How to address a widow

Sarah Kessler
Writer

Published on: 7/30/2020

How to address a widow

Whether you’re speaking to her in person or sending her an event invitation, it’s important to be respectful when you’re addressing a widow.

Jump ahead to these sections:

  • Should You Use Mrs. Ms., or Miss to Address a Widow?
  • Other Ways You Can Address a Widow If You’re Unsure

She might have lost her spouse recently, or it might have happened many years ago. Either way, she’ll appreciate that you thought about how she might want you to address her. And it’s always best to follow the proper etiquette when doing so.

So what’s the correct way to address a widow? Does it change based on the widow’s age or your relationship with her? We’ll go over the basics of addressing a woman whose spouse is no longer living, below.

Should You Use Mrs. Ms., or Miss to Address a Widow?

There are three basic prefixes you can use when addressing the women in your life: Mrs., Ms., and Miss. The prefix you choose when you’re speaking to a widow depends on several factors. Here are some of the scenarios and situations to consider.

Mrs. (most common)

Most of the time, you should use the honorific, “Mrs.” (missus), when you’re addressing a widow. Use the prefix “Mrs.” and the woman’s married name, if she changed her last name to her spouse’s.

Of course, use the woman’s maiden name if you know she’s changed her name back. Most often, however, you should go with the same name she went by when her spouse was alive.

Ms. (less common)

A widow might also go by “Ms.” if it’s been many years since her spouse passed away. If so, she might also change her last name back to her maiden name. However, as mentioned, “Mrs.” is much more common, and a widow normally keeps her married name. “Ms.” much more commonly refers to a woman who’s divorced, so a widow might find offense in it if you’re not careful.

If you’re not sure whether a widow wants to go by “Ms.” or “Mrs.,” it’s a safe bet to go with “Mrs.” You can also ask her what she goes by.

Miss (rare)

Few widows go by “Miss,” but it’s not unheard of. A very young widow (a woman in her 20s, for example) might choose to go by “Miss” and her married or maiden name, depending on how long she was married to the deceased.

The prefix “Miss” normally applies to women who have never been married, so again, it’s safer to go with “Mrs.” if you’re unsure.

Other Ways You Can Address a Widow If You’re Unsure

It’s usually safe to go with “Mrs.” when you’re addressing a widow, and you’re not sure what she prefers. But if you’d rather go with another prefix or address the widow in your life in another way, consider the options below.

1. First name

If you’re close to her, you can always address a widow by her first name. Alternatively, you can use her first and last name.

This is acceptable whether you’re addressing her in person, or writing her a card such as a sympathy card . And in this situation, continuing to address your friend or family member by her first name as you usually would is the best choice.

2. Title

If you’re addressing a widow in your work or professional life, you can use her professional title. You can even use a title if you’re addressing a more distant family member or family friend.

Examples of titles include Professor, Doctor, Sister, General, Director, and President. Pair her title with her married last name unless you’re 100% sure her last name has changed since the passing of her spouse.

3. Her spouse’s name

Some women use the old-fashioned convention of their husband’s first name and last name plus the prefix “Mrs.” For example, a woman might go by “Mrs. John Doe” rather than just “Mrs. Doe” or “Mrs. Jane Doe” (using her own first name).

If you’re aware that the woman used this convention, it’s appropriate to continue addressing her that way even after her husband passes away. However, it’s also appropriate to go with simply “Mrs. Doe,” if you’re unsure.

4. First name and maiden name

What about for a widow who never used her spouse’s last name? In this situation, you should continue to address the widow by the name she’s always used.

Use her first name and her maiden name plus either Ms. or Mrs., depending on which she prefers. As mentioned, it’s usually best to go with “Mrs.” if you’re not sure.

5. Spouse’s title

If the widow’s husband held an important title in the community, she might have used an address based on his position. For example, a president’s wife is known as the First Lady.

If her husband passes away, you should continue to address her as the First Lady. In addressing a letter or card, write, “First Lady (married last name). Of course, this is a very specific example, but many women use titles associated with their husbands’ positions. These include the spouses of elected officials, church officials, and some armed forces officials.

6. Nicknames and family names

Finally, in informal settings, you can address a widow by a nickname or family name you might have for her. For example, you might call your best friend by an affectionate nickname. And using terms of endearment can be a useful way to help a grieving friend . Of course, this wouldn’t be appropriate if you’re writing her name on an envelope, but you can still use it in a private message or in person.

