The Seemingly Ungrateful Widow

by admin on October 22, 2014

I would like to hear other’s opinions on this matter.

Is a thank you card from a widow really that important?

Earlier this year, my cousin lost her husband in a boating accident. I am not very close to my extended family, but I sent her a card and a bit of money. As far as I was concerned, that was the end of it. However, a few weeks ago, my father called asking if I had received a thank you or any sort of acknowledgement as he had not heard from her. I told him that I had not, but that I wasn’t expecting anything either. My cousin has always sent out thank you notes/acknowledgements, but she has suddenly become a widow with two children under the age of ten and is dealing with an incredible life disruption. My father did not send her a large sum (just a little more than I sent), but tends to “play games” with money and I feel his feathers are ruffled unnecessarily. What are your thoughts?

I am certain we will see her and the kids during the holidays. Maybe she’ll say something then or maybe she won’t. Personally, I feel this is a mole hill becoming a mountain. 1015-14

I think your father is a legalist with no sense of grace or mercy.   Yes, it is true that etiquette encourages widows and widowers to send thank you notes to those offering their condolences, money, food, etc.  Your dad has gotten his shorts in a twisted wad because a recent widow hasn’t jumped through his etiquette hoops to his satisfaction.  He’s majoring on the minors and missed the larger picture of extending grace in an extremely difficult time to someone who desperately needs it.

{ 88 comments… read them below or add one }

clairedelune October 22, 2014 at 7:40 am

Agreed 100% with Admin; very well-said. I hope the OP’s father doesn’t try to corner her during the holidays!

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Harley Granny October 22, 2014 at 7:45 am

I’m sorry your father is putting you in the middle of this.
My BIL is very generous about helping out but once you take what is offered you will hear about it for the rest of your lives. It’s so bad that we warn people about it if they even hint at thinking about approaching him. (I’m still hearing about a $20.00 loan repaid within two days…that was 20 years ago)

I like your attitude about it. While I’m always pleased to have my kindness as it were acknowledged, I don’t expect it under these circumstances.

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Xarcady October 22, 2014 at 7:58 am

While strict, proper, etiquette does require a thank you note, I personally give a lot of slack to the bereaved and brand new parents. Both are going through huge life changes and I do think that is a bit of an excuse for not sending a thank you note, or sending one a lot later than they usually would.

I would hope that were I in the same circumstances, people would be equally forgiving of me.

I know when my father died, writing the thank you notes was hard. The whole process brought back memories and I ended up crying a lot. I could only do the notes in small batches when I had the energy to cope with them. It took at least three months for me to get them all out.

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Abby October 22, 2014 at 8:01 am

I agree with Admin. I would side eye someone who did not send thank you cards after a wedding or a baby shower or some other happy event. I would cut endless slack to someone who received an unsolicited gift after losing their partner or their child and did not send a thank you card (at least not in a very timely manner).

Since it’s been brought up though- Admin, if you do send someone a package after a tragedy and hear nothing, and you didn’t have the foresight to get the tracking option on the package (or you worry it was left on their front porch and never found) what is the protocol for asking if it’s been received? This happened to me earlier this year. I didn’t want to ask the recipient directly if she got it because I didn’t want to bother her or sound like I was dropping hints that she should thank me, but I was worried she never got it.

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Karen L October 22, 2014 at 1:10 pm

You know how people always want to “do something” when someone is bereaved? And people are always telling the bereaved “Let me know if I can do anything”. This is a job for those people. I always ask if I can contact people on behalf of the bereaved person. If you are bereaved, let one of these people call people who sent stuff and let them know that the stuff was received and is appreciated and it might take Bereaved Person awhile to be able to write a personal note herself.

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Mechanistika October 22, 2014 at 7:35 pm

Whenever I do that, I’ll wait some time (I think you have already) before asking the intended recipient if they got the package/gift/envelope. I generally preface it with, “Hey, so I sent [insert item here] to you and I forgot to select tracking on it, so I was wondering if you got it? Just want to make sure it wasn’t lost in the mail!”

Usually they’ll give a verbal thank you if yes–and a verbal thank you in that situation is just fine, in my opinion–or they’ll look at you like you’ve grown three extra heads before saying no, they haven’t gotten the item and how odd that they didn’t.

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Dawn October 23, 2014 at 9:08 am

Here’s what I think. At that point, does it matter? If it was stolen or lost in the mail, it’s gone forever. Bringing it up will just make the intended recipient feel bad. So just make it a point to always track your packages.

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PhDeath October 23, 2014 at 10:03 am

If a mailed package was insured, though, it could facilitate a replacement if the giver learned it never arrived.

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Vicki October 23, 2014 at 12:11 pm

It might be something the giver could replace, such as a box of a favorite kind of chocolate or a book that you think the other person would like.

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MyFamily October 22, 2014 at 8:07 am

When a friend or family members is dealing with a death of a loved one or a serious illness, it is one of the times I do not even want a thank you – written or verbal. Their time and energy needs to be focused elsewhere, and while a thank you is always appreciated, during difficult times a thank you is not needed.

