Sending a Sympathy Card to Just One Family Member?


Our Sympathy Q&A question is by Linda Haines from Silverdale, Washington.  She writes:

My uncle who is remarried, lost his adult son recently to cancer.
I think we should send a sympathy card to my uncle personally, since he is the one who we are so close to and is feeling the grief much more than his wife.
But on the other hand, we don’t want to slight her.
Should we send the card to Mr. & Mrs.? or just Mr.
We looked all over your site for this question, but could not find anything.
Thanks for any help you can give.
L. Haines


Dear Linda,

I am sorry for the loss of your Uncle. I hope you will be encouraged and find many ways to comfort your family here at this site. Now, to answer your question.

You should send your sympathy card addressed to both Mr. and Mrs. If you decide to only send your card addressed to your uncle I am sure most people would not think anything of it so don’t feel bad if you decide to do this.

However, as far a sympathy etiquette goes it is respectful to include as many individuals as may be affected in your greeting. Which means that if there are other family members in the home you would list them as well. If you are unsure you should address the card to the family. For example, The Myers Family and then the inside of the card would list the family i.e. Dear Dale, Chelsea, Anne and Bradley.

Sometimes individuals are hurt or offended at not being included in the sympathy greeting. It’s best to try and avoid this.

I’d imagine in your situation that your Uncle’s new wife is also affected by this loss (not to the same degree of course). It would be nice to include her as well.

I understand that you especially want to comfort and support your uncle. You can also speak specifically to him in part of your letter or send him a special sympathy gift.

I hope this helps and keep in mind that etiquette rules are just a guideline. If you know that your Uncle’s wife wouldn’t mind not having the sympathy card addressed to her than do that. Also, know that many people do only send cards to one individual so it’s not a hard and fast rule.

Best Wishes,