When a friend or loved one is grieving, it can be difficult to come up with the appropriate response. Sympathy gifts, cards—it's hard to find a way to show your support during this difficult time.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Comforting Sympathy Gifts That Aren’t Flowers
- Memorial Sympathy Gifts That Aren’t Flowers
- Kid-Friendly Sympathy Gifts That Aren’t Flowers
- Practical Sympathy Gifts That Aren’t Flowers
- Gift Ideas to Send to a Funeral Home
- Personal Gift Ideas for Someone Who Lost a Loved One
- “Get Well” Sympathy Gift Ideas
It's also hard to find something that doesn't feel like a cliche. Cliches can sometimes diminish the expression of your thoughts. Sending funeral flowers is a tried-and-true classic, but what if your friend doesn’t like flowers?
If you’re trying to come up with unique ideas that aren’t flowers, here’s what you need to know.
Comforting Sympathy Gifts That Aren’t Flowers
First, after a loss, one of your biggest goals is to help your loved one find comfort. Navigating these next steps is never easy. While flowers are a kind gesture, they don’t always offer the same comfort as more thoughtful, intentional gifts would. These ideas below are particularly comforting, wrapping your recipient in a warm hug.
A weighted blanket is one of the most popular comfort items today, and these are easy to find. The weighted feel of these blankets reduces anxiety and soothes feelings of loneliness. They’re the perfect way to send your recipient a virtual hug.
In many cultures across the globe, candles are used as a form of remembrance. When you light a candle, you have a visual symbol of someone’s life and love. Though temporary, the warmth lingers on. A personalized, thoughtful candle is its own reminder that you’re not alone.
Is there anything more relaxing and comforting than fluffy slippers? Though simple, these small acts of kindness might be the right comforting sympathy gift. Perfect for cozying up on the couch, every small gesture helps someone feel less alone.
Bible or prayer book
For those who hold their faith close, a Bible or prayer book can be a great source of comfort. While you should only get a religious gift if you know the recipient will receive it well, this is a thoughtful choice. Many prayer books focus on devotionals to guide believers through grief.
Though not the right fit for everyone, a meditation app like Headspace can help some find peace after a loss. Having a way to unwind and focus on the present in a time of crisis makes all the difference. Ultimately, your goal is to ease the burden of loss as much as you can.
For someone who loves to get out their feelings through movement, a fitness class can be a special way to help them feel better. Taking care of your body and mind after a loss is important, but it’s not always easy. Join your loved one for a low-impact fitness class to keep them grounded in the present.
Lastly, a journal is a way to give your recipient freedom to express whatever it is they feel inside. It’s not always easy to come to terms with one’s grief, especially if you don’t have a safe space to let it out. A grief journal can be used for journaling, creative writing, or even letter writing.
Memorial Sympathy Gifts That Aren’t Flowers
Similarly, sometimes sympathy gifts are a way to memorialize a loved one. Though they’re gone from this world, their spirit lives on forever. The right memorial gift is a reminder of his or her legacy. Whenever your recipient sees your memorial sympathy gift below, they’ll be flooded with happy memories and compassion.
For many, the outdoors and nature is a place to feel the presence of loved ones. Having a special garden plaque or stone in honor of someone’s memory can bring their legacy to life in a private space. This doesn’t have to be anything large. Even the smallest stones can last a lifetime.
Similarly, the wind is a reminder that even though we can’t see our loved ones, we still feel their presence with us every day. A wind chime gently blows in the breeze, and the sound can be a source of comfort. Every time your recipient hears the wind chime’s pleasant tone, they’ll think of you and their loved one.
Each month has its own birthstone, a way to honor the month we came into the world. A birthstone makes a great memorial gift, and it’s also got its own meaning. Not only can this be used in a gorgeous memorial jewelry design, but it can also be held on its own as a healing crystal.
Video or slideshow
If you have more time, you can put together a video or slideshow. This type of digital gift is something your loved one can continue for years to come. It’s easy to upload a video or memorial slideshow to an online memorial page, and you can share it on social media.
Alternatively, you can create a video recording special memories or kind sympathy messages. This is a memorial your recipient isn’t likely to forget any time soon. Though simple, video is a powerful tool for communicating what someone means to you.
Did you know custom memorial paintings are rising in popularity? It’s true, and paintings are a uni way to share a special memory. Whether you create the painting yourself or recruit a professional, they’ll think of this happy memory every time they look at it. Bring someone’s legacy to life through art.
Kid-Friendly Sympathy Gifts That Aren’t Flowers
When gifting to a child, you have to be mindful of his or her unique needs. Children often have complicated relationships with loss, and they might need additional support to make sense of these changes. These kid-friendly sympathy gifts mean more than flowers, and they also leave a lasting imprint.
To begin, naming a star is a beautiful tribute to someone’s life. Though you can’t really name a star, you can add a personalized name to the International Star Registry. For children, this is a special way to remember that their loved one is always looking over them.
Next, a memorial bear is a special teddy bear created in honor of a loved one. These are often made with pieces of a loved one’s clothing stitched in, making them a warm way to hold someone close. Bears are a form of security and compassion, so they make great gifts for children experiencing grief.