A friend of mine lost her husband to cancer a few years ago. He was sick for a long-time and was eventually moved into a nursing home because she couldn’t care for him anymore, plus she had young children at home. I did many things for her – little things like picking up their dry cleaning; bigger things like taking over a volunteer job she did for our kids’ school. To this day, I don’t believe she even knows everything I did for her, and that is absolutely okay with me.

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JKC October 23, 2014 at 1:53 pm

I’m with you. If any of my loved ones had their life turned upside down, and/or suffered a serious loss, I would want them to spend any extra time and energy on self-care rather than the writing of thank-you notes. If someone is barely afloat as it is, it seems insensitive to expect otherwise.

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PJ October 22, 2014 at 8:51 am

I agree with the admin. When someone is in a time of such grief as this, then my sending a card with a check and *not* expecting the formality of a thank-you are both ways I can extend grace and compassion to them.

I hope the people I love already know this and would be able to recieve such a gift from me without feeling even the slightest obligation on top of their other, far more significant concerns.

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Lady Anne October 22, 2014 at 8:52 am

I don’t think the widow is under any obligation to send a thank you. We have often given small donations ($25-ish) to people who have lost a close relative, particularly when we know that either their was no life insurance to pay for the funeral, or there are children involved. We’ve never received – or expected – a thank you. We did make a donation to help pay for funeral expenses for the grandson of a family at church, but the other side of the family paid for the whole thing, and the money was returned to us with a thank you; we passed it along to a charity they supported.

Now, mind you, if we’d offered to pay for, say, catering the reception, then we’ve have expected a thank you, but not for a small amount. And not, as in OP’s case, after such a horrendous situation.

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Lizajane October 22, 2014 at 3:30 pm

Are you saying that a bigger gift is more deserving of a thank you note than a small one? Surely I misunderstood.

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iwadasn October 23, 2014 at 7:55 am

I see it as more of a favor vs. a gift. When someone does you a favor, especially if it’s a relatively small one, a verbal thanks is acceptable, whereas a large favor (such as catering an event) or a gift usually requires a thank-you card.

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BellyJean October 22, 2014 at 9:02 am

I agree whole-heartedly with the Admin here. Wow – I just… wow. Since he had not heard from her, my first thought – bring a casserole, bring a movie, bring over something generous. The few days (sometimes weeks) after someone passes, there are so many people around, and food, and acts of kindness, but then as the months go by – you see less of people, as they go along their daily lives. Who the flip cares about a card? Her family is, likely, still in mourning, and could do with a nice thought sent their way.

My condolences to your cousin.

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Meredith October 22, 2014 at 9:02 am

OP, thank you for having grace for your cousin. My twin daughters were stillborn four months ago– my husband and I had tons of support from friends and family, even from friends of our families that we aren’t personally acquainted with. I too was raised to always send thank-you notes, and I did my best to make sure everyone was thanked one way or another. But grief is messy and it can literally steal your memory (I totally forgot about a meeting I had scheduled with my counselor… twice). I’m sure there were people I overlooked without intending to, and I’m trusting that they will have grace for me. You’re a good cousin, OP!

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Lana October 23, 2014 at 9:58 am

I lost my daughter 4 years ago due to stillbirth, and I don’t recall even sending the thank you notes that came from the funeral home. I was recovering from a traumatic csection, while my husband and I were also taking care of our special needs one year old. My mother moved in with us for almost three weeks, and took care of talking to family and friends and did a majority of the planning of the funeral. Looking back, I know I verbally thanked everyone who attended and/or sent flowers and cards, but I let the cards go. It was such an awful miserable time that I could barely get myself out of bed. I think it’s completely understandable if those get put on the back burner.

And yes, I did promptly send out thank you cards for my bridal shower, wedding, and baby shower.

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viviennebzb October 22, 2014 at 9:13 am

Way to make it all about you, dad. I hope he doesn’t say anything to the widow about this, it would only serve to highlight his lack of empathy.

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twik October 22, 2014 at 9:18 am

Well, he’ll just have to punish her by not sending a gift when her next husband dies, won’t he?

Indeed, it’s very difficult at the best of times to take care of everything about a death immediately. A young widow with two small children? If anyone can be excused from prompt thank you notes, it would be her. Not that notes shouldn’t be given, but if you feel close enough to want to give something, you should be close enough to be understanding.

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Lizajane October 22, 2014 at 3:32 pm

Ok, I snickered at that. That’ll show her.

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kingsrings October 23, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Lol, Twik. “The husband was killed months ago and I STILL haven’t received my thank you note!”

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crebj October 24, 2014 at 12:41 pm

You mean, “thank you for killing my husband; it truly was the work of a professional”? ;>

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Shalamar October 22, 2014 at 9:31 am

This is nowhere near as tragic as losing a husband so unexpectedly young, but I have a somewhat related story.

