A reader wonders, “Is it too late to send a condolence note six months after a death?” I’m not aware of a statute of limitations when it comes to condolence notes, but how late is too late? Is it appropriate to send a note six months or even one year after a death?

Your first consideration should be the bereaved. How might they feel when they receive your belated note? Will they be comforted that someone remembers them and their loved one? Will they feel better knowing that they haven’t been forgotten? Or is your note, twelve months later, just too late?

I would treat each case individually. Have you known about the death for many months and procrastinated? Or, did you just learn of a death, for example a high school or college friend, and wish to contact the parents or sibling(s)? Evaluate each case on its own merit. You might ask yourself, “What is it I want to say and what makes me want to reach out?”

The following example is a condolence note you might write for a former classmate that died seven months ago:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Hiller,

Please accept my apology for this delayed note, but I just learned of Paul’s death. I was unaware he was ill and I’m terribly saddened to hear of his untimely death. You both have my deepest sympathy.

Paul was an extraordinarily special person who touched many lives. I was so lucky to have him as a roommate freshman year and he made my transition to college so much easier. We supported each other through so many challenges and I’ll always be grateful for the integral part Paul played in my life.

Despite living on opposite coasts, Paul and I managed to retain our friendship and when we had time to spend together, it was if no time had elapsed between visits. I will miss our conversations and visits, but cherish all my memories.

You were wonderful parents and I always enjoyed your campus visits. You and Paul made a difference in my life and I will continue to keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

Warmest regards,


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 three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as 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 StoreClick here to order.


Image Source: stock.xchng/raley_com

Views: 33835


You need to be a member of LegacyConnect to add comments!

Join LegacyConnect

Comment by Wendy Rockman on September 27, 2013 at 2:14pm

This note is well written. It gave me some ideas on how to word a sympathy letter. They are so hard to write. Thank you for posting this!

Comment by Anita on March 13, 2010 at 11:21am
Personally, I think it depends on whether the person sending the note actually knew about the death at the time. I didn't receive a condolence note from the minister of my church until two months after my father died and I knew he'd only sent it because I told my house group how upset I was at their lack of support. Up till then, he hadn't called, emailed or written to me. This made his note meaningless to me and I was very angry. On the other hand, a lady at church who had just found out about Dad sent me a note a few months after he died and this didn't make me angry because I knew she hadn't been aware of it at the time.

I think the sender needs to be careful if they are sending a late note (especially if they were already aware that the person had died) and the bereaved person is feeling a lot of anger, as the gesture could backfire on them.
Comment by intimeofsorrow on February 10, 2010 at 8:09pm
Thank you for a great example for a letter. Very important.
Comment by Robbie Miller Kaplan on December 27, 2009 at 7:33pm
I received the following comment on this post:

"It's never too late. It's not as if we finish grieving and "forget" that our loved one died -- it's always in our mind and heart.

If you word a late condolence note with something like, "I just wanted you to know that I'm thinking about Robert and remembering him with love, as I know you are..." your words will be very welcome."

Latest Conversations

Aaron Caldwell updated their profile
Nov 6
Aaron Caldwell posted a status
"Hoping to connect with other gay/lesbian members who have recently lost a spouse."
Nov 6
Aaron Caldwell is now a member of LegacyConnect
Nov 6
Heather Williamson is now a member of LegacyConnect
Oct 18

Community Guidelines

Please be respectful of others. For more information, read our Community Guidelines.

Follow Legacy

© 2023   Created by Legacy.com.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service