How to write an acknowledgement-of-sympathy note

Updated August 10, 2017

When a loved one passes away, it is common for friends and family, especially those who can't be present for the memorial service, to send letters or cards expressing their sympathy. Although etiquette may be the last thing on your mind during the trying period following a family member's death, these notes deserve a reply to acknowledge them. Fortunately, writing a brief but effective response to a sympathy note is simple and won't take you very long.

Begin the note with a salutation. If you're unsure about the appropriate level of familiarity, use the original message of sympathy as your guide.

Write a brief personal message to each person who wrote to you. Thank the person you're writing to for his expression of sympathy. If you're using pre-printed acknowledgement cards, this may already be provided.

Add another line or two either acknowledging the person's relationship with the deceased or mentioning how much you appreciated the message. This makes the response more personal, letting the recipient know that you answered each acknowledgement personally.

Express thanks for any other elements of the original message. If the recipient of your note made a charitable donation, sent flowers or gave a gift of food, thank them for it specifically.

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About the Author

Dr James Holloway has been writing about games, geek culture and whisky since 1995. A former editor of "Archaeological Review from Cambridge," he has also written for Fortean Times, Fantasy Flight Games and The Unspeakable Oath. A graduate of Cambridge University, Holloway runs the blog Gonzo History Gaming.