When I was 25, I married my first husband. 4 months later, he asked for a divorce out of the blue. I was devastated and completely heartbroken. Some months later, someone asked me if I’d returned the wedding gifts. I said in dismay “It never even occurred to me.” I don’t think I could even had told you who gave what – I’d send out thank-you notes at the time, but I hadn’t kept a list.

So, my point is – grief and pain sometimes makes it necessary to bend etiquette rules. OP’s dad needs to lighten up and show some compassion.

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Syn October 22, 2014 at 12:29 pm

What is the etiquette for that? How short is a marriage allowed to be before you’re “expected” to give gifts back? Or is it really even an etiquette thing to give them back?

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Jen October 22, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Why would you be expected to return the wedding gifts? You didn’t cancel the wedding. You were married, I’m assuming everyone enjoyed the wedding, and then you divorced after the fact. You wrote thank you’s, but were expected to return the gifts when the marriage doesn’t work out? That can’t really be expected/proper, can it?

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twik October 22, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Why should you? It’s not like the wedding had been cancelled before it happened. Last I checked, a four-month marriage is a marriage. It doesn’t become more of a marriage after six months, or six years. You were legally and morally wed, and therefore entitled to your wedding gifts.

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lakey October 22, 2014 at 4:09 pm

“When I was 25, I married my first husband. 4 months later, he asked for a divorce out of the blue. I was devastated and completely heartbroken. Some months later, someone asked me if I’d returned the wedding gifts. ”

That’s just heartless. And aside from that, who would want to have used gifts returned?

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Noodle October 22, 2014 at 7:32 pm

Something similar happened to me–I was married for about nine months, had a miscarriage, and as a result my husband walked out. Then, not a month later, my mother unexpectedly died. No one ever brought up the wedding gifts and it didn’t occur to me until years later that perhaps I should have returned them. I was in a haze for a better part of a year and ended up going to probate court and divorce court within two weeks of each other. Obama himself could have been at that funeral and I never would have noticed.

The OP’s father sounds incredibly petty and I hope he doesn’t confront the widow, especially during the holidays. 🙁

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Dawn October 23, 2014 at 9:12 am

My heart hurt reading this.

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JAN October 24, 2014 at 12:40 pm

You were married, the wedding happened, why would you return the gifts? I have a girlfriend whose fiancé canceled the wedding two weeks prior, so in that instance, yes, she did return all shower and wedding gifts. Though I told her to keep my shower gift, I had gotten her a spa certificate and other pampering items and thought she could use them. In that case, the wedding and marriage never happened.

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PM October 22, 2014 at 9:31 am

Yes, how dare she not take time out of her schedule of mourning the sudden loss of her husband, raising young children who have recently been traumatized by the loss of their father, learning to operate her household on her own, dealing with the logistics of filing for insurance benefits, death certificates, pension/social security, to write thank you notes.

Your father sounds like a delight.

Seriously. Your cousin has enough on her plate to deal with. Yes, it would have been a nice gesture to write thank you notes, but she has other priorities. The next time a family member faces a crisis, the kindest thing you might do would be to advise him against make a gesture of “support” so the person “benefitting” from this gesture might live without the strings attached.

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lakey October 22, 2014 at 4:15 pm

“Yes, how dare she not take time out of her schedule of mourning the sudden loss of her husband, raising young children who have recently been traumatized by the loss of their father, learning to operate her household on her own, dealing with the logistics of filing for insurance benefits, death certificates, pension/social security, to write thank you notes.”

This was what I was thinking. When my mom died I was surprised at the amount of paperwork, dealing with probate, dealing with insurance, and every financial institution, and stocks. It is incredibly complicated and time consuming. You have to have names removed from a long list of items, and to do that there are forms to be filled out, many need special witnessed signatures, and documents have to be mailed in special ways. I don’t know how much time I spent at the post office.

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Nancy October 22, 2014 at 9:32 am

Having worn the clothes of the young widow – sometimes it is all you can do to make it day to day. I tried to send out thank you cards and notes, but it took much longer than it should have. What the cousin needs now is not castigation because she has not met the technically correct time line for acknowledging the gift, but grace and support for the challenges she is certainly facing as she goes forward.

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Wendy B. October 22, 2014 at 9:34 am

I expect she plans to, but just hasn’t had the time, energy or emotional capacity to deal with it right now. If he says anything, he’ll expose himself for the boor he is.

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Michelle October 22, 2014 at 9:42 am

I think the Dad needs to let it go. I think the widow has enough to deal with, without the Dad getting all riled up. Can he not understand that she has just lost her husband and has a million things to figure out?

Sure, we would all like to be acknowledged if we do something nice but, if the only reason you are doing those things is to get the acknowledgement, then you are not really doing something nice. I believe I have heard it referred to as a “transaction” on this site.

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PWH October 22, 2014 at 9:58 am

OP, I agree with admin here. The last thing on a recent Widow’s mind is sending out thank you notes. I think your father is being unreasonable and not bearing the situation in mind. When my Dad passed away 3 years ago, my Mother received a lot of help from friends and family mostly in the form of food and flowers. She appreciated it and kept each card and wrote down the name of each person who dropped off a meal or just came to sit with her. It took her a while before she was up to the task of sending out notes. She did thank some people in person, which your cousin may do if you see her during the holiday season. After a couple of months, my Mother did manage to get thank you cards out to everyone, even those who attended my Dad’s service. In her case she also had three adult children (the youngest being 17) who helped with the thank you cards as well.

