When someone dies we are motivated to do something to both remember the deceased and to communicate our support to the bereaved. One of the most natural things to do following a death is to make a donation in memory of the deceased.

A donation, more lasting than a bouquet of flowers or a fruit basket, provides a tangible reminder to the bereaved that their loved one mattered. A contribution in a loved one’s name gives meaning to their memory as well as helping a cause.

The bereaved often designate preferred charitable organizations in a death announcement. If there is no designation, you are free to choose organizations that you feel would matter to the deceased or the bereaved.

When making your donation specify who the donation is in memory of and provide an address for the bereaved so they will receive notification of your donation; the bereaved are usually very gratified to receive these notifications.

In the weeks following a death, during the period of mourning, the bereaved often find it therapeutic to write sympathy thank you notes for the donations and also for letters too. Many funeral homes provide a box of sympathy thank you notes exactly for this purpose. If you are not provided the notes, note cards or thank you notes will suffice.

So what do you say? Thank the giver for their donation in your loved one’s name. Share how it feels to have your loved one remembered in this way. If this is all you are up to, close with sincerely and sign your name. If you feel up to corresponding, you may make reference to the relationship the giver had with your loved one or family and how much their support means. It’s really up to you how you’re feeling and how you view the task of writing the notes.

Some bereaved just can’t summon the energy to write the notes. That’s where friends come in. Remember the solicitations you received of “Call me if you need anything.” Now you need something. There is nothing wrong in asking a friend to acknowledge the donations that you are unable to do. Draft a simple script, such as: “The Smith family acknowledges your kind and generous donation in memory of Andy Smith. It is very comforting that Andy is remembered in this way. The Smith family asked me to thank you for your caring support.” They can sign the note sincerely with their name.

It is good manners to acknowledge donations made in honor of the deceased. And it makes good sense to get some help if the bereaved are not up to the task.


Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in e-book and print for "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage" and e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store. Click here to order.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons / Sarah Parrott

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