End of Life Planning

6/14/2022 | By Faith Boluwatife

When you hear that a friend has lost a loved one, you naturally desire to help in whatever way you can. When you can’t be with them in person, to console and comfort them, you look for other ways to show your concern. This is where meaningful sympathy gifts can communicate your love and thoughts.

Flowers often come to mind first, this go-to token of love for decades. But sometimes, you want to give something more permanent – something that won’t wilt after a few days, giving the bereaved a reminder of death and another to-do item when it’s ready to be tossed. You want to give something that recalls their deceased loved one for months or years to come.

Choosing sympathy gifts

If the family has asked for memorial gifts, those are a wonderful way to show your concern – and show them you’re listening.

To decide what type of gift to send, evaluate your relationship with the bereaved – close or casual, professional or social. Consider how they will likely respond to your gift. And think about what would be most helpful to them. For instance, a grieving mom with kids may need practical gifts – or even the gift of services such as babysitting, grocery delivery, or meal preparation.

Meaningful Sympathy Gifts

When you’re looking for long-lasting, tangible sympathy gifts, consider these possibilities.

1. Plant a tree.

Giving the bereaved a tree sapling to plant to remember their loved one warms the heart. If they’d like, they can even sprinkle a few of the ashes into the soil to think of their loved one nurturing new life.

Similarly, you can give to organizations that plant memorial trees, including the National Forest Foundation, Arbor Day Foundation, and The Nature Conservancy.

2. Send a living wreath.

Unlike regular funeral wreaths that quickly wilt and die, living wreaths are made of plants that can live indefinitely, with just a little bit of love and care. Some wreaths are made of succulent plants that thrive in most seasons on just a little water and sunlight. They’re beautiful and memorable.

3. Make memorial gifts.

colorful blown glass vase, photo by Kjrstudio, Dreamstime. Meaningful sympathy gifts show love to a grieving friend. These 10 ideas go beyond flowers: memorial trees and jewelry, practical ideas, etc.

Cremated ashes can be used to create beautiful, lasting works of art using tiny portions of a loved one’s cremated remains. Personalized necklaces and rings are some of the most popular choices. These pieces of jewelry will contain bits of the cremated remains so the bereaved can have them close by at all times.

Other artful choices for meaningful sympathy gifts include paperweights, vases, and tree of life memorials.

4. Deliver meals to ease their stress.

There are many meal-box services that you can send to a friend or family member, so they don’t have to stress about grocery shopping or cooking. HelloFresh and SendAMeal are a few good places to try. You can try Uber, Door Dash, or other meal delivery services, too. Or contact a favorite local restaurant that offers delivery.

5. Give wind chimes.

wind chimes, photo by Arvind Balaraman, Dreamstime. Meaningful sympathy gifts show love to a grieving friend. These 10 ideas go beyond flowers: memorial trees and jewelry, practical ideas, etc.

The comforting sounds of wind chimes can bring loved ones to mind, especially on breezy days.

6. Send a self-care kit.

No better time to enjoy some self-care than when one is overwhelmed and filled with grief. Such meaningful sympathy gifts may be the pick-me-up someone needs to ease their stress. Self-care kit ideas include a bath set, a spa gift card, a basket of goodies they would love, etc.

7. Send a gift for the kids.

It’s easy to overlook children at a time like this, but thoughtful presents for the youngsters in mourning can go a long way.

If you’re not sure what to send, consider a gift card to their favorite diner, restaurant, entertainment venue, or toy store, or send book (such as age-appropriate books on grief), card and board games, and stuffed animals.

8. Buy thank-you cards.

Families have to send a lot of thank-you notes to visitors, family, friends, and well-wishers who stopped by or sent some form of kindness their way. You can help them cross thank-you cards off their shopping list by sending them a pack of cards. A small gift like this can be a huge relief, since they don’t have to worry about buying these.

Related: 10 ways to memorialize a loved one

9. Send gift certificates.

Illnesses and death eat up a lot of financial resources, and gift certificates can help ease this burden. Practical certificates to a grocery store or to retailers such as Target, Amazon, or Walmart allow them to choose what they need most.

10. Make a memory photo book or framed picture.

A photo book or a memorial picture frame are heartwarming ways to give tribute. The bereaved will have this as a keepsake for many years to come – a loving reminder of the deceased’s life.

Eagerness to listen and to offer comforting, kind words may be the most meaningful sympathy gifts, but concrete tokens show that you have them in your thoughts.

Faith Boluwatife

Faith Boluwatife is an enthusiastic freelancer and regular contributor for seniorsguide.com. As an experienced writer, Faith has created content for diverse industries.