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B October 22, 2014 at 10:04 am

“Is a thank you card from a widow really that important?”

No! Just absolutely not! That poor woman has enough to handle with my demand for gratitude. I wouldn’t care if she never remembered to mention it again.

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B October 22, 2014 at 12:05 pm

without my demand, I mean!

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Anna October 22, 2014 at 10:09 am

Please try and persuade your father to let this go and to see the young widow in a more humane and human light. I agree with Admin completely: this is a time to extend grace and compassion, and not to think about putting the poor woman through etiquette hoops or to hold her to account at what he sees as an etiquette failure. She has larger, more pressing concerns right now, and a demanding uncle showing his irate impatience with her for what is a minor oversight in the circumstances, can only serve to put your father in the worst possible light.

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Lisa H. October 22, 2014 at 10:27 am

I feel sorry for your Dad. How awful to go through life being so petty.

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Alex October 22, 2014 at 10:31 am

Normally I feel thank you notes are always necessary (I have one friend who NEVER sends them and it does make me mad) but in this instance she is going through so much I wouldn’t expect a thank you note. I think he needs to realize what she is going through and trying to just go day to day is probably enough right now.

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Dee October 22, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Miss Manners says thank you notes are not only not required for condolences but they are problematic, because then the “thank you” and “I’m sorry” and “you’re welcome” cycle never ends. I believe she also does not require thank you notes for flowers sent to the bereaved, nor donations made on behalf of the deceased. I don’t remember if she ever addressed the issue of money being given to the bereaved but I would imagine that she would err on the side of gentle sympathy if she didn’t receive an acknowledgement.

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Hollyhock October 23, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Hmm. I have read and re-read Miss Manners extensively and it seems to me she does require thank-you notes for condolences, as does Emily Post.
Would you be kind enough to cite your source when you have a moment so I can look it up from among my collection of Miss M volumes? thanks!

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Kimstu October 24, 2014 at 4:08 am

@Hollyhock, I think you’re quite right that Miss Manners stresses the importance of sending thank-you notes for condolences after a bereavement, as well as for memorial flowers and donations (e.g., on p. 683 of her Guide for the Turn of the Millennium). She does point out, however, that nobody is required to thank the bereaved for the thank-you note for their condolences, so the “cycle” ends there.

I’m sure that Miss Manners wouldn’t castigate any grieving widow for a few weeks’ or even months’ delay with her thank-you notes, but she makes the point that thank-you notes are important not only to thank people for taking the trouble to condole with you, but also to reach out to those people as you try to resume your life. If you don’t respond to people who reach out to you, they are likely to assume that it means you want to be left alone, and they’ll wait for you to take the initiative when you’re ready. It can make for a rather lonely bereavement if everybody keeps thinking you need some space because you didn’t respond to their sympathy.

Bereavement is a very stressful thing, but it doesn’t become less stressful by giving up on the basics of etiquette like thanking people for showing you kindness. However, I think we can all agree that whatever the recent widow’s lapse in this matter may have been, the OP’s father is behaving much worse by making a big deal of her not sending thank-yous.

And I have to say that I’ve never heard of sending money to a newly bereaved person, as though it were their birthday or something. Cards and letters, yes, donations or flowers in the deceased’s memory, yes, a pan of lasagna or other contributions to household resources, yes. But just sending a chunk of cash? I think it’s very generous of the OP and her father to do so, but how is this even a thing?

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VanessaGA81 October 24, 2014 at 11:02 am

I’ve personally given money to two young widows that I am friends with because losing one of the family breadwinners unexpectedly can wreak havoc on family finances. Even if the deceased has life insurance, the loss of income is just one more stress in the middle of a terrible time. If I can help alleviate that by giving enough money to cover a bill or some groceries or even an afternoon of activity for children who have lost their father, then I would rather do that than send flowers.

Calli Arcale October 22, 2014 at 11:18 am

I’m with admin. Your cousin normally sends prompt thank-you notes, which demonstrates that this is not a normal situation. And since she’s just been widowed with two small children to care for, what else would anyone expect? She is going through just about the worst thing a person can go through. Your dad really should be more graceful about it.

And anyway, I don’t think anyone should be worrying about whether one has been properly thanked. Worry about how you thank others, not how they thank you, and you will have nothing to be sorry for.

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Markko October 22, 2014 at 11:20 am

When a person is short on empathy and compassion, etiquette is a tollerable substitute most of the time; if you know what is expected and when, doing so pretty much disguises that you could not care less about the situation. This is important even to self-absorded clods since the backlash one gets from making it clear that you really don’t care can be unpleasant. People shun those known to be unfeeling.
So… not understanding WHY etiquette exists causes some to misunderstand when it’s material conventions (like promptly sending thank you notes) should not be expected. I am told in the old days the grieving immediate family were not expected to do this at all, and another relative was asked/appointed/or volunteered to take on the duty.
I suspect he figured that since he did the proper acceptable thing, he should get what he thinks to be the proper response: Give gift, get thank you note. Thoughtfullness, sympathy, and compasion are covered in etiquette if he only would have read the section on death.

