When someone has suffered a loss we tend to reach out with support and offer our condolences. This can be with words but we often send something too – a condolence card, maybe a bouquet of flowers, or a gift of sympathy. When you’ve experienced a bereavement receiving a heartfelt and thoughtful gift can be a bit of light amongst the darkness. It’s not going to instantly stop the pain and grief, obviously, but it can be a lovely gesture that brings a moment of relief to those suffering.
So if you’re looking to buy or send a sympathy gift – where do you start? It can be difficult deciding on what to get someone who is dealing with a bereavement. You want it to be heart-warming and personal but also appropriate to the situation. There’s a lot of choices, from standard flowers and gift baskets to more left field options. So knowing which would be right for you, and also coming up with different ideas isn’t easy.
That’s what this guide is intended to do. To take your through what we think are the best sympathy gift ideas that should hopefully make finding the perfect condolence gift that bit easier. We feel confident that you will discover a gift that is both moving and fitting for expressing your sympathy, and will provide some comfort in a truly dreadful time.
This guide begins with looking at the etiquette around sending a memorial gift. If you want to get straight to the ideas then please use the links below to get to the desired section.
What is an Appropriate Sympathy Gift?
A fitting sympathy gift is one that demonstrates you’ve put thought and effort into it. Whilst flowers are fine, and a good choice for many situations, choosing something like a picture frame containing a photo of the deceased or a donation to their favorite charity shows extra time taken to personalise a gift, and a degree of care and attention dedicated to the decision. This will be appreciated far more than a standard, generic gift.
What can you Send Other than Flowers?
Flowers are ideal to send to a funeral, or with a sympathy gift, but sometimes you want something more personal and heartfelt. A few good options are:
- Food – everyone needs food, especially with the strain of grief and bereavement. You can either buy some or bake your own.
- A Plant – a plant will last unlike a bouquet of flowers which has a short life span.
- Donation to Charity – you can pick something close to the deceased’s heart and give a donation in their behalf.
- Jewellery – a beautiful locket or pendant is a simple but elegant gift to remember someone with.
- A Candle – a very popular remembrance gift for families to think of their passed loved one.
Can I Give Money?
This is a bit of a contentious question. Different people will give different answers. The correct one is – it depends. Some relatives or families will find it insulting, some will be perfectly fine with it. One thing you can do is if you know the deceased championed a cause or had a favorite charity then you could donate some money to one of those then send that in a sympathy card or with a gift.
Can it be Delivered?
Giving a gift in person is always more intimate but sometimes isn’t practical. So having your gift delivered is completely acceptable. Many shops and retailers will offer to deliver your items for you as well as doing special gift wrapping.
Sympathy Gift Ideas
Food is very much an underrated gift. Especially when it comes to offering support for a bereavement. Grief after a loss is emotionally and physically draining. So you need sustenance to keep you going. But the last thing many people grieving will want to do is think about food or cooking. So having a gift or gifts of some appetising, tasty and easy to prepare/readymade food is going to be appreciated greatly.
One of, if not the best when it comes to sympathy food and gift boxes is Harry & David. They do an excellent range of sympathy gift boxes, as well as pies, ice cream, flowers and more, but actually many of their food boxes would be suitable for someone dealing with a loss, not just the ones specific to sympathy. We like the Sympathy Bakery Gift Tray but you can browse the entire range to see if a different item is a better fit for your gift.
As mentioned above, making a donation in the name of deceased to a favoured charity of theirs is a great way of personalising a gift. Donations are sometimes tricky gifts to give as there can be a perception of it being either cheap or avoiding a ‘proper’ gift. Nothing could be further from the truth. A charitable donation is far more thoughtful and considered than something like a standard bunch of flowers. It also leaves behind a small legacy and does some good in the world, which is a fitting tribute to the loved one who passed away. It’s also worth remembering that the bereaved don’t want and won’t be expecting gifts. Nothing can bring back their lost loved one, a gift won’t do that, so they aren’t going to feel aggrieved you’ve chosen to make a donation instead of something for them.
You must know the deceased had some particular charities or causes they championed though. It doesn’t have to be what we might think of as a commonplace charity. You could donate to a cause or hobby they were very keen on – sport, music etc. If they had a religious side to them and visited a place of worship regularly then that would also be a good choice. Whatever it is it should be something that was close to their heart and reflects well on the type of person they were.
A wind chime offers a peaceful and serene gift to remember someone dear to you. The gentle music they emit can be a reminder of those no longer with us and they can be hung or placed in a fitting location for the deceased.
