Etiquette for a sympathy card response

Written by janece bass
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Etiquette for a sympathy card response
Acknowledge those who send a sympathy card by using funeral thank you etiquette. (cemetary 2 image by sonya etchison from

Mourning the loss of a loved one can be difficult, which is why those who care about you or the deceased may send you sympathy cards. Sympathy cards acknowledge your loss and serve to let you know that you are in the thoughts of the sender. Use the proper etiquette for such a delicate situation when you respond to any sympathy cards you may receive.

Time Frame

Proper etiquette states that thank you cards should be sent as soon as possible for any occasion. The norm for sending a thank you card after you receive a sympathy, or condolence, card is within two weeks. If you don't feel up to writing out thank you cards within two weeks, enlist the help of a relative or close friend.

Types of Cards

Some people may send pre-printed sympathy cards, while others may hand-write a note. Either way, respond with a thank you card or note. Some people work through their grief by writing out personal responses, while others find it difficult just to sign a pre-printed card. Both types of thank you notes are accepted, and appreciated by most.


Historically, thank you notes were handwritten and sealed for nearly any occasion. Detailed notes crafted in the fanciest way were commonplace through the early 1900s. If someone "called" (visited) or sent a sympathy note, it was considered rude not to respond right away with an honest thank you note. Thank you notes for sympathy cards are no longer handwritten or lengthy. This may be due to people leading busier lives or because of technological advances that allow for easier communication.

Gifts or Money

If someone sent money or made a donation in honour of the deceased with their sympathy card, do not mention the amount of the gift in the thank you note. Write something that acknowledges the gift was received. For example, a proper note would be "We truly appreciate the generous donation you made to the Cancer Society on our father's behalf."

Specific Responses

Avoid having one general line in all of your thank you notes. Have a specific response or words of gratitude for each card. For example, if the sympathy card states that the sender is keeping you and your family in her thoughts and prayers, you could write "Our family sincerely appreciates your prayers through these difficult times."

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