And if you’re addressing a letter to a family member who’s a widow, you can use her family name in place of “Mrs.,” “Ms.,” or “Miss.” For example, if you’re sending an aunt a letter, you can address it to “Aunt Doe.” If you’re writing to a cousin whose spouse passed away, you can address it to “Cousin Doe.”

How to Address a Widow

Whether you’re addressing a widow in person or addressing a sympathy letter to say “ sorry for your loss ,” it’s important to address her properly. But luckily, most widows understand that doing this can be challenging. Chances are, they won’t hold it against you if you slip up.

And if you’re at a complete loss for how to address the widow in your life, your best choice might be to simply ask her. Especially if she’s your close friend or family member, it’s all right to let her know you’re unsure how to approach the situation. You can ask how she’d like to be addressed, or inquire about whether she’s changing her name or prefix in any way.

Q. My co-worker’s husband just died, and I’m at a loss for what to write in a sympathy note. She and I are friendly – occasionally we have lunch together with a group of other associates – but we’re not close friends. What should I say?

The death of a spouse (or life partner) is an extraordinarily complicated loss that turns a widow’s life upside down. She loses a companion, friend, lover, lifestyle and more. For that reason it’s best to keep your note short and simple if you are only a casual friend – as in, “Dear —, I’m so sorry to hear of Tim’s death. Although I never met him, I recall you speaking of him often. I send my deepest condolences.” Or you can add something such as, “It was only last month that you talked about the vacation you were planning for your anniversary.”

Another possibility when you know nothing about the deceased is: “Sally has told me about your husband’s death. I just want you to know you’re in my thoughts and prayers. With sincere sympathy.”

In the case of a sudden and unexpected death (such as a hit-and-run while crossing the street), you might begin, “I was shocked to learn about Bill’s death. I don’t know what to say to you. This shouldn’t have happened. Please accept my condolences at this terrible time.”

Whatever you do, resist making (and mentioning) any assumptions about how the bereaved feels. That’s dangerous territory because there is no one way to feel when you lose your mate. A widow who spent many years caring for a spouse with Alzheimer’s disease, for example, may feel relief after the death, as well as guilt for that feeling. Don’t assume anything about the person’s marriage either, whether you think it was strong and loving – or stormy. Only someone extremely close can know what is really going on in another person’s marriage. So don’t go there.

Be very careful about saying anything of a religious nature, as well, unless you know for a fact that the bereaved is devout. You don’t want the person to feel uncomfortable, especially at a time such as this. And do not offer advice, no matter how helpful it may seem to you. Even such a statement as, “You’re going to get through this,” coming from a casual acquaintance, can make the bereaved angry.

Do you have a question you’d like Florence to answer? Email her at [email protected]

Florence Isaacs is the author of several books on etiquette, including My Deepest Sympathies: Meaningful Sentiments for Condolence Notes a. . She writes two advice blogs for Legacy.com:Sincere Condolences and Widow in the World, a new blog for bereaved spouses and partners.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons/John-Morgan

Form SSA-10 | Information You Need to Apply for Widow’s, Widower’s or Surviving Divorced Spouse’s Benefits

You can apply for benefits by calling our national toll-free service at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or visiting your local Social Security office. An appointment is not required, but if you call ahead and schedule one, it may reduce the time you spend waiting to apply.

You can help by being ready to:

  • Provide any needed documents; and
  • Answer the questions listed below.

Documents you may need to provide

We may ask you to provide documents to show that you are eligible, such as:

  • Proof of the worker’s death;
  • Birth certificate or other proof of birth;
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the United States [More Info];
  • U.S. military discharge paper(s) if you had military service before 1968;
  • For disability benefits, the two forms (SSA-3368 and SSA-827) that describe your medical condition and authorize disclosure of information to us;
  • W-2 forms(s) and/or self-employment tax returns for last year;
  • Final divorce decree, if applying as a surviving divorced spouse; and
  • Marriage certificate

Important

We accept photocopies of W-2 forms, self-employment tax returns or medical documents, but we must see the original of most other documents, such as your birth certificate. (We will return them to you.)

Do not delay filing your claim just because you do not have all the documents. We will help you get them.

