referencing what the person did is nice. A pre-printed card signed by hand is better than no note at all. In my opinion, so is an Email, although some may be offended by such an informal means of communication.

The important thing is that people know somehow that you appreciated their kindness and support. I hope it is never too late to say thank you.





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