Etiquette for Acknowledging Condolences

When you have time to collect your thoughts after losing a friend or family member, write thank-you notes.
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When you're grieving the loss of a loved one, proper etiquette may not be what immediately comes to mind as you make funeral and memorial arrangements, manage the affairs of the deceased, and comfort other family members and friends who share in your loss. But once you've returned to your typical, everyday life, you should acknowledge the expressions of sympathy and condolences that you received.

1 Funeral Participants

Send a handwritten thank-you note to the people who showed their love and concern by participating in the planning or actual memorial service or funeral. The mortuary, the church pastor, choir, counselor and pallbearers will appreciate you taking time to show how much their service meant to you, your family and friends. In addition, it's often customary to make a donation to the church where you arranged the services. Because you generally pay for the use of a funeral parlor, you needn't compensate them above the regular fees.

2 Acknowledge Condolences and Kind Gestures

Whether someone donated to the decedent's favorite charity, arranged for a floral spray, sent flowers to your home, or mailed a sympathy card to you and your family, always acknowledge the kind and sympathetic gesture. If you're overwhelmed by the number of notes you must write, graciously accept the help of friends who offer to help write acknowledgements and thank-you notes. In turn, send them thank-you notes as well. Also, if your friends paid home visits, brought food or just spent time with you to help you through what's always a difficult time, remember them with thoughtful, handwritten thank-you notes, too.

3 Type of Acknowledgement

Refrain from sending a mass email to acknowledge individual gestures of sympathy. That's not exactly the dignified way to say thank-you for such a personal expression of friendship and love. If you have too many condolences to acknowledge, purchase a box of pre-printed thank-you notes and pen a personal, handwritten note below the printed message.

Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.