What we will ask you

  • Your name and Social Security number;
  • Your name at birth (if different);
  • The worker’s name, gender, social security number, date of birth, date of death, and place of death;
  • Your date of birth and place of birth (State or foreign country);
  • Whether a public or religious record was made of your birth before age 5;
  • Your citizenship status;
  • Whether you have used any other Social Security number;
  • The State or foreign country of the worker’s fixed permanent residence at the time of death;
  • Whether you or anyone else has ever filed for Social Security benefits, Medicare or Supplemental Security Income on your behalf. (If so, we will also ask for information on whose Social Security record you applied.);
  • Whether the worker ever filed for Social Security benefits, Medicare or Supplemental Security Income. (If so, we will also ask for information on whose Social Security record you applied.);
  • Whether you became unable to work because of illnesses, injuries or conditions at any time within the past 14 months. (If “Yes,” we will also ask you the date you became unable to work);
  • Whether the worker was unable to work because of illnesses, injuries or conditions at any time during the 14 months before his or her death. (If “Yes,” we will also ask you the date he or she became unable to work.);
  • Whether you or the worker were ever in the active military service before 1968 and, if so, the dates of service and whether you receive or are eligible to receive a pension from a military or Federal civilian agency;
  • Whether you or the worker worked for the railroad industry;
  • Whether you or the worker ever earned social security credits under another country’s social security system;
  • Whether you qualified for or expect to receive a pension or annuity based on your own employment with the Federal government of the United States or one of its States or local subdivisions;
  • The names, dates of birth (or age) and Social Security numbers (if known) of your or the worker’s former spouses;
  • The dates and locations of your marriages, and for marriages that have ended, how, when, and where they ended;
  • The dates and locations of the worker’s marriages, and for marriages that have ended, how, when, and where they ended;
  • The amount of the worker’s earnings in the year of death and the preceding year;
  • Whether the worker had earnings in all years since 1978;
  • The amount of your earnings for this year, last year and next year;
  • Whether the worker had a parent who was dependent on the worker for ½ of his or her support at the time of the worker’s death or at the time the worker became disabled;
  • Whether you were living with the worker at the time of death;
  • The month you want your benefits to begin; and
  • If you are within 3 months of age 65, whether you want to enroll in Medical Insurance (Part B of Medicare).

Depending on the information you provide, we may need to ask other questions.

Note

You also should bring along your checkbook or other papers that show your account number at a bank, credit union or other financial institution so you can sign up for Direct Deposit, and avoid worries about lost or stolen checks and mail delays.

How to address a widow

Immediately after the death of a spouse, there are so many issues a person has to deal with. It’s difficult to consider everyday life without the person. Paperwork and arrangements for the funeral and other related events like post-funeral receptions take up most of your time for days or even weeks. However, after the funeral is over, you’ve sent thank you notes to those who have been the most supportive, and things start to settle down, there are some things you’ll need to consider and decisions you’ll have to make.

There are quite a few questions about various etiquette rules related to being widowed. When is it acceptable to start dating? How long should I wait to remarry? Should I continue wearing my wedding ring? Am I now “Ms.,” or should people still address me as “Mrs.?” There may be more questions, but these are some of the most common ones.

Although there are social standards, remember that you have to do what you’re comfortable with. A lot of the “rules” are guidelines to give you a starting point. Many of your decisions will be based on your age, how long you were married before your spouse passed, your social habits, and your religious practices.

When Is It Okay to Start Dating Again?

Grief counselors generally recommend a period of mourning, but the amount of time is ultimately up to you. Although some people say you’ll need a year, that may be different if your spouse was sick for a long time before his death. Your decision may also be based on whether or not you had a good marriage with your late spouse.

The first thing you need to think about is whether or not you’re ready to get back into a relationship with another person. If you go out with someone, will you constantly compare the person you’re with to your late spouse? If so, perhaps you should wait a bit longer.

Is It Okay to Discuss My Late Spouse With My Date?

You may discuss your marriage with the person you are dating, as long as you keep it very brief. Never spend the entire evening talking about your late spouse. And don’t expect your date to become your therapist or merely a shoulder to cry on. If you can’t help it, you probably need to take a little more time before you begin dating again. You don’t want him to feel as though he’s competing with a ghost.

Try to have fun on your date. The person who thought enough of you to want to spend time with you deserves your attention. Try to keep a pleasant conversation going without constantly referring back to your late spouse. Consider learning and practicing some conversation starters for those times when conversation lags.

Should I Continue Wearing My Wedding Ring?

