10 Sympathy Gift Ideas for Someone Who Lost a Husband

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Losing a husband is difficult. Regardless of the circumstances, your family member, friend, or coworker likely lost one of their biggest supporters. There are plenty of ideas if you’re looking for a sympathy gift to express your good wishes or condolences

Jump ahead to these sections: 

The nature of your relationship with each of these people is likely different, as are the gift suggestions. You are the best judge of the right approach in each situation. Big and expensive gestures aren’t always the answer — your thoughtfulness is what counts. 

Ideas for a Family Member

You may have a hard time processing the death if one of your family members lost a husband. Giving a gift that you and your family member can cherish together can go a long way in the healing process. Making more time for a family member — regardless of a gift — will likely mean more to them in the long run.  

Plant a tree

Planting a tree in honor of your family member’s husband is a great way to give that person something physical to see. Help your family member care for the tree so that it thrives, or choose one that’s easy to maintain in your family member’s climate. 

Plant the tree in an area that makes sense or that’s special to the decedent and your family member. If your family member’s husband loved a particular park, for example, plant one there. 

It’s likely that you can organize some sort of donation and include a small plaque by the tree. If he loved to grill in the backyard, plant a tree there. Consider adding a stool or a bench so your family member can spend time at this spot. 

You can read our picks for the best memorial trees, but our favorites are Moutnain Laurel Evergreen trees and the Pacific Dogwood.

Memorial or sympathy jewelry

If your loved one has their husband's lock of hair or cremated remains, you can send them in to be turned into a memorial diamond. After a consultation and a few months of waiting for the diamond to grow, you'll have a custom diamond that you can get set on a ring, necklace, or other jewelry.

Some companies, like Eterneva, create lab-grown diamonds and allow you to pick from several cuts and colors for your gemstone. 

Create a keepsake

There are plenty of easy-to-personalize keepsakes to honor a loved one. You can have a blanket made with old T-shirts, customize a picture frame, commission a painting, a piece of art, or a garden stone, or fund a bench with a plaque.

You can also buy a sterling silver chain so that your family member can wear their husband’s wedding ring. 

Plan meals

Does your family member love home cooking but has a hard time making it to the grocery store?

Pay for a meal kit or cooking subscription. Many sites ship all the fresh ingredients needed. This will save your family member a lot of time and hassle. 

If that is too specific, try getting them a gift card to a grocery store like Whole Foods or Safeway.

Hire a housekeeper

It’s hard to find motivation to clean your house on a good day — much less in the wake of someone’s death. Consult a trusted cleaning service — ask friends, coworkers, and neighbors, and you’ll likely find someone who can help you out.

Have the cleaner visit your family member’s home as often as you see fit. You can even schedule a deep cleaning once a month. 

Your family member will be able to unwind much more in a clean, clutter-free house. Can’t afford a professional cleaner? Offer to help your family member yourself.  

Keep a tradition alive

Perhaps the decedent loved watching a certain sports team, grilling on Saturdays, or spending time outdoors. Offer to be there for your family member to keep a certain tradition alive or create a new one. 

Let’s say the decedent loved boating and you don’t own a boat yourself. Take your family member to the beach or to a waterfront restaurant — it’s about enjoying an activity together in honor of your loved one. 

Ideas for a Close Friend

You may have difficulty stringing together the right things to say if one of your close friends lost a husband. Don’t take it personally if your friend has a hard time reaching out to you or is reluctant to spend time with you. 

Everyone processes grief differently. The best thing you can do is make it clear that you’re available. Plan to tag along with your friend or you can simply show you care by doing the planning (and paying) for them.  

Organize a small getaway 

Does your friend talks about a favorite spot — near a coast, mountains, or a natural park? Invite your friend to take a day trip or even a short weekend trip with you. If your friend isn’t much of a nature person, offer to bring them to a nearby city for shopping or a museum trip. 

If trips aren't in the cards for awhile, purchase them a gift card to a service like Airbnb or Hotels.com. Throw in The Travel Book by Lonely Planet to get them inspired!

Book a spa day

Self-care is difficult for people who are going through hard experiences. It may be impossible to find motivation to do even the simplest things when you’re preoccupied with loss. A bit of pampering and professional attention will make your friend feel much better. 

