Layne lost her father to cancer in her mid-20s. She hopes to help others navigate their experience with loss.
What to Send for Sympathy When Someone Dies
When my father passed away, we were thankful for all of the beautiful gifts and demonstrations of sympathy people showed us when we were grieving. I know it can be hard to think of gift ideas for someone who is going through such a troubling time, but I can offer some great alternative ideas to flowers.
People who are grieving the loss of a loved one may need the following:
- Nutritious food: They often have a hard time feeding themselves due to exhaustion, sadness, or depression.
- Help with household duties: They may not have the energy to get outside and exercise their dog like they regularly do.
- Items to offer visitors: They may have to host people coming into town to visit—gifting tea and goodies may help them feed visitors.
- Relaxation: Offering to watch their kids or gifting them a certificate to a place for rest and relaxation may help them unwind.
- Self-care: Whether it's a gift certificate to get their hair done, their nails done, their beard groomed—a gift that makes self-care easy is sure to be appreciated.
1. A Home-Cooked Meal
One of the most thoughtful things a family friend did for us when my dad passed was to drop off homemade casserole at our door. She made sure that we would be home and left the casserole in a sealed bag. She didn't insist on coming over (grieving families often get overwhelmed by visitors), but she simply delivered the food and allowed us to maintain our privacy. The casserole fed us for a week at least during a time when we didn't have the energy to cook.
2. A Living Plant
Flowers are indeed beautiful, but living flowers are even more appropriate. We received a beautiful wax-dipped amaryllis bulb. This was a fantastic gift. We were able to plant it in my dad's honor months after his passing when we were ready. Living, potted plants also make for great house decoration and do not require cleanup.
3. A Massage Gift Card or Spa Certificate
This is quite a lush gift but it is MOST kind. Grieving takes a toll on the body in so many ways. Nothing helps to relieve stress more than human touch and massage. We store our emotions and tension in our necks, our jaws, our back, and our abdomen. Gifting a massage certificate is an amazingly kind gesture.
4. A Dog-Walking Subscription
If the grieving household has an active pet like a dog, you can either offer to walk their dog for them or better yet, provide them with a subscription to a dog walking or doggy daycare service. It is hard for people to get out of the house when they grieving, and oftentimes their daily routines change. If they have an active dog, consider researching the best dog-care companies in your area.
5. Memories (They Are Priceless!)
Another great gift that we received (and didn't cost a thing) was written letters and memories. We had friends write to us with their memories of my dad. One even said something along these lines:
"I remember in grade school when your dad stood up for me when I was getting bullied. Although I never got to know him well, I will always remember the kindness he showed me that day."
Whether it's written memories in a card or memories captured in video or photos, providing a family with unique memories of there loved one will be appreciated for a lifetime.
6. Fresh Fruit
It's important for individuals who are grieving to have fresh food. They need all the nutrients they can get while their bodies undergo stress and weakened immunity. Offer them fresh fruits (a shipment of pears) or fresh nuts and berries from the farmers market. It's far more appropriate to be snacking on natural foods than cookies and doughnuts, so offer something alluring, healthy, and maybe even local.
7. Tea and Coffee
A grieving person will often have to host visitors and relatives who have come into town for a wake, funeral, or to say their goodbyes. Extra tea and coffee are especially helpful for families who will be hosting visitors. Consider gifting a nice variety of tea. Look for stimulating, bright flavors or soothing flavors depending on the season.
8. Activities for Children
Maybe the person who is grieving lost a spouse and is also taking care of four children on their own now. Consider gifting a certificate to help keep the kids busy for a day, a week, or a month. Choose activities that are supervised by adults—day camps, gym memberships, learning centers.
How to Help Someone Through Loss
9. Food Box Subscription
Another incredible idea is the option of gifting a food box subscription (one that arrives weekly or monthly or even just once). You could check out BlueApron, SunBasket, or another fresh food provider. Some foods come with simple instructions and can be prepped at home, others come premade.
10. Foods for Hosting
You can also gift novelty foods items. Consider items that will help keep guests entertained while the grieving family is hosting. These are items that keep well and can feed a variety of palletes—delicate cookies, cheese and crackers, biscotti, grapes, etc. You can purchase a gift basket.
Bonus: Soothing Aromatherapy Candle
Aromatherapy helps to encourage calmness and relaxation. The soft glow of a candle, too, can be very soothing and comforting. Consider a candle made of all-natural ingredients because some candles with synthetic scents actually release chemicals into the air. Handmade candles with pure essential oils are a wonderful choice.
Laynie H (author) from Bend, Oregon on November 24, 2018:
Thanks for the feedback Rochelle.
Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on November 24, 2018:
Good suggestions. Words are sometimes had to put together, but a little gift says a lot.