Similarly, it’s not always easy to explain the concept of grief to children. This is especially true for younger kids. A book about grief for kids is designed to break down these topics for smaller listeners, making sense of life’s changes.
A keepsake box is a place to safely store treasures. For children, this might mean a place for trinkets, photos, tickets, and crafts. After a loss, give children somewhere to keep their special things safe in honor of their loved one.
Memorial blanket or quilt
Finally, a memorial blanket or quilt honors your recipient’s memories with a special blanket they can hold onto. Created with T-shirts, sweaters, or mementos, a blanket is a patchwork of legacies. Throughout their life, this memory blanket or quilt keeps them company.
Practical Sympathy Gifts That Aren’t Flowers
Additionally, it’s worthwhile to send practical gifts that go beyond flowers. As we said above, flowers can be a beautiful way to show support. That being said, they are short-lived. The right sympathy gift is something that comes from the heart. One of these practical sympathy gifts below might be the perfect fit for your recipient.
While you can always bring someone a meal, it’s also possible to arrange a meal delivery service. These are offered locally or through platforms like Uber Eats. Alternatively, services like Freshly make it possible to receive fridge-ready meals at your door.
Pre-printed acknowledgment cards
Though not usually thought of, a set of pre-printed acknowledgment “thank you” cards really comes in handy. After a funeral service, your recipient wants to say thanks to those who sent flowers, gifts, and other forms of kindness. By creating pre-printed cards, you take one task away from their to-do list in their time of need.
Child or pet care
If your loved one has small children or pets, they might need someone to watch over them for a short while. Arranging a funeral or other last-minute plans takes time and attention. Offering caregiving services free of charge truly makes a difference.
Did you know criminals and thieves often use obituaries to find homes that aren’t likely to be watched closely? Offering to watch your loved one’s home while they’re out of town for a service or emergency travel is a way to keep their things safe.
While you might think of bringing groceries and must-haves, what about household goods? Things like toiletries, soap, toilet paper, and paper towels are important after a loss. Though they’re necessary, the grieving family doesn’t usually have time to run out to the store for these things themselves.
A good idea is to bring a handful of paper products for quick and easy cleanup in the first few weeks after a loss. The last thing anyone should have to worry about is dishes, cleaning, and chores. The easier you make things for your recipient, the better it is for them in their time of need.
Food storage containers
After a loss, people usually receive a lot of food. While this is a kind gesture, most people run out of containers for food storage. A set of nice, new food storage containers that you don’t expect to receive back is a way to show you’re thinking of someone. This is one of the many practicalities most don’t usually think of.
Similarly, your loved one is also going through a lot of legal documents and paperwork in a time of crisis. After a loss, this can be especially overwhelming. File organizers and bins simplify this process, making it less stressful for everyone involved. Even after the loss, it’s important to have your documents organized within your home or office.
Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of cash. If someone needs help financing arrangements or emergency care, cash helps. Though you shouldn’t give cash without asking first, sometimes it truly is the best way to help. Again, always consider your relationship with the deceased or if there’s a better way to put your money forward.
Gift ideas can range from handwritten letters to edible arrangements. Here are some great ideas if you don’t want to send flowers to a funeral.
A photo album is a touching keepsake. You might have photos of the deceased person that the family doesn’t. If you have mutual friends with the deceased, consider reaching out to them for photos as well.
You can offer copies of these photos or compile them into a book. You can also pick a special frame and give them the gift of an important photo.
If you create a photo album, you can send it to the funeral home. Call ahead and confirm they’re accepting gifts other than flowers. Then, mail or deliver it to the funeral home. If it’s an envelope full of photos, it is better to deliver it to the family yourself.
We recommend you use something like this large self-adhesive photo album that comes with a matching pen and room for messages.
Write a letter
A book full of letters is a unique way to preserve the deceased’s legacy. Have friends and family members write letters about the deceased or offer condolences and compile them. Then, place them in a book to give to the person closest to them. Whether it’s a funny story or a snapshot of a special relationship, this helps save memories.
If these letters are handwritten or printed, you have two choices. You can put them in a three-ring binder, like this pretty leatherbound binder.
Or, you can pay to have it bound and printed. Many print shops offer this service. And they can help you create a book that looks beautiful and is meaningful.
Name a star
Bring this up with your loved one before purchasing this unique gift. There are a few organizations that reserve and name stars. You can find them online, and they provide a star certificate.
The named star is also recorded in a registry book for posterity. You can give this to family members as a keepsake. As a memorial, it is a beautiful option.
You can read our full guide on how to name a star after someone for more.
Create a personalized guestbook
People are familiar with signing their names when they attend a service, but you can create a personalized version. People can leave a message for the bereaved family, along with their signature. You'll need a large blank guestbook, like this funeral guest book that has room for visitor registration and lines for condolences.
If coming up with messages is hard, try another angle. It’s hard to know how to offer condolences, but sharing memories is a great way. Bring a guest book that has plenty of space.
And include a card with instructions to let people know they can write longer messages. People can personalize their notes without worrying about space. And the family of the bereaved will get special memories of their loved one.