You can plan a spa day for your friend — a massage, facial, manicure and pedicure, and haircut — or you can give your friend a gift card to use at a later date. Some salons will even make house calls. Offer to tag along so your friend relaxes and can enjoy your company. 

If a salon trip is too pricey or not in the cards, buy your friend a spa gift basket with lotions, oils, and essential oils so they can relax at home.

Make reservations

Tell your friend you’re bringing them to a nice meal at a favorite restaurant. Sharing a meal with good company is one of the most simple but celebrated human experiences. 

Consider requesting a more private table or making reservations when it’s less busy. Give your friend the opportunity to express feelings, too. Organize a big takeout spread instead if your friend isn’t ready or won’t appreciate an outing.

COVID-19 tip: If restaurants aren't open quite yet, buy them a gift card to a delivery service like Uber Eats or DoorDash.

Make a meal

Some people don’t find cooking therapeutic or relaxing. If this sounds like your friend, not a lot of cooking is probably happening while coping with loss. 

Create a homemade meal for your friend to show you’re there for them. Or you can offer to prepare it together in either of your homes. Be sure to grab the ingredients beforehand rather than making your friend schlep to the store with you. 

Create a film festival

Streaming has changed the way we watch and rent movies and there’s a good chance your friend has access to the same movies you do. This is where your creativity can come into play. Spend the day with your friend and curate a list of your favorite movies. 

Crying or laughing along with a movie is a good way to experience emotions without having to really dive into feelings your friend isn’t ready to address.  

If you don't have a streaming pass, gift them a subscription to popular services like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.

Ideas for a Coworker or Employee

You may wonder what’s appropriate for coworkers or employees who have lost a husband. You want to comfort your coworker or employee and remain sensitive to their feelings. You may have a hard time figuring out what’s right in this situation, especially if you don’t know your colleague or employee very well. 

This is a good opportunity to ask around the office and pool your ideas and resources. Make sure you do so in a way that respects your officemate’s feelings.

Create a private group chat for the discussion if you are unable to run a meeting discreetly. No matter how well your widowed coworker or employee seems to be handling the situation, they may be having a hard time.

There’s a good chance your office mate is showing up to work to be productive and get back on a schedule, not to dwell on what’s going on. Keep your gift positive and light.

Keep it simple with flowers or a plant

There’s nothing wrong with the gift of a classic bouquet or desk plant, like this pack of succulents. It can keep your coworker company, especially if you choose one that's easy to maintain and lives longer. Good examples are rubber plants or snake plants. 

If your coworker is new to plant parenting, plan a watering and care schedule and come together as a group. This will keep the plant healthy and thriving. Be sure to include a sympathy note with the arrangement.

Cater breakfast or lunch 

An easy way to welcome a widowed coworker or employee back to the office is with a meal catered by their favorite restaurant.

It’s an easy and relatively inexpensive way to bring everyone together. Want to make it extra special? Order a basket of muffins or baked goods and a coffee and tea gift basket and send it straight to the office.

Plan an office outing

Plan a day or even a half-day where your office does something fun as a group. It can take the pressure off of your widowed coworker or employee.

Make sure it’s an activity that they will enjoy, such as a hike, a trip to a zoo or aquarium, ice skating, bowling, a painting class, or even a good meal as a group.

Send a gift basket

There are lots of gift baskets out there with unique and useful items. You can go beyond a traditional basket, such as one with cookies or snacks, and buy one filled with fruit, gourmet coffee, bread baking items, skincare of body care, gardening gear — you name it. 

Even though you’re not creating the basket yourself, there’s plenty of ways to personalize the basket with a note and custom selections.   

Create your own

Create your own basket among your coworkers. Have everyone bring in a small item that your widowed coworker likes. It can be as simple office supplies, snacks, coffee or tea, or a candle.

Include a sympathy card and have your coworkers sign it. The personal touches will be appreciated.

Even Simple Ideas Can Be Beautiful

Didn’t find what you were looking for on our list? No worries — you don’t have to plan or purchase an elaborate gift to comfort your family member, friend, or coworker.

Simply remind them that you’re there for them to talk to if they need you — your time and this small effort are enough. If anything is a common thread with spouses, it’s the idea of support, so make an effort to be there.

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