Christmas Card Etiquette After a Death in the Family

Bring comfort and peace to those grieving during the holidays.

Updated December 12, 2022
Woman writing a Christmas card to family members

Sending a holiday greeting can be more meaningful than ever after a loss, but it's important to understand Christmas card etiquette after death in a family. Don't stress about saying the wrong thing, though. Ultimately, the most important Christmas card etiquette tip to keep in mind is to be sensitive to the what the family is going through. Showing you care is what really matters, especially at this time of year.

Important Christmas Card Etiquette After Death in Family

If you know a family who is grieving, you should absolutely include them on your holiday Christmas card mailing list. It will be a comfort to know you're thinking of them during the Christmas season.

Although some outdated traditional etiquette rules advise against sending a Christmas card to a mourning family the first Christmas after the death of their loved one, ignoring a family during a time of loss is considered impolite these days. This tradition of not sending out Christmas cards may be a leftover, one-year mourning tradition that morphed out of the stricter mourning guidelines during the Victorian era. Today, the rules are much more inclusive.

Modern Considerations for Sending Christmas Cards to Grieving Family

Many people feel that ignoring the grieving family during such a family-oriented holiday is impolite in a modern society. The family needs greater support from family and friends during this difficult time when their loss is more pronounced.

If you're sending a holiday photo card of your family or a regular Christmas card with a pre-printed greeting, ensure your message works for a family that has recently experienced a loss. While holiday messages like "merry and bright" or "joyful wishes" may be perfect for most people, it can make more sense to choose a different card for a family going through a personal tragedy.

Send the Grieving Family a Personalized Christmas Card

A kinder gesture than simply ignoring or avoiding the grieving family is a personalized, non-traditional Christmas card. You can find blank folding cards or notes with Christmas motifs to send to a grieving family during Christmas. This type of Christmas card demonstrates you understand the grief the family is feeling and that you're thinking of them. It also allows you to write your own personal message inside.

What to Write in a Christmas Card After Someone's Death

When you write your message to a family suffering from the loss of a loved one during Christmas, you first want to acknowledge their grief. You might also want to give them an uplifting or caring message that reflects the hope and love of the Christmas season. Families suffering from the absence of their loved one during the Christmas season might find this approach to a Christmas card comforting. The simple gesture of your love and care may help bring some peace during the holiday season.

Examples of Christmas Card Messages for a Grieving Family

Knowing what to write can feel a bit overwhelming, but you can't go wrong if you show empathy. These are some examples of what to include in a Christmas card to a grieving family:

  • Our love and thoughts are with you during the Christmas season and the promise of hope it brings.
  • Wishing you peace and comfort during this holiday season and always.
  • Thinking of you during this first Christmas since ____'s passing and reflecting with gratitude on all he/she/they brought to my life and many others.
  • May God bless your family during this Christmas season. With much love and prayers for peace and comfort.
  • May the promise of Christmas fill your hearts with comfort and peace.
  • This holiday, I'm thinking about what a gift it was to know ____ and what joy she/he/they brought to the world. Sending you love and peace.
  • Christmas marks the Holy birth of hope and the promise of life everlasting. God bless your family and grant you peace and comfort during this Christmas season.
  • The holidays are a time for reflection on the year, and I know this has been a challenging one. Sending you wishes for peace.
  • Wishing you the comfort of good memories and the support of good friends this holiday season and always.
  • Sending our love to your family. We wish you the comfort of the Christmas blessing of hope and faith.
  • May this Christmas bring you comfort and love. We're thinking of you.
  • Hoping you have comfort from our shared memories of past Christmases.
  • Thinking of you during this Christmas season and sending you lots of love.
  • May you have a peaceful Christmas and know I'm thinking of you.
  • Wishing your family peace and comfort during this holiday season.
  • Wanted you to know that our family is thinking of your family during this holiday season.
  • Your family has many friends who are thinking of you during this holiday season.
  • Our family sends love to your family during this Christmas season.
Writing a Christmas Card

Etiquette Tips to Keep in Mind When Choosing a Message

Sending a holiday message to a mourning family does require a few extra considerations. Mostly, you just want to put yourself in the shoes of the family getting the card. Taking their perspective can help make sure your message is one that really brings comfort. Keep these tips in mind as you reach out during this important time:

  • Avoid religious messages unless you share the family's religion.
  • Express sympathy if it feels right, but avoid saying, "I know how you feel."
  • Take a quick look at the card and message to make sure it fits the family's situation and isn't insensitive to their loss.
  • Instead of platitudes like "time heals all wounds," send your wishes for peace or comfort.

Should a Family in Mourning Send Christmas Cards?

The decision to send or not send Christmas cards can be a family discussion. If your family is like most families, one person is typically responsible for sending out the cards and may be the decision maker.

The Decision Is Up to You

There are no hard and fast etiquette rules about sending out Christmas cards the first Christmas after you've suffered a loss. Anyone you send a Christmas card most likely knows of your loss. If you decide not to send cards, they will understand. However, many families find it comforting and reassuring to continue their Christmas card sending tradition.

Family Portrait Christmas Cards

If your family traditionally sends family portrait/photo styled Christmas cards, you may decide to go with a more traditional card this year. Some families may decide to continue the family portrait. This is another personal decision based on what you wish to do. There's no right or wrong.

Choosing a Message for Your Family Christmas Card

The message you choose for your Christmas card can be one of faith and hope, an honest expression of the grief you're experiencing, a statement of gratitude for support you've received, or anything else that feels right to you. There are no rules here.

If you're not sure what to say, get inspired with these examples of family messages for Christmas cards:

  • It's been a challenging year, and we're so grateful for our friends and family during this time. Sending you love during the holidays.
  • Christmas is a time filled with tradition, and it's going to be a different sort of holiday for us this year. Thank you for all the love and support.
  • This year, more than ever, we're feeling grateful for the meaning behind this holiday. Wishing your family the peace and love of the Christmas miracle.
  • May God bless your family during the Christmas season.
  • Thinking with gratitude about the many Christmases we got to share together. We're missing ____ deeply, but the memories are such a comfort.
  • This year has been one of unimaginable loss but also unimaginable gratitude and love. Thank you for being there for us. Have a peaceful holiday.
  • Your support means more to us than we can say. Wishing you a holiday season filled with love.
  • Our family sends heartfelt wishes to your family for a cherished Christmas season.

Deciding on Proper Christmas Card Etiquette After a Family Death

Grief changes everything, including Christmas card etiquette for a family suffering from the loss of a loved one. How you respond depends on the family and how well you know them, but you can't go wrong expressing empathy and wishing them peace. Ultimately, what matters most is that you remember those experiencing loss during this important time of year.

Christmas Card Etiquette After a Death in the Family