Offer your time
It takes a major load off a grieving friend's shoulders. Whether you can write thank-you cards (make sure to order a pack of funeral thank you cards with evenlopes), or make calls for funeral arrangements, it all helps. It also reduces the emotional burden of those affected the most.
When offering help, it's best to be specific. Giving a vague offer of help may not be useful. Saying something like “call me if you need anything” puts the responsibility on them. Coming up with specific offers makes all the difference.
Personal gifts of condolence are an important way to show that you care. Choosing a personalized gift takes time, but it’s worth it!
Memorial or sympathy jewelry
If your loved one has their deceased loved one'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.
If you want something more solid and tangible, check out companies like Parting Stone that create beautiful, handheld cremation stones that help keep loved ones close to you.
Make a meal
While grieving, your friend or loved one may not have the energy to focus on food. Making a home-cooked meal, much less eating, might be the last thing on their mind. Making food is a great way to care for your friend.
Something that freezes easily, like lasagna, can be defrosted when needed. Don’t overlook practical gifts. They can go a long way toward easing the concerns of day-to-day life.
If you’re not able to cook a big meal, something smaller also works! Picking up their favorite treat or a sympathy gift basket with fancy meats and cheese and writing a condolence note could mean the world to them. Whether you go grocery shopping or drop by the bakery, it's a sweet idea.
Donate to a charity in their name
Charitable donations have a unique place in post-funeral gifts. Today, when so many people are dying of diseases with no cure, donations are a great idea. Donations are versatile and can both honor a loved one and serve a practical purpose. You could donate to a foundation dedicated to finding a cure for cancer, for instance.
If a gift to a research institution or foundation isn’t quite right consider other charitable options. Try finding something that will honor the deceased. What were they passionate about? Did they already give to a charity? Find out what charities they supported to help you decide where your donation should go.
You can read our full guide on how to donate in someone's name for more.
Give them a potted plant
Potted plants are a great alternative to flowers. They need less care and typically last longer. Throwing away wilted flowers could be sadder than the service for a grieving person. Giving them a gift that won’t wilt or die is a considerate gift option.
Try sending them one of these hardy plants from Amazon:
If you’re used to writing a sympathy note for flowers, include one with your potted plant.
Plant them a tree
In the same vein, a tree could be an appropriate sympathy gift. Planting a tree in memory of someone who has died is a powerful gesture. It contributes to the environment and creates a living memorial.
You can bring up the idea with your friend or loved one to see if they like the idea. If they do, picking out a tree and planting it together can be a form of closure.
If the person who died had a favorite type of tree or loved a particular spot, take that into consideration. You'll also need to choose if you want to plant a larger tree or a sapling. Personalizing this type of living memorial is an empathetic way to show how much you care.
Let them focus on self-care
Many people can lose track of their own physical and mental health during times of grief. Remind them with gifts that focus on self-care. You can encourage this by offering gifts that help with self-care.
Think about things your friend loves. Maybe they enjoy going to the movies, or spending a relaxing night in with a bath bomb and some scented lotion.
No matter what they love doing, consider putting together a care package for them or sending them a self-care subscription box. This can help them take care of themselves and focus on something other than their grief.
Recovering physically, mentally, and emotionally--is a challenging process. Here are some ideas to help ease that process for a bereaved friend or loved one.
Gift them something comfy
A physical gesture of comfort may be exactly the right thing to give. A “childish” gesture such as providing a cozy weighted blanket or a stuffed animal is both cute and comforting. These objects provide a tactile source of comfort.
Give them your time
Giving your time is often the most valuable gift. A grieving person may feel overwhelmed by the tasks of everyday life. Helping them by volunteering your time for whatever they need can be a lifesaver.
They might have children, and you could pick them up from school a few afternoons per week. Even simpler tasks, like helping with laundry or offering to clean someone’s home, can take a load off their mind.
Offer money, if needed
Taking time to work through the recovery process is difficult. In today’s hectic world, it can seem impossible to take the time that you need. Financial reality soon sets in. Losing a spouse can mean household income is reduced by half. Add the often exorbitant cost of funeral expenses, and they may be in debt.
Offering money can be difficult because it’s not a subject often discussed. But this gift can relieve a lot of stress. Sending a check through the mail or enclosing it in a card, or sending them an eGift card helps relieve their financial burdens.
Donate days off
Another idea is making sure that your friend or loved one has the time they need to recover. If they were your coworker consider donating some of your leave to them. You can look into the process of donating leave and see if it’s an option that your company allows.
Having a few extra days to grieve before returning to work could help immensely. Your colleague will be very grateful for such a thoughtful gift.
What Makes the Perfect Sympathy Gift?
Thinking of the perfect gift for a bereaved friend or family member is challenging. Start by taking their tastes and religious views into account. For instance, bringing a Jewish friend a pork casserole is offensive, not empathetic.
Also, consider what would mean the most in their circumstances. Do they have only a few photos or mementos of the deceased? Are they in financial straits? Take these factors into account to help you decide on a gift.
Coming up with unique ideas that won't go in the trash takes thought. But don't stress over perfection. Especially during difficult times, perfection doesn't matter. Thought and empathy go a long way toward the gift you give.