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Ask the Thank You Diva:
How to word a belated thank you note following a bereavement

Stressed Christine asks the Thank You Diva about how to word belated thank you notes following the death of her mother-in-law.

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Dear Thank You Diva,

I'm tormented that I have not completed and mailed thank you notes after my mother-in-law died about three weeks ago. I wrote 20 notes the week after her death and never mailed them! (So now those will have to be re-written too.)

Question: How would it sound to begin with...
"No matter the reason for delay, the Williams family sincerely appreciated your heartfelt kindness following the death of our beloved Louise."

WOULD YOU PLEASE be so kind as to suggest a better wording? I am so embarrassed and need to get this done.

Thanks so very much!

The Thank You Diva responds:

Dear Christine,

First of all, I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Obviously this is a very emotional and painful time for you and your family, so you really do need to be gentle on yourself and certainly not beat yourself up too much about thank you notes!

Let's keep things in perspective: three weeks is not long ago, and with your grief still so immediate, no one is going to expect or indeed has the right to expect timely thank you notes.

You mention that you wrote 20 notes in the week after your mother-in-law's death. I urge you to take a moment to think about whether they truly need to be re-written?

Perhaps you will decide that they do. But you may also conclude that you don't need this extra task and the stress it will entail, in which case send the original notes as they are. If you decide to do this, then simply add a brief line to the note or even on the envelope apologizing for the delay: 'Our sincere apologies for the delay in mailing this note' is quite sufficient.

Regarding the notes that remain to be written, there is no need to linger on an apology. As requested, here are some suggestions for wordings:

Belated but sincere and heartfelt thanks from all the Williams family for your great kindness following the death of our beloved Louise.


We ask you to forgive us for not having been in touch sooner, and we all thank you most sincerely for your heartfelt kindness following the death of our beloved Louise.


We hope that you will forgive our delay in writing to tell you how much the Williams family appreciated your heartfelt kindness following the death of our beloved Louise.


Please accept our apologies for this belated note, but we want you to know how very much we appreciated your many kindnesses following the death of our beloved Louise.

I hope you will soon feel able to write these notes and put this painful task behind you. Whereas writing thank you notes is the proper and graceful thing to do, at times such as these we need to let go of our perfectionism and realize that none of the people to whom you 'owe' a note would ever wish for you to go through torment to do so.

It is also worth remembering that your gratitude and appreciation will come across clearly despite your note being late, or imperfectly worded.

I wish you strength in completing your thank you notes, and also the healing sense of peace that will surely come when they are finished and placed in the mail.

With my best wishes,
The Thank You Diva

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