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Short and Sweet Summary: Thank you notes are a friendly acknowledgment when someone goes out of his or her way to do something nice for you. But how do you write a decent thank you note when you’re widow brain can’t focus?

After my husband died, several weeks worth of dinners arrived on my doorstep from friends and acquaintances who signed up to deliver meals via www.mealtrain.com. Our gratitude to everyone who helped us remember to eat in those first few months post-death cannot be understated. The casseroles, lasagnas, and soups kept us nourished and fed during a really shitty time in our lives.  The only way to truly express how much I appreciated everyone’s thoughtfulness and generosity was by sending a thank you note.

Every time my kids get a birthday check or Christmas money, they have to write a thank-you note. If they’re invited on a special outing with someone, like a pheasant hunting expedition or a ski weekend somewhere, they have to write a thank-you note. How to Properly Address an EnvelopeNot only does this teach my kids about respect and gratitude, it makes them practice addressing an envelope and mailing a letter which, believe it or not, is something a lot of kids graduate high school not knowing how to do.

Crazy, right?

A decent thank-you note is more than just saying thank-you. I would never write a thank-you note with just this:

Dear Sally, 

Thanks for the chicken casserole. 

-Kim

UGH. NO. NOT THIS. NOT EVER.

I, and my kids, can and must do better than that.

Hand Written or Typed on Stationery

Can you do better than an email or text? Yes, you can. If someone went out of his/her way to do something nice, a handwritten thank-you card or a typed note on stationery is much better. My handwriting sucks, so I actually need to type my notes. I don’t let my kids off the hook that easy because any day of practicing their handwriting is a good day.

I can pick up thank-you cards at the dollar store or in a sale bin at Michael’s for pretty cheap.

Acknowledgment and Anecdote About Gift

So, here’s where my boys always balk at the letter-writing process. It’s not enough to just say thank you. I implore them to:

  1. Acknowledge the gift received
  2. Relay an anecdote about the gift
  3. Say how you used or will use the gift
  4. Reiterate how thankful they are for the giver’s generosity.

A birthday money thank-you card would look like this:

Dear Grandma and Grandpa, 

Thank you so much for the $100 you sent for my birthday. I’ve had my eye on a new skateboard and now I have enough money to buy it. I will think of you every time I do an ollie or kickflip.

I can’t wait until this summer when you come to visit. Miss you!

Love, Christopher

A thank-you note for a dinner I received would look like this:

Dear Carrie, 

Thank you so much for the delicious chicken parmigiana you made for our family. I’ve had many chicken parmigiana dishes, but none quite like yours. If it’s not a well-kept family secret, I’d love to have the recipe. The boys devoured it and insisted that I make it again!

I really appreciate your friendship and support. It means more to me than you’ll ever know. 

Love, Kim

If You’re at a Loss for Words

If the thought of coming up with witty, endearing sentiments is too much to bear, have no fear the internet is here! You can find many websites that help you find the words you just can’t find on your own. There is no shame in copying someone else’s sentiment as long as you personalize to your recipient.

Websites like Free Thank You Notes and  Sample  Thank You Note Wording have you covered. Just search for the gift or recipient type and copy to your heart’s content ♥.

Widow Wrap Up

Thank you notes are a friendly acknowledgment when someone goes out of his or her way to do something nice for you. I sent many, many thank-you cards during my dinner deliveries. I even had friends say, “Kim, we know you appreciate the dinners. But you don’t have to send a thank-you note every time.”

But, it’s what I do.

It’s a small token of appreciation. It doesn’t take that much time. And it took my mind off my grief for a while. I can’t think about sad things at the same time I’m writing to someone with gratitude for their kindness.

Do you write or receive thank-you notes? How does it make you feel? Share in the comments!