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12 Thoughtful Memorial Gift Ideas for a Loved One

This is part of Cake's collection of Condolences articles. Create a Cake profile for free to discover, document, and share your end-of-life wishes.


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It’s easy to make a list of the standard gifts you can give when someone dies. In fact, let’s make one now: 

  • You can send flowers to a funeral (but make sure to include a thoughtful handwritten sympathy note for flowers). 
  • You can make a donation in the name of the deceased to a charity or other organization that meant a great deal to the deceased. 
  • You can drop off a casserole or offer to do some household chores. 
  • What about attending the memorial service? That’s another great way to show you care about the deceased’s friends and loved ones. 

Let’s say you do all this and still feel like you don’t know how to offer condolences in a meaningful way. You may want to give your friend or loved one a personalized memorial gift. Where should you start? Read some of the suggested ideas for inspiration on giving a thoughtful gift.

Jump ahead to these sections:

Personalized Memorial Gift Ideas

A personalized memorial gift is a great way to show you’re thinking about the bereaved in their time of need. The perfect gift will demonstrate to your friend or loved one that you really wanted to go above and beyond to offer them comfort in a time of great need. Here are a few ideas.

Personalized handwriting necklace

Sending someone a handwritten note or card is one of the most time-honored ways of showing you care. Many people will save cards and letters from loved ones as keepsakes.

An artist can scan handwriting samples and etch a perfect replica of the deceased’s handwriting onto a simple metal bar on a necklace. A gift like this can allow the bereaved to carry a loved one’s handwriting close to their heart. 

Memorial tribute wind chime

Many people take comfort in the thought that those we love never really leave them and are still there, guiding them through life. A wind chime gift set with an inspirational quote and the name of the deceased etched onto it is a lovely gesture for the right person. Every time the wind blows, family members or friends will be reminded of their loved ones. 

Personalized compass

A compass engraved with the name of the deceased is a practical gift for anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors. But even someone who doesn’t tend to venture off of paved roads will appreciate the lovely metaphor behind this thoughtful keepsake memorial gift — after all, a compass will always help you find your way.  

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Memorial Gift Ideas for Loss of a Mother or Father

It’s deeply ironic that the loss of a parent is some of the worst pain you’ll ever experience — yet it’s one of the few times your parent can’t be there to help you through it. Friends who deal with the loss of their parents need extra care and love.

Handwritten recipe dishware

Recipes have never been easier to access, thanks to food blogs and digitized recipe archives. But for people of a certain age, no pie tastes quite as good as the one baked alongside your mother from a faded, handwritten recipe card.

You can actually use modern technology to preserve this tradition. Find a service that can scan the handwritten recipe cards and then have them printed onto dishware — for instance, you might want to have a recipe printed on a ceramic pie plate. This is a special way to preserve a family tradition.  

Digital photo frame

One of the hardest parts of losing a parent is how memories begin to fade. It’s easy to forget the little things, like the sound of your mother’s voice or the scent of your father’s cologne. It’s not really possible to recreate these very tactile memories, but you can keep memories more firmly present with a digital photo frame.

Scan precious photos of family vacations and holidays and have them cycle through a digital photo frame so you keep these details fresh for those who grieve. 

Memorial ornaments

The holiday season can be an especially difficult time for people as they mourn the loss of a parent. It’s hard to feel cheerful when you’re grieving and know that this holiday season won’t be the same as seasons past.

One way to help people who lose their parent or parents close to the holidays is to order a custom Christmas ornament as a memorial gift. This gift will enable a grieving child to incorporate their parent into the holiday as part of a special tribute.     

Memorial Gift Ideas for Loss of a Spouse or Partner

It’s important to step up and help people in very practical ways as they deal with the loss of their spouse, who was likely a source of love and a pillar of the family.

You could offer childcare, prepare meals and shuttle kids from place to place, help your friend go through their spouse’s belongings, or hire a housekeeper to help them out every week or so. But a thoughtful memorial gift can also convey the message that they are loved and not alone.  

Book of letters

When someone's spouse dies, they suddenly become the only responsible adult figure who runs a household. They still have to work, pay bills, cook, and make sure homework gets done. Ease the ache and stress a bit — pull together a book of letters written by friends, family, and other members of the couple’s social circle.

These letters may recollect fond memories or even share a story that the person who’s grieving may not have heard before. Get them professionally bound as a special touch.   

Memorial jewelry

It’s very easy to feel alone after losing a spouse. Why not give a bereaved friend a memorial piece of jewelry? This could be a necklace with a pendant in the shape of an infinity symbol to symbolize that the love they shared was eternal.

You could also give your friend a beaded bracelet that spells out the words “Until We Meet Again” or something similarly poetic. A memorial gift like this with a handwritten card is a sweet gesture. 

Memorial tree

Many municipalities offer people the opportunity to plant a tree in a loved one’s honor. Planting a tree like this in someplace special, like a city park or a local botanical garden, can be truly healing.

Your friend can visit his or her partner’s tree and see how it grows and flourishes over time. Planting the tree in a public place ensures that the deceased’s family will always be able to enjoy it, rather than planting it in a backyard and then moving someday.

Memorial Gift Ideas for Loss of a Friend 

Friends can be just as close as your own family. In many ways, friends are your chosen family. A memorial gift can help a friend cope with the loss of a treasured friend or loved one. 

Spa gift basket

A friend or loved one might not take the time to indulge in self-care like they did before they started grieving. A small, hand-assembled basket of spa goodies can help encourage your friend to take time to relax.

A bubble bath with chamomile is soothing and relaxing, and it pairs well with a lavender-scented aromatherapy candle. Add a few sweet treats too, like dark chocolate, to offer a mood boost. It’s important that even in the depths of grief, it’s important to savor small moments of joy.   

Keepsake box

It may be easy for your friend or loved one to hide away everything that reminds them of a deceased loved one, because every time you see a framed photo or concert ticket stubs, it’s like a fresh wave of grief.

A decorative keepsake box is a great way to help your friend or loved one compartmentalize. It can consolidate the parts and pieces of the relationship with a late friend or deceased relative until they feel ready to revisit it again.

Worry dolls

In Guatemalan culture, worry dolls are a traditional gift for introspective and sorrowful children. These tiny dolls are typically made from bits of twisted wire and scraps of colorful textiles. Children tell their fears and troubles to the dolls and hide them under their pillow at night, and overnight their problems will be taken away or lessened.

Worry dolls are now a popular gift for tourists, there is something very cathartic about having a tangible figure to give your troubles to. Over time, your friend may rely on them less and less as their healing progresses. It’s a thoughtful and practical memorial gift with a lot of meaning. 

Get a Memorial Gift

There are few things that are as personalized and appreciated as memorial gifts for a friend or loved one who has experienced a death. Are there other memorial gifts you can think of that would be appropriate?

You may know your friend or loved one’s personality, hobbies, and personality better than anyone. They will likely be touched that you’ve gone the extra mile to get just the right gift.