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Renee October 22, 2014 at 11:44 am

After I lost my mother I remember just staring at the blank Thank You cards. They were on a table and I just stared at them. Every time I tried to write all I could do is cry. Every Thank You card was a reminder that my mother was gone. Although I was appreciative of the love and support writing Thank You card was so painful.

I think I did maybe 2-4 at a time before I became too emotional to continue. I never knew I could cry that much. I never knew I had that many tears inside me.

My point is, it’s not as simple as writing a Thank You card. It’s not a joyous occasion like a wedding or baby-shower. It’s a death and every card you complete is another reminder that your loved one is gone.

Continue to be there for your cousin and hopefully you can convince your father to let this go.

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Midge October 23, 2014 at 8:38 am

That was my experience too, after my mom died. I managed to send thank you notes to everyone who sent money, flowers, or donations to her favorite charity, but it took me at least a month and was very difficult.

And that was after losing an elderly mother who had been ill for years–meaning it wasn’t a shock or tragedy. If I had lost my spouse unexpectedly, I don’t think I would be able to move, much less think, much less write thank you notes for I don’t know how long.

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hakayama October 22, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Dear OP:
So sorry for you for having been dealt the father you got. The man has a rock in place of a heart, and too soft a brain to use his imagination to picture the place where your cousin is at. The poor woman, going through the days on auto-pilot, caring for the children, managing to wash dishes and clothes, getting truly important paperwork out of the way…

Was he a truly warm and loving dad to you? I suspect he might be one of those true 19th century Dickensian characters, actually caricatures of husband and father. Always doing what is expected of him, what is the correct thing…

Your story did remind me of a situation at work. A member of the department returned to her duties after a few days of absence related to the death of her sister. In a nicely modulated voice, this man tells her how sorry he is for her loss and asks if everything was “BACK TO NORMAL”.
I did control myself, diverted the chat to other topics hoping that Mildred did not notice the question.
What I really would have loved to do was to choke and shake the brute into his non-existing senses.
This was an individual who claimed to be a sensitive man. One who told us about being moved to tears at an opera some time prior… You disgusting utter clod, Roger!

I am still puzzled by people sending flowers and/or money to the bereaved family, and have no idea where the “custom” comes from. I understand taking food to people who need to eat, but whose minds are thousands of miles from preparing meals, but money?
I guess you live, you learn…

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Rowan October 23, 2014 at 9:51 am

Money because, if the man is the main breadwinner in the house, his bank account would be frozen at the time of his death. It takes a while for it to be unfrozen, and for any life assurance money to come through. Meanwhile the mortgage, utility bills etc still need to be paid. Trying to deal with this stuff on top of the bereavement can be like shovelling rain.

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Suzy October 23, 2014 at 2:42 pm

Not if its a joint bank account I think.

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Hollyhock October 24, 2014 at 9:55 am

I actually think food is an outdated custom. Perhaps it made sense in the olden days when food was prepared more from scratch and people did not live in close proximity to 24-7 supermarkets. On an isolated farm, for example.

Nowadays food is so plentiful and readily available it seems bizarre to me to load up the bereaved with it. To be honest, whatever has been provided to us at times of family members’ deaths has been dumped before the giver’s car was completely out of the driveway. We are very picky about food prep cleanliness, for example, and we don’t eat casseroles & such — so a lasagna from someone with a pet or whose home we know is not super clean, or who doesn’t purchase the grade of meat we prefer, is going directly to waste. Same with any sort of meat or poultry; if we don’t know where it came from and how it’s been handled, isn’t going into our mouths.

When my mom was dying a friend let herself into our house and left assorted cheeses, jars of olives and pickles, baguette & crackers, a bag of potato chips (which she knows are my special weakness that I never let myself buy), veggies & dip and a few other easy-to-eat foods. That was helpful. But I really wish people wouldn’t go to the trouble and we try to discourage it as politely as possible. It adds stress, it doesn’t relieve it, and I know from conversations with friends that we are far from alone in this line of thinking. So it pays to “know your audience.”

And I did find when dealing with my parents’ deaths that pushing a cart anonymously around a supermarket was actually a brief respite from the role of “bereaved.”

Money would be considered beyond the pale among my family and friends. If people want to do something, they might offer to drive elderly relatives around, or provide some other practical service.

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JAN October 24, 2014 at 12:55 pm

I think this depends on your circumstances. Where my mother and her siblings and my grandparents live, the nearest 24 hour grocery store is 50 miles away, the nearest grocery store at all is 13 miles away. When my Grandmother passed there were so many family members (my grandparents had eight children, I have 35 first cousins!) that it was wonderful to have all of the casseroles and other food that people brought with them.

