For Those Times When You Don't Know What to Say

Did you know that the average person receives over 100 sympathy cards and dozens of floral arrangements after the death of a loved one? While these gestures are appreciated, they may not always provide the comfort and practical support that grieving individuals need

Death is an inevitable event that all of us will experience at one time or another before our own. We find it hard to find the right words to express our feelings or show how much we care.

Trying to decide what is the best way to show your sympathy and concern for someone who has lost a loved one can be difficult.

Oftentimes, the bereaved are overwhelmed with flowers, food, and condolences before and during a funeral.  That's where sympathy gift baskets come in.

These personalized, thoughtful baskets can be tailored to meet the unique needs and preferences of the recipient, offering everything from comforting food to sentimental keepsakes.

When my neighbor's wife passed away, he was inundated with flowers that he didn't know what to do with. It was the food and practical gifts that he received in a sympathy gift basket that he appreciated most. In this article, we'll explore the many benefits of sympathy gift baskets and provide tips on how to create the perfect basket for someone who is grieving.

When Should You Send a Sympathy Gift Basket?

Even though you may send your condolences--and even a sympathy gift basket-- at the time of the funeral, don’t forget to follow up with a sympathy gift a few weeks or even a month later.

When the flowers have died, the food has been eaten, and the friends have all gone home, a gift from you is like a hug that whispers “I’m still thinking of you!”

The anniversary of the death of a loved one, a wedding anniversary, birthday, or any other special time that was spent together can be a particularly sad time for the one left behind. These are occasions to show how much you care–even if it’s only a card reminding them that they are in your thoughts.

People don’t always remember what you said to them or gave to them but they do remember how you made them feel.

When you want to make them understand how much you care, a sympathy gift basket can make that statement without your having to say a word.

Memorable Gift Ideas

The act of giving a sympathy gift may make you uncomfortable, especially if you are concerned about adding more pain to the bereaved's already difficult situation. It's vital to show respect and sensitivity, but if your present truly comes from a place of love and care, you probably won't upset anyone. However, it's always a good idea to stick to the protocol for sending condolence gifts.

To whom should one address a condolence card?

Sending a card expressing your sympathy can be sent to anyone who has lost a loved one, whether it be a spouse, member of the family or even a friend.  You could also plant a tree in their honor or donate to the deceased's favorite charity.

Can you give a wrapped present at a funeral without offending anyone?

Flowers and gift baskets ordered online will be delivered to the recipient already wrapped. Wrapping up any personal presents you want to send or give to the grieving is a thoughtful gesture. Use simple wrapping paper or something elegant, like white flowers, and stay away from excessive ribbons.

So what do you give to a bereaved person or family?

Memory box

When someone in the family dies, the family may want to keep many things that belonged to them in the home.  But there may be other things that they don't wish to dispose of but prefer to store until they can deal with them at a later date.   Our friends from moversnotshakers.com advise getting a storage facility in this case.

If only a few small items, such as photos or small mementos, are involved, a memory box may be the answer. The bereaved can keep these precious items secure and organized in a keepsake box, which can be opened and flipped through at any time to stir up fond memories.

A memory box can be made from something as simple as a a lidded cardboard box or shoebox. The memory box can be personalized by decorating with paint, fabric, or markers, and you can attach a photo of your loved one on the lid.  Here is an article that you may find helpful when making a memory box as a sympathy gift.

Sympathy  Gift Basket

Sympathy gift basket with foodsIf  you know the person well, you can give anything you like that doesn’t make them feel worse about the loss. Food is generally a safe bet. They have to eat and, many times, friends and family drop in during the hours and days after the funeral.  And, of course, they would appreciate a surprise food gift even weeks after the funeral just to remind them that you are still thinking of them.

You can cook, bake, and deliver a meal or a dessert or pick one up from the bakery, deli, or grocery store. Or you can send a sympathy gift basket. If the bereaved is a woman and you know her well enough for it to be appropriate, a spa or pamper yourself gift could be appropriate.

For a child who has lost a family member something soft to cuddle with could speak volumes without your having to say a word. Send a Care Package or a Teddy Bear.

Picture collage

A memorial picture collage is a lovely way to remember a loved one, whether you have a professional design and print it or create one on your own. Choose pictures that span the deceased’s entire life, making sure to include them with their loved ones. Use both staged and candid images, as the latter tend to represent individuals as we remember them.


