Guidelines and tips for writing to organ donor families

Many times recipients want to write to their donor’s family to offer sympathy and learn more about their donor. Often, donor families and recipients have found that communicating with one another can be healing. Lifeline of Ohio is here to support you in any way we can. A thank you note or card from a recipient can bring great comfort to a grieving donor family. Your words can reassure them that their loved one’s gift has made a difference.

“To a recipient I would say—don’t worry about finding the right words. The only wrong thing that you could say is nothing. Our grief is real, no words you can write will make it worse—they can only make it better. Speak from your heart. We only wish to know that you are better, that your life has improved, and that you are doing things you couldn’t do before. Those are the words that give us comfort.”

— A Donor Mother

Some ideas on what you can include in a letter

About Yourself
  • Only share your first name (do not include your last name, city, home address, phone number or transplant center)
  • Your job, hobbies and interests
  • Your family (spouse, children, grandchildren)
  • Since the religion of the donor’s family is unknown, please consider this when making religious comments
About Your Transplant Experience
  • Identify what type of transplant you received
  • How the transplant has improved or changed your life
  • Use simple language when describing your medical condition and transplant
About the Impact on Your Life
  • Activities that you can participate in since your transplant
  • Ways that your health has improved
  • Share about events that you’ve been able to witness (marriages, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.)

Submitting your letter

  • You can send a card, letter or use our online form below.
  • On a separate piece of paper, write your full name, transplant date and the type of organ you received; this allows us to correctly identify the donor family and forward your correspondence. Also include your phone number and address to allow us to send any donor family responses.
  • Send your card or letter to:
    Attn: Bereavement Coordinator
    Lifeline of Ohio
    770 Kinnear Rd.
    Columbus, OH 43212
  • Any information in your correspondence that might breach confidentiality will be redacted.
  • Please communicate in a sensitive manner. Your donor’s family could still be mourning their loss, so we encourage you to acknowledge this loss and be mindful of their experiences when writing.
  • Lifeline of Ohio will not use any of the information you provide here for promotional purposes. Your contact information will only be used by Lifeline of Ohio staff and will not be shared with your donor’s family.

Have questions?

For more information on writing to donor families, please contact Lifeline of Ohio’s Bereavement Coordinators at 1-800-525-5667 or by email at bereavementservices@lifelineofohio.org.