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delislice October 22, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Holy crap. It’s hard to get out of bed some days after being widowed. I would totally not expect a note.

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Justine October 22, 2014 at 12:25 pm

I agree with Admin. In the case of someone dealing with grief, we extend grace. They have a lot to deal with so thank you notes are last on the list. It in no way makes them ungrateful.

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amyasleigh October 22, 2014 at 1:03 pm

I agree with Admin, and the overwhelming majority of PPs. I feel that Admin nails it: “a legalist with no sense of grace or mercy”, and “majoring on the minors”.

I feel that if etiquette has any worth at all, it is for promoting life’s running, overall, more smoothly and kindly. Using it as an instrument of punishment / torture for anyone who does not always 100% fulfill, faultlessly and regardless of circumstances, all of its smallest provisions — just, no. That is a mutant monster spawned from the very worst excesses of the court of Louis XIV.

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Hollyhock October 22, 2014 at 1:23 pm

I do think it’s important for the recipients of condolences — particularly tangible things like money — to acknowledge gestures of support. If the immediate family are not up to it, it’s a task that helpful friends and family members can take on, but it is not, in my opinion and that of modern etiquette gurus, optional.

That said, I would never indicate by word or deed that I noted the lack of response, nor would I discuss the lapse with others — even if privately it did alter my view of the non-thankers.

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don't blink October 22, 2014 at 2:46 pm

OP – Your Dad seems to be focusing on the details and skipping over basic compassion. If your cousin never, ever writes a single thank you note I think that is 100% perfectly okay.

And@ Meredith – I am so, so sorry for your loss.

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Lizajane October 22, 2014 at 3:48 pm

If he sent a check and it cleared his bank or if he handed her cash, he knows she got it. That’s it. That’s all there is to it.
Our son was murdered on Christmas Eve. We received many expressions of sympathy; cards, food, memorial gifts. I believe I sent notes for all. Everything was appreciated, but do you know what meant the most? My brother-in-law who stayed on the phone with me until my other son got home, our long time friends who dropped their Christmas Eve plans and came as a family to sit with us. They were with us all night. And my brother, who physically held my husband up outside the church. I didn’t send a thank you note to any of them. I thanked them in person, because they carried us.

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m October 23, 2014 at 3:01 am

I’m sorry for your loss.

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Lizajane October 23, 2014 at 5:10 am

Thank you.

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Marozia October 23, 2014 at 8:17 pm

Condolences to you and your family. May your son rest in heavenly peace.

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Lizajane October 24, 2014 at 7:26 am

Thank you. I know he is.

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JWH October 22, 2014 at 4:39 pm

I’m tempted to say stay out of it, but if they are close, then I think OP might want to contact Widow to let her know Dad is on the warpath.

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lkb October 22, 2014 at 4:56 pm

While I agree with the general sentiment that we should cut the bereaved vast amounts of slack as far as thank-you notes, I find myself wincing at the dog-piling on the OP’s father. We don’t know him, we don’t know why he asked. We only have the OP’s notation that he “plays games with money” (whatever that means). Notice he didn’t ask the widow, he discreetly asked his daughter. Maybe that was his way of asking, “Hey, do you think she’s all right?” (By the way, why does the OP know how much her father sent?)

Older generations were trained to send and receive thank-you notes promptly for several reasons:
1. So they know the gift did indeed arrive and was not stolen. (I’ve mentioned in other threads that a basket of wedding envelope’s was stolen from a friend’s wedding reception. The couple spent their honeymoon writing apologetic letters to all the invitees to explain what happened.)
2. To reciprocate in a very small way the kindness and generosity of the giver (i.e., “they took the time to select an appropriate card, buy the card, address the card, mail the card, and send some of their hard-earned money…”) My parents, and possibly the OP’s father, grew up in the Great Depression in which every penny counted and those habits die hard.
3. In some cultures, the thank-you note may include a prayer card with the deceased’s name and dates and sometimes other details. Maybe he was hoping to receive that as a memorial.

While times have changed and “the rules” are not so rigid, that’s not to say our elders have.

Again, I agree with the general thrust of the responses but some of them seem nasty and attack someone who may have had the very best of intentions.

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hakayama October 23, 2014 at 10:17 am

@lkb: I wonder why you don’t think that the phrase “plays games with money”, coupled with his expectation of thanks for the gift to the young widowed relative, gives the readers a fairly good glimpse of the man in question. No, not intrinsically evil, but still “damaged goods”. *
And yes, I am certain that OP’s father made sure, one way or another, that his generosity was known. As I read it, it fits the game playing image.
Generally there’s a consensus here to “to call them as we see them”, and that is why “you have some ‘splaining to do, Lucy” of how OP’s father “may have had the very best of intentions”.
Experience has shown me that bending backwards, in some cases with most charitable intentions, can result in extreme pain and damage. Physically too. 🙁
* I was close to “children of the Depression”; together with my peers I also traveled a bumpy road; I can pinch pennies until they scream… but, except for just ONE individual, these folks did not behave as if they swallowed the proverbial broom stick.
Again, so sorry, OP, that you did wind up with a rigid guy for a father.

