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Thanking a Group for Condolences

A reader wrote to ask for help on writing a thank you to her coworkers, who were extremely supportive when her son died tragically in an accident. I am very sorry for her and her family’s terrible loss, and I know that writing such a thank you can be challenging for many reasons.

In those situations, feelings of deep sadness and loss can sap our energy and spoil our concentration. Our words can seem feeble compared to the huge support we have been given. We may be unable to remember the many kindnesses given to us, and we are likely to worry that we have forgotten something of major importance. All those feelings are maddening when we want so much to express our gratitude!

thank you for condolences etiquette

Here is a sample thank you note to express gratitude to a group at work.

Dear Friends and Coworkers,

It is difficult to find the words to express our gratitude for the many kindnesses you have shown us during this sad time.

We are so grateful for all you have done for us. The cards, letters, phone and email messages, prayers, and visits meant a great deal to us as we struggled with our heartbreaking loss. Along with the emotional support you gave us, the meals, chores, and other gifts of your time and energy helped sustain us day to day.

We are unable to write individual thank yous to each one of you, given the great outpouring of support. Please know that your generosity and thoughtfulness have touched us deeply.

Knowing that we were not alone helped us bear our grief and sadness. Thank you for being there for us.

With sincere thanks,

If you have experienced a loss and received condolences and kindnesses from others, be assured that no one will judge you on your ability to write a thank you. They will be pleased to hear from you, but they will not expect more than a few sentences of acknowledgment.

Another reader recently asked, “Do I have to write thank yous for sympathy cards?” In response, I say (although I am not an expert on etiquette) you do not have to write thank yous for sympathy cards. But write them if doing so will help you feel better and more connected with others.

For other examples of thank you notes for condolences, see this post.

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.