The Carson Home Accents Wind Chime is an elegant and simple design that has a rich and full tone. The chime tubes have the following message engraved on them: “Those we love don’t go away, they walk beside us every day… unseen, unheard, but always near, still loved, still missed and very dear”. Alternatively we’ve also recommended the Woodstock Chimes Amazing Grace Chime in the past, which is very popular. Either make a touching gift of remembrance and will bring a sense of comfort to the recipient all year round.
A personalised gift is always a thoughtful and lovely way to offer your sympathy. Gifting something that is custom made specifically for the bereaved, usually featuring the deceased in some way, shows a lot of thought and attention has been taken. Plus it will be something that can be kept forever as a reminder of that person.
This engraved crystal heart by A&B Crystal Collection features a photo of your choosing, a custom message of up to 40 characters and is a beautiful way to remember someone. It comes in a blue silk inlayed keepsake gift box and if you require further customisation then the company are open to discussions if you contact them.
Choosing a photo print or picture frame as your gift works well because it allows for personalisation, is very much a gift that remembers the deceased and also will last a lifetime. They can be treasured as keepsakes to never forget those who have passed away and commemorate their life.
The VILIGHT Memorial Picture Frame will become a treasured condolence for a lost loved one. It measures W 10.6″ x D 8″ x H 1″ and holds a photo sized 6″ x 4″. It features the quote: “Your life was a blessing, your memory a treasure. You are loved beyond words and missed beyond measure” and comes with beautiful handmade string art heart.
The beauty of a lantern as opposed to a candle is it’s lifespan. Candles have a limited number of uses, whereas a lantern can last forever. The LED means no issues with flames, burning or wax. And they’re often very decorative pieces that look good in any spot the recipient chooses to display them.
The Carson Memorial Lantern has a built in auto-timer, a subtle flameless LED light, can be hung or free standing and comes inscribed with the sentiment “Because someone we love is in heaven… there is a little bit of heaven in our home”. A little more expensive and also by Carson is the Memories Wooden & Stainless Steel Lantern that is noticeably larger.
When experiencing the grief that comes from a loss it can be overwhelming. Having support and comfort is key. So gifts that help to relieve that burden, however small, can be really helpful and hugely appreciated. That’s why something that is warm, reassuring and comforting like a blanket or throw works very well.
The Chanasya blanket is ideal for snuggling up under on the couch or used in a small bed (like a child’s). Measuring 65×50″ and coming in a range of different colours, it is extra soft and and designed to provide warm comfort to those feeling unwell, going through difficult times or need cheering up.
A keepsake box is very popular as a sympathy gift. It allows for the recipient to fill it with mementos and items from the deceased’s past. The type of things that can be looked back on and will capture the special memories of their passed loved one. Having a personalized, beautiful area that is dedicated to the life of someone so important will be a fitting tribute to the life they lead and impact they had.
The Cottage Garden ‘Until We Meet Again’ keepsake box is lined with black velvet and has a wood grain finish. It measures approximately 9.5 x 7.5 x 3.5 inches and comes with 12 ‘Remembering When’ cards for you to write personalized messages on. The artwork it comes with can be swapped for a photo of your own choosing.
Jewellery, like a locket or pendant, can make a very thoughtful sympathy gift. Being able to keep the memory of someone close to you and have it as a constant reminder is a deep and meaningful present. Jewellery, if good quality, will last a long time as well.
Having it personalized is a great added touch too. Including a message that’s special to the bereaved or a photo of the deceased is the ideal way to create a gift that will be treasured forever.
There are a lot of good options for custom jewellery on Etsy. Take a look at what’s available but it’s probably best if possible to avoid something cheap. You will want decent, quality jewellery for something this important.
There have been many books written regarding grief and loss. Some are much better than others. Others are good but very specific to certain situations, so won’t be relatable for everyone. But they can be excellent gifts and of great help to those trying to process their grief.
One of the best is ‘How to Go on Living When Someone You Love Dies’ by Dr. Therese Rando. You are guided through the process of grief and given practical advice for how to recover after experiencing a loss.
Another worth mentioning is ‘It’s OK that You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture that Doesn’t Understand’ by Megan Divine. This works well for the people supporting those who are dealing with the grief and helping them to know how to act and provide the necessary care.
For Loss of a Parent
Losing a mother or father is absolutely tragic. Our parents are so important to us and can never be replaced. So if a friend or acquaintance has lost their mother or father these gifts are a good way to reach out and send your condolences.
This remembrance heart by Magara is a charming and beautiful keepsake to help never forget a passed mother. It reads “A Mother’s embrace will last forever. In Loving Memory” a sentiment that will resonate with most of us. Measuring 6″ x 6″ x 1″ it’s a great memento for keeping a mom in your thoughts.