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lkb October 23, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Point taken, but the dog-piling (saying this man is called “petty,” ” legalist with no sense of grace or mercy….with his shorts in a twisted wad” and “making it all about him” when this is what he did, according to the OP:

“.. asking if I had received a thank you or any sort of acknowledgement as he had not heard from her…. (and the OP’s statement that he) “tends to “play games” with money) (that are not further specified. I don’t even know what that means.)

Per your request, here’s Lucy’s ‘splainin: I remember growing up my mom and my aunts would compare notes — “I got my thank you card today, how about you?” Not that my mother or my aunts were holding their generosity over the recipients’ heads (believe me, they were not those kinds of people). It was purely a conversation starter that usually continued thus, “Have you heard from him/her? I wonder how she’s doing.” ” Well, Susie said….” “I’m going to give her a call over the weekend, maybe bring a casserole…How ’bout them Yankees?”

Also, the original post said the funeral happened “earlier this year” and the father’s query came “a few weeks ago.” We don’t know if the death occurred Jan. 1 or Sept. 30 The OP says the widow was usually prompt in getting out the thank you notes, which is undoubtedly why the father asked — as in, “I hope she is okay, she’s usually so good about thank-you notes and stuff like that” not necessarily as, “where’s my ding-dangity thank-you note?”

Or again, it could have been a combination of old-school rules and wondering if a cash gift arrived to the right hands. (I still am puzzled why the OP knows how much another mourner gave. I have never known such information.)

I maintain he could have merely been asking out of concern. To be called “petty” and “legalistic without grace or mercy” is a judgment call based on far too little information in my book.

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MM October 23, 2014 at 6:35 pm

Totally agreed. I agree with the sentiments but people are being way too harsh.

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tessa October 22, 2014 at 5:03 pm

And then there are those who cannot bring themselves to open any of the cards that they receive. The card may be still sitting in its envelope in a pile.

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The TARDIS October 22, 2014 at 7:11 pm

Wow, talk about looking for excuses to be offended. Grief tends to cloud one’s mind and the fact that it was a sudden, unexpected loss makes it ten times worse. I agree with the admin; the widow should not be pressured. She is grieving. Everything is probably hard for her right now.

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Cat October 22, 2014 at 7:12 pm

Compassion for a widow who is dealing with the sudden and totally unexpected death of her husband should be first on the list for anyone who knows her. She has to deal with financial matters ( and I hope she knows all about the family finances as some wives leave such things up to their husbands), the sadness and grief of her children, and trying to face a future she never envisioned.
Dad’s heart, like that of the Christmas Grinch, is several sizes too small.

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Angel October 22, 2014 at 10:37 pm

I can’t even imagine the nightmare your cousin must be going through. Your dad needs to show some compassion. She has two children under the age of 10 and now is faced with raising them by herself, and being both mom and dad to them. I hope that you tell your dad to keep his mouth shut over the holidays. It will be her first Christmas without her husband. Like I said, I cannot even imagine. What she needs is kindness. Not pettiness.

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NostalgicGal October 22, 2014 at 11:54 pm

A year in this case is not long at all to wait for an acknowledgement… but. If Father thinks he needs a thank you so much, maybe he needs to be put in charge of that on behalf of the widow or if someone asks if there is anything they can do to help-yes, they can handle the acknowledgements.

That would be in an ideal world. Otherwise let it go; unless it was many thousands (sounds like under three digits) one can cut some serious slack here… and at times the person involved will put the thank you in the paper for the local kindnesses… when my father passed and I had to drive up there and straighten some things out and shut some things down; I took a stackful of paper back with me and wrote thank-yous from where I lived and mailed them out from here. I heard it from SOME of the recipients because they weren’t straight from my mother and not from her address. Um, I am the OTHER and only next of kin; and I don’t live there, and I couldn’t and wouldn’t move back there, I also couldn’t stay there for very much longer, so I sent them from HERE on behalf of both of us. I did write personally on the cards, and if that wasn’t good enough then… oh well.

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JD October 23, 2014 at 8:58 am

Do I understand you to say that some people objected because the letters didn’t come from your mother? Is that correct? If so, WHOA, what are they thinking? If you are a next of kin, you are just as eligible to write the notes as your mother. Who berates a bereaved for sending out thank you notes from a child, not the spouse? Wow.
When my parents died in a fire, we split the notes among the children — there are three of us — and each wrote notes to the persons we knew best. We only wrote thank you notes for food, memorial donations to their church and flowers (no money was offered to us– that’s not done in my area), but it was still a lot of notes. It was hard, but we did it. Still, would I condemn someone who could not manage to get them done? Never! Would I fuss that the wrong person wrote them? Never! I, too, have heard of friends offering to write them for the bereaved — I think that’s just fine. If the OP’s cousin gets around to it, good. If not, no one should be hurt. I think OP’s dad is indeed being a bit uptight about it.