Again, this is a matter of preference. Some people are comfortable removing their rings immediately after their spouses die and others never want to take them off. If you feel lost without your wedding ring, then, by all means, wear it. Another option is to wear it on a chain around your neck.

There may be other considerations regarding your ring. If your wedding ring is a family heirloom, you may want to keep it in a safe place for your heirs. Or you might want to go ahead and give it to the person when the timing is right. For example, if you have a son who is getting married, you might want to offer it for his bride. If it bothers you to have a naked ring finger, you can purchase a simple band or a ring with your birthstone to wear until you are ready to go without a ring.

Should People Call Me Ms., or Am I Still Mrs.?

Most people who have always called you “Mrs.” will probably continue to do so. If someone asks, the choice is up to you. Although traditionally a widowed woman is “Mrs. (her first name followed by her married last name),” you may choose to be called whatever you want. If someone is unsure, it’s always safe to use “Ms.”

When people send letters or invitations, keep in mind that they might not know how to address you. If you have a preference, please let them know. Otherwise, they’ll have to guess, and you may see any number of attempts from them to do what they think is correct. Letting them know in advance can prevent some awkward moments.

How Long Should I Wait to Remarry?

Some religions require a year of mourning before a person remarries after the death of a spouse. If that doesn’t apply, the decision is completely up to you and whatever you’re comfortable with. Your friends and family members may balk if you decide to remarry within a couple of months of becoming widowed, but only you know what you’re emotionally ready for. Just make sure you’re not merely trying to fill a void and that this is the person you want to spend the rest of your life with.

Becoming a widow was the most terrible thing that ever happened to me. Besides being heartbroken, I also had no idea what to expect or how to deal with certain problems that arose. Looking back, these are some things that I learned along the way. I would like to pass them on in the hopes of helping someone else.

1. It sucks. I’m not going to try to make it sound better than that. I can’t. It just sucks. Not only do you lose the person you love and your partner in life, but your children also lose their father. You must deal with all of this by yourself because the one person who is supposed to help you during hard times is gone.

2. You become “that person” people stare at in the supermarket. For months after my husband died, I didn’t want to leave my house. I felt like the whole world was watching me. It’s as if what happened to you is what everyone else is afraid of, so they just stare and pray they won’t become you one day.

3. People do and say the dumbest things around you. Some people seem to feel awkward and just don’t know how to handle the situation. That is their problem, not yours. I was once standing outside my hair salon when a woman I knew walked out. I noticed that she saw me. She immediately stuck her head in her handbag and pretended to be frantically looking for something. Then she ran back into the salon. I guess she didn’t know what to say to me but “Hello” or “How are you?” would have been fine.

4. Friends and family may not always understand that you don’t have time. Everyone means well with phone calls, emails and texts, but it is impossible to give everyone a response in a timely manner. You are adjusting to a new and scary life, and so are your children. I know I did not have the time or energy to focus on anything but that. There are those who might not understand this and might get insulted. That can be upsetting at a time when you do not need extra stress. But sometimes people will surprise you with understanding. My aunt once called to check on me, and I never returned her call. When I saw her a month or so later at a holiday dinner, I immediately apologized to her. Her response was, “You don’t ever have to apologize to me, I totally understand. You are going through enough.” I appreciated those words more than you can imagine.

5. Accept help when it is offered. I was lucky enough to have friends and family who were always trying to do whatever they could for me. At first, I resisted. I felt like this was my problem and I had to do it all for myself, and my children. But I realized quickly that doing everything is hard. Little by little, I began to let others do for me when I felt that they genuinely wanted to. It did make life just a little easier.

6. Those who have never experienced a tragedy such as this will not understand what you are going through. They will think that they do, or will try to, but they don’t. They can’t. Everyone means well. They will tell you to get out more, or go out less, or stop doing so much for your kids, or do more for your kids. You just need to do things your own way. You will, of course, make mistakes and ask for advice when needed. But go with your gut, and do things the best way you know how.

7. Do not do what you do not want to do. It may take a long time to feel comfortable going to events alone. This was one of the most difficult things for me. I learned the hard way. I felt obligated, and worse, I let others make me feel obligated to attend weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, parties and other functions before I was ready. I would go to these events and spend a large part of the evening with a big fake smile on my face, trying not to cry. Slowly, I started to decline the invitations that I knew would be too difficult for me. I was sorry if people were upset with me, but I came to realize that you need to do what is best for you or you will never recover.