Alternatively, although we already chose a picture frame as one of our gift ideas above the one by The Grandparent Gift Co. seems very suited and popular for the loss of a mother.
Buying for someone who’s father has passed away is tricky. There are a couple of good choices though.
On Etsy you can have a
pillow made from a garment of the deceased’s father. For example the pillow could be from his favourite shirt. The only drawback to this is you need to have access to an item of their clothing.
For a daughter who has lost her dad Susan Lordi’s carved figurine is a touching example of the father-daughter relationship. It celebrates the bond of love between fathers and daughters and is a timely reminder of the ties spent with your father.
For Loss of a Child
There is nothing worse than losing your child. The pain is unimaginable. If someone you know has lost their son or daughter then they will need their friends and family around for support and comfort. Send one of these gifts to show you’re there for them and hopefully offer some minor comfort.
Buying for someone who has lost their child is probably the trickiest out of all condolence gifts. There’s a lot of choice available but somehow very little of it feels quite right. So it may be best to go for something less obvious.
One of the first ideas listed in this guide for a gift was food. Whilst it’s not a traditional gift it’s arguably more useful and helpful to someone grieving. Giving up your time is another really generous and considerate gift. Perhaps do some chores like grocery shopping or picking kids up from school. Many parents will find this more beneficial than an actual physical gift.
If you’re set on the idea of buying and giving them something though there are some good ideas. Registering a star in the child’s name so the grieving mother and father can look up and feel like their little one is watching over them. Or for a very young child who passed away you can buy a teddy bear from Molly Bears that are made to the precise weight of the infant when they were lost. A very personal and moving gift.
For Loss of a Partner
When losing someone so important to us the grief can cause a sort of paralysis. The usual tasks and routines we would normally do on autopilot become much more difficult or feel pointless. Cooking, cleaning etc. suddenly don’t matter.
So a Spa Day or Giftcard is a lovely way to give someone a treat to feel more like themselves again. Many women appreciate a gift that helps them to feel pampered and reduce the stress of what they’re going through. Massages especially offer the chance to relax and maybe forget their problems if only for a short time.
Much like the spa gift card for a wife who’s lost her husband, a husband who’s lost his wife will also appreciate a gift that helps him to deal with the practicalities of such a loss.
So a gift of help can be massively appreciated. A gift card for professional cleaning will reduce the burden of keeping things tidy whilst trying to process the tragic loss.
For Loss of a Pet
To some of us losing a pet may not seem like it needs a gift to be given for reassurance or support. But pets become parts of people’s families, and their loss can be felt as painfully as losing a loved one. So send these pet loss gift ideas should help you to
Our dogs are some of the closest friends we ever have. So losing one is heartbreaking for the owner. And we should express our sympathy and give a gift in the exact same way we would with the loss of a human friend or relative.
This sweet and thoughtful stone is the perfect way to remember a departed furry friend. It’s weather resistant and can be used both outdoors in the garden or placed on a table or hung as a decoration indoors. It measures 12”W x 0.5”D x 7.5”H and will always remind the recipient of their dearly missed dog.
Dogs are mostly thought of as the pet we’re especially close to but cats are just as important, not to mention rival dogs for the most popular pet. The connection we have to our feline friends is different than with a dog but no less special.
Etsy has a huge selection of cat loss gifts, from similar memorial stones like the one for dogs we featured, to custom portraits and gift boxes. All would be wonderful gifts to give and receive when mourning a passed kitty.
Inexpensive Gift Ideas
It’s understandable that you may not have the funds to stretch to many of the more expensive gift ideas listed here. So these are a few more affordable options that are still going to be gratefully received by the bereaved.
- Custom Handwriting Sign – this maybe tricky if you don’t have access to a sample of the deceased’s handwriting but if you do then you can have it put onto various different items (jewellery, key rings etc) all for a minimal price.
- Custom Jewellery – Jewellery probably sounds expensive but doesn’t have to be. There are lots of small, cute and sweet pieces that come with a sympathy sentiment or can be personalized. Etsy is the best place to start looking.
- A Photo Album – you could put this together yourself if you have enough photos of the deceased but there are also digital options to make it simpler.
- A Sympathy Card – a card with a well written message is still a great choice that can convey your condolences and let you say how sorry you are for their loss.
Deciding on the ideal gift to offer your sympathy is not easy. Hopefully this guide will have given you some ideas and examples of what’s available and best suited to giving as a gift for bereavement. Remember though that the best gift you can give is to listen and empathise. Be there for whoever is it that needs you. Your care and desire to be a good friend to those mourning and suffering will be much better to them than any gift you can buy.