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NostalgicGal October 31, 2014 at 3:01 am

Yes some people were upset that my mom didn’t hop to the notes herself, write them in her hand, and send them from her city.

We are the small batch of the family (mom’s immediate family had been very large, dad’s, not so much, but the next generation and such were prolific) and there are exactly two ‘next of kin’ as the description would state, his widow and his daughter (me). I could only stay up there a few days so I took the pile of paper back home (two solid days drive) then spent a week writing and mailing.

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Lizajane October 23, 2014 at 9:42 am

I’m so glad you wrote this. I have a friend who just suffered a shocking loss. I think I will offer to help her with this or do them for her.

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Anonymous October 23, 2014 at 11:17 am

All true, but I wouldn’t belittle someone’s gift for being “under three digits.” Money means different things to different people, and a gift of, say, fifty dollars might be a stretch for one person, while another person can easily afford much more. Still, I agree that the OP’s father is being petty and unrealistic to expect an immediate thank you note for a condolence gift, especially considering the “two kids under ten” aspect. That poor woman must be struggling enough just to keep the house running, get her kids up, dressed, fed, and off to school every day, and keep life as “normal” as possible for them after their father died.

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NostalgicGal October 31, 2014 at 3:04 am

I wouldn’t belittle a penny, but. At times that is all I’ve had, a penny. At other times, more. However if I sent them $20 and didn’t hear back, I wouldn’t be as upset as if I’d sent $2000. I’d still like to hear back, but. I understand things happening also.

I wrote notes and acknowledged single dollars. With postage where it’s at, it was more to write the card and send it, but. I wrote them anyways.

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NostalgicGal October 31, 2014 at 3:12 am

I would only cut the slack for under three digits, in that I mean; give them some time to reply. As I said elsewhere, it depends on many things, but. I would say a year is enough time to get through the acknowledgements, and I wouldn’t be upset to get a card a bit later or note acknowledging the $1, $20, $100… and as I also said, maybe someone needs to step in and HELP with that. Many years ago when one of my uncles died; I as young teen helped about 3 weeks after the funeral, with the sorting of cards (someone had written what had been taken out of the card, most had money enclosed) and addresses; and I wrote return addresses on envelopes and licked envelopes and put stamps on. Others (my older cousins, his children) or his widow, my aunt; had written the cards in reply to the ones they’d gotten, and put the ‘to’ addresses on them; I helped with the parts that I could do. So at 4-6 weeks out everyone had gotten their notes…

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just4kicks October 23, 2014 at 12:44 am

She just lost her husband, for Pete’s sake! 100% in agreement with Admin and other posters.
To quote a reply on here: “way to make it all about YOU, Dad”!!! Sheesh….

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startruck October 23, 2014 at 9:20 am

i would forgive pretty much any ettiquette slip after someone lost a loved one. and a thank you card? i cant believe someone would care about such a trivial thing after a life had been lost.

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kingsrings October 23, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Some years ago a friend of mine lost her father in a car crash just a few hours after we’d all celebrated her birthday. Some of us made donations to a cause dear to him. She sent us all the same thank you letter (changing the names on each letter) thanking and letting us know how the money had been used. It was very nice to receive but certainly not expected. People handle their grief in different ways. If someone is able to and wants to send letters then fine, if they’re not, then that’s okay, too. Either way is acceptable and it’s nobody’s place to say otherwise.

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Marozia October 23, 2014 at 8:18 pm

The poor lady lost her husband. What did you dad expect her to do, go and visit every single person who helped her right in the middle of her mourning, start writing thank-you cards!! Completely insensitive!!

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hakayama October 28, 2014 at 2:16 pm

@lkb… The machine “slid” my response to the very end. Sorry. I just cannot go retyping this.

Thank you, Lucy. It’s a pity that writing cannot reflect the sometimes jocular tone that can be spun into a conversation.
Your ‘splaining was good and clear, but you are making reference to folks whose character you know/knew. In OP’s case, the there’s a not too well veiled allusion to the man’s trickery with money.
It is good to see people that have faith in humanity. May you never be disappointed. At least on a personal level. Moi? 😉 After many decades of hanging about, I go along with Dr. Phil’s* suggestion of getting into the investigative mode instead of giving the benefit of the doubt. (Sort of blindly and on principle.) And this is one principle that I can relate to in this guy’s usually conciliatory approach to messes.
*I do catch an occasional episode of this and that on Youtube (TV given up 20 yrs ago).

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Enna November 8, 2014 at 9:23 am

I agree with Admin 100%. My colleague lost her grandmother and shortly before the funnearl she said something rude to me. I put it down to the funnearl. She admitted herself she wasn’t in her right state of mind and I responsed, “you aren’t yourself today,” and we started talking about cakes.

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Ginger November 22, 2014 at 8:41 pm

When my husband died, the funeral home gave me thank you notes, but I didn’t send any out. I was in a haze and definitely not myself for a long time. I know I thanked everyone verbally. But I do hope that my loved ones let it go knowing that I was in mourning.

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