8. You will never be the same person you were before. This is not to say that you will never be happy again — you will. But it is a different kind of happy. You cannot possibly be the same after going through a tragedy like this. Losing my husband has become a part of me. It no longer controls my every thought, but I now look at life in a new way. Not necessarily bad or good, just different. For so long, I only wanted my old life back. I now understand that this is never going to happen. It was very hard to accept, but now that I have, I am able move on to a new chapter.

9. Life moves on for your friends. You are no longer part of a couple. While your couple friends may still include you, you may not always feel comfortable being the “fifth wheel.” Their social lives will go on without you, too. This is understandable, but it can be difficult and sad to see others moving on while you may not yet be able to do so.

10. It gets better. You see your kids happy again, and that makes you happy. You are with friends one day, and you find yourself smiling and laughing. You feel comfortable going to a party, and you actually have fun. You may see the possibility of finding love again. The sadness and anger lessen, and you try to look at life in a positive way. You will never forget losing the person you love. It is not easy, but at some point, you will find a way to create a new life for yourself.

With its substantial weight, luxurious paper, and carefully lettered name and address, a wedding invitation distinguishes itself from all other envelopes in the mailbox right away. The obvious care with which this small package has been created promises something special inside — and a special event to come. Addressing, stuffing, and posting these important envelopes takes advance planning and attention to detail.

Get organized about a month before your desired send-out date. This should be six to eight weeks before the wedding, allowing your guests adequate time to respond and ensuring that you will get a reliable head count a week or two before the event. The address on a wedding invitation should be handwritten; printed labels are not appropriate (though calligraphy done by computer directly on the envelope is gaining popularity and acceptability).

Depending on your handwriting and the level of formality of your wedding, you may want to have your envelopes inscribed by a professional calligrapher. (To find one in your area, ask your stationer or wedding planner for recommendations.) You’ll have to get your envelopes to the calligrapher at least two to three weeks before you need them; some calligraphers require even more time. Also provide her with a neatly printed guest list, complete with full addresses and social and professional titles (Mr. or Doctor, for example). Compiling the list, as well as making phone calls to parents or friends to acquire or confirm addresses and spellings, can take some time, so don’t wait until the last minute to get started.

Though etiquette for addressing and assembling invitations has relaxed, there are still some requirements, outlined on the following pages (we’ve also included a few modern interpretations for more casual weddings). “The little things do matter,” says Dorothea Johnson, etiquette expert and founder and director of the Protocol School of Washington, in Yarmouth, Maine. “When a couple uses the appropriate honorific and writes out an address in the correct way, it shows they’ve put thought into it.” And when your guests receive your invitation, expertly assembled and addressed, there will be no doubt that you have done just that.

When does a woman become “The Dowager X”?

A widow of a peer may be called dowager only if (a) her husband bore the title and (b) the current peer is a direct descendant of her deceased husband.

Put another way, “A dowager peeress is the mother, stepmother, or grandmother of the reigning peer, and the widow of a preceding one. In no other case is she a dowager.” (111a)

If she is eligible, a widow assumes the title of dowager immediately she becomes a widow. However, she continues to be referred to as “Lady Denville” without the “Dowager” tacked on as long as the current title-holder (her son or grandson) remained unmarried, i.e., so long as there is not another “Lady Denville.” (112) I think sometimes people also referred to dowagers as “the elder Lady Spenborough.” (Unless, as in Fanny’s case, the new Lady Spenborough is older than she is!) I seem to recall reading some contemporary letters which refer to “the old duchess” when meaning the widow of the 1st Duke of Marlborough (and in that case, it was one of her own daughters who was the new duchess). The rules for addressing a dowager in speech are in all ways the same as if her husband were still living, except that if confusion arises, she is referred to as The Dowager Countess (or Amabel, Countess of Denville) to distinguish her from the current peer’s wife, or from any other countesses still alive.

According to Debrett’s Correct Form:

Officially the widow of a peer is known as the Dowager Countess (or whatever) of X, unless there is already a dowager peeress of the family still living. In the latter event, the widow of the senior peer of the family retains the title of Dowager for life, and the widow of the junior peer in that family is known by her Christian name, e.g., Mary, Countess of X, until she becomes the senior widow. . . . When the present peer is unmarried, by custom the widow of the late peer continues to call herself as she did when her husband was living, i.e., without the prefix of (a) dowager, or (b) her Christian name. Should the present peer marry, it is usual for the widowed peeress to announce the style by which she wishes to be know in future.” (113) This last bit is twentieth century, and Black’s agrees: most widows don’t use “dowager” at all anymore, and simply use the Mary, Countess of X option, announcing in the press the style they will be using.

