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Sending Heartfelt Funeral Messages

Updated on September 1, 2014

It's not always easy finding the right words to say when a loved one dies. As someone supporting the bereaved, you want to make sure your condolences don't offend or upset anyone. However, those grieving face the same issue when they are thanking people for their support. How can they properly show gratitude when they are still overcome with sadness about their loss?

Writing cards or notes of comfort or appreciation is customary when it comes to funerals and memorial services. For some, though, emotions and apprehension stand in the way of truly expressing how they feel. Standard preprinted cards, which express sympathy or acknowledgement of support, are typically used in these situations because they allow the sender to simply sign his or her name, while adding only a few of their own words. They are not overwhelmed with having to write out an entire sentiment.


Some individuals don't have trouble saying what they feel, and they prefer to write a note or letter. Either form is appropriate, and it's up to the sender to decide which one fits his or her needs.

Sympathy Notes and Funeral Thank You Cards

Although you may see these two types of cards next to each other in the stationery section of your favorite store, they really are two completely different forms of correspondence. Sympathy notes or cards are condolences sent to the immediate family members usually within a week after learning about the person’s death.

Funeral thank you notes or letters are sent by a member of the bereaved family to those who showed support during the funeral or memorial service. These typically include the clergy, those who sent flowers, pallbearers, etc. They are usually mailed to the recipients, although hand delivery is acceptable too.

Buying Preprinted Cards

The art of sending a card or writing a note to someone has all but vanished in this digital age. However, it is still customary to send condolences or appreciation of support when someone dies through some form of handwritten correspondence. Many people just don't know what to say, and finding the right words can be difficult, which is why many turn to preprinted cards for help. These types of cards:

  • Allow you say what you really want to without having to put it into your own words
  • Show respect for the person who died
  • Are more time efficient, specifically if you are in a hurry to get it in the mail; many people keep several unsigned sympathy cards on file at home
  • Are easier to read, especially if you struggle with penmanship
  • Prevents you from saying or writing the wrong thing

Although the message you choose for the card is already in print, you should still add a brief sentiment before signing. On a sympathy card, you can usually just add a few words acknowledging the deceased. On a funeral thank you note, you can include a sentence about a specific gift or type of support you received from the sender.

Writing a Letter or Note

While preprinted cards are suitable in many instances, in some situations, personal letters are more effective. By using blank cards or detailed stationery, you can take your time and write out a significant note. This is perfect to use when a greeting card simply doesn't cover everything you have to say. Some of the many reasons people choose to send letters over preprinted cards include:

  • They're personal and you can say whatever you want instead of relying on preprinted words and phrases
  • They can be saved and cherished by the recipient
  • More cost-effective since you don't need to buy a card
  • They are tangible keepsakes of your loved one's death
  • It shows you took the time to think about the recipient

Sympathy letters should not include information about what is going on in your life. It is to lend comfort to someone who is grieving. Talk about memories share with the deceased person and offer sincere apologies about the death. When addressing thank you letters, make sure you are specific about why you are appreciative. For example, you can thank someone for being a pallbearer or for sending a flower arrangement.

Don't worry about offending or upsetting the bereaved. He or she will want others to speak of the deceased, especially of the good times that were had. Thank you notes should be similar. Tell whomever you are writing to how grateful you are for his or her support. Even if it took six months to get the note in the mail, the recipient will be appreciative of your sentiments.


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