Dear Caring Carol,
A few months ago my husband’s third cousin passed away. I told two of my neighbors that I would be away from home for a few days to attend her funeral. They both mailed us personalized sympathy cards.
One of those women saw me yesterday and mumbled something about not receiving a sympathy thank you card for the condolence note she had sent. I was very caught off guard because of her forwardness, but I also have never heard of sending a thank you card for every sympathy card you get. I was taught you’re only supposed to send thank you cards to people who actually send flowers, or fruit baskets, or give you donations for a charity. What is the protocol?
Neglectful Neighbor in North Brunswick, New Jersey
Dear Neglectful Neighbor,
While it is appropriate to acknowledge tangible gifts such as flowers, charitable donations, and gifts of food, for example, you are not restricted to thanking people for gifts alone. Sympathy thank you cards express your appreciation for any thoughtful gesture someone made during your time of grief. Even the simple act of sending a sympathy card is thoughtful enough to merit a thank you card in response.
While your neighbor is rather audacious for inquiring about a thank you card, if she seems hurt for not being thanked, by all means send a short note of apology for the delay in thanking her for the kind expression of sympathy. If you use a pre-printed thank you card, be sure to add at least one personal line before you sign your name.