In False Colours, when Lady Denville decided to marry Sir Bonamy, one beneficial circumstance she noted about the match was that after she was married, she would no longer be a dowager countess. Fanny, Lady Spenborough, is not a dowager and never will be, because the new Lord Spenborough was not a descendant of her deceased husband.

In Their Noble Lordships, Winchester notes is that thanks to dukes’ apparent inability to make or maintain good marriages, there are twice as many duchesses today as there are dukes. (114) That’s because most divorceйs are entitled to the “Mary, Duchess of Southampton” style until they remarry.

If you dispute a fact from these pages, please contact me, and if you can, provide a contradicting source. These pages are a work in progress and I expect them to change in the future, although what I present today is as accurate as I can make it.

Because sympathy notes and letters are too personal to follow a set form, one simple rule can guide you: Say what you truly feel. A single sincere line expressing the genuine feeling you had for the deceased is all you need to write. As you write, don’t dwell on the details of an illness or the manner of death. Nor should you suggest that the loss is a “blessing in disguise.” It is appropriate to ask if there is something you can do to help, even suggesting something specific, such as “Please let me know if I can help babysitting.” If you have a specific memory about the deceased it will be a welcome addition, but this is completely optional.

The following is an example of a short sympathy note:

Dear Vanessa,
Ken and I were very sad to hear of Robert’s death. He always greeted us with kind words and had a wonderful way of making us feel special. If we can help by shopping, running errands, or doing anything else for you, please do call on us. In the meantime, you are in our thoughts and prayers.

How to Address a Sympathy Card

When you send sympathy messages in writing, it’s sometimes hard to know who you should address in your note. Some guidelines:

  • If you knew the deceased well, but not the family, address the note to the closest relative—usually the widow, the widower, or the eldest child. You can also add “and family” if you wish: “Mrs. John Smith and Family.”
  • If you didn’t know the deceased but you know one of the relatives, write to that person.
  • If it’s a friend whose parent has died, write to the friend.
  • Address letters to children who have lost a parent on separate lines: Miss (Ms.) Renée Wynn (the daughter), with Mr. Charles Wynn (the son) underneath. The salutation reads “Dear Renée and Charles.”

Emailing Condolences

When your usual correspondence with a bereaved friend is by email, you can precede a phone call or written condolence with an email—an immediate and non-intrusive way to let him know you are thinking of him. Follow an emailed message with a handwritten note and, whenever possible, attendance at the funeral or visitation.

Online Condolences

Many newspapers and funeral homes offer the opportunity on their websites for people to post sympathy messages. The postings can be extensive and some families receive packages of printed copies of the posted condolences. The family may respond with one note that can be published on the website thanking the senders for their support. It’s not necessary to send individual responses to each comment that is posted, but do send a note to anyone who follows up with a handwritten note or personal email.

Acknowledging Expressions of Sympathy

Handwritten sympathy notes, personal emails, flowers, Mass cards, contributions to charities, and acts of kindness should always be acknowledged by the recipient, if possible. The exception is when the writer asks that her note not be acknowledged—a thoughtful thing to do when writing a close friend or when someone you know well will receive a great number of condolences. Sympathy cards with no personal message, online sympathy notes, and visits to the funeral home or the service don’t need to be acknowledged in writing. Letters of thanks are customarily written to pallbearers, honorary pallbearers, ushers, eulogists, and readers.

If the list of acknowledgements is so long or the recipient isn’t up to the task, a family member or a friend may write the acknowledgements: “Mom asks me to thank you for your beautiful flowers and kind message of sympathy.”

Following is a sample response:

Dear Paige and Will,

On behalf of my family, I want to thank you for your expression of sympathy after the death of my sister, Louise. The beautiful floral wreath meant all the more to us because it came from lifelong friends.

A personal message on a note card is preferable to a printed card, and it only takes a moment to write “Thank you for your beautiful flowers” or “Thank you for your note. Your kind words have been a comfort.” If you use the printed acknowledgements given to you by the funeral director, add a personal message. When the list of condolences is long, these printed cards can serve as intermediary thanks until more personal acknowledgements can be written.