After a loved one passes you’ll likely receive a fair amount of letters, cards, emails, texts, and social media posts from friends and family expressing their sympathy. These will come in all shapes and sizes, some are short and sweet and others will be more long form recalling past memories and stories. Between all these displays of sympathy flooding in and being flooded with emotions of shock and grief, it’s hard to know what to do.

The first question to answer is, which of, if any, these sympathy notes need a response? The simple answer is that you shouldn’t feel socially obligated to respond to any of these notes. Odds are no one will be offended if you don’t respond to their letters or texts. Most will understand that you’re going through a lot and probably don’t have the time or emotional capacity to answer all these notes.

However, if you do wish to respond to some or all of these, there are a few options. First, most funeral homes will have small thank you notes you can get. These cards can be used for handwritten notes, or you can even print a generic response.

Sometimes it can be therapeutic to respond to these letters, but sometimes it can be overwhelming. It’s okay if you start responding to some, but can’t get through all of them. Remember that no one will be offended if someone else gets a thank you note and they don’t. Don’t feel obligated to finish the entire list just because you started. Do what you can without overwhelming yourself.

Everyone grieves differently, so don’t feel like you need to react the same way your friends or family members do. If others want to respond and you’re not up to it, that’s okay.

Responding to sympathy notes should never be viewed as a burden or something you “have to do.” If you choose to respond, do it in a way that helps you cope with the grief you’re feeling.