A necklace bearing a meaningful token would be an appropriate token of sympathy because it may be worn constantly as a reminder of the deceased. Cremation jewelry, which may store a tiny amount of cremated ashes, and jewelry engraved with messages of consolation both serve to help the grieving maintain a connection to their lost loved one. The wearer always has a physical reminder of their loved one close at hand in the form of a beautiful piece of jewelry.

Wind chimes or a Memorial Garden Stone

For someone who enjoys spending time outside in their garden or pation, memorial wind chimes or a memorial garden stone may be the ideal gift.  When the wind blows, the soft sounds of the wind chimes will serve as a wonderful remembrance of the person who has passed away, especially if they were also fans of music or nature. Many wind chimes have memorial words or poetry etched on the sails to provide a serene and reflective ambiance. Many Memorial Wind Chimes include meaningful text such as a name, date, or phrase. A memorial garden stone can be engraved with the name and memorial dates of the deceased.

Thinking of You Notes of Kindness

Notes of Kindness is a jar filled with  31 handcrafted messages, enclosed in mini decorative envelopes for the recipient to open daily, or anytime they need a little pick-me-up.  When they are feeling grief or need some consolation, this may help.

Sympathy Flowers

Before you send flowers, find out if they are appropriate. Various religions have traditions and customs regarding sympathy flowers. Here is some help:

Buddhist – Send white flowers, the traditional color of mourning in Buddhist culture. Yellow flowers are also acceptable. Red flowers symbolize happiness and are not considered an appropriate tribute. Food gifts are not appropriate.
Christian – Most denominations consider flowers an appropriate tribute with no limitations on the color of choice.
Hindu – Flowers may be an appropriate gift depending on family preference. A gift of fruit delivered to the bereaved family’s home is also considered a welcome gesture of sympathy.
Jewish – Flowers traditionally are not a part of a Jewish mourning.  A gift of fruit, sweets or food delivered to the bereaved family’s home is also considered a welcome gesture of sympathy.
Muslim – Flowers may be an appropriate gift depending on family preference. A gift of food sent to the bereaved family’s home is also considered a welcome gesture of sympathy.

If you know the person well, someone whose spouse has died may appreciate flowers on the day of their wedding anniversary to help make getting through the day easier for them.

How about Money?

Money may even be appropriate if handled discreetly and may even be the most appreciated gift of all. Put your cash or check in an envelope and either mail or hand it to the person you want to receive it so that they don’t feel embarrassed. You can always say that you didn’t know what to get or send and they can pick out what they want or need.

The Differences Between Jewish and Christian Mourning Traditions

Jewish traditions are different than Christian ones and it helps to understand them if the grieving family is Jewish.

For example, in many traditions, it is customary to send flowers to a funeral home or directly to immediate family members of the deceased. In the Jewish tradition, though, that is generally discouraged.

The Jewish faith has a strong tradition of treating everyone as equals in death. That’s why it’s unusual to see ornate coffins and other expensive items as part of a funeral or burial service. There’s a perception that flowers at a funeral or grave would lead to wealthy people being treated better than poor people.

In Judaism, when a person dies, certain family members will sit shiva, the first period of mourning. Shiva means “seven,” so those who sit shiva will do so for seven days. This is typically the time when most friends and others will want to express condolences or sympathy.

As a general rule, visitors typically refrain from initiating conversation when calling at a home where shiva is being observed. Instead, you should focus on listening and providing support. It’s not a time for small talk, either—your conversation should ideally be focused on the person who has died. Your stay at the shiva should be brief—less than an hour—as it’s an exhausting process for the people sitting shiva. When you leave, keep your words concise and simple. A traditional sentiment often expressed at this time is “May God comfort you among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”

One of the most frequent ways to express condolences and sympathy after the death of a person of the Jewish faith is to send a shiva basket, tray or meal.

During the shiva, mourners will typically not leave the house and usually need food items to provide sustenance. So-called “shiva baskets” customarily contain food items, including fruit, nuts, baked goods and desserts and even chocolates. The shiva baskets may take the form of planned meals, or may include trays of meats, fish and other foods. It’s also not uncommon for friends and family of the mourners to have a meal catered in to the shiva house.

Other acceptable ways to express your condolences include planting a tree in Israel in the name of the deceased, A sympathy card with a short handwritten message, or making a donation to either a synagogue or a charitable organization that the deceased was involved with.

To Sum It All Up

Although the ideal time to send a sympathy gift is as soon as possible after the funeral, it is never too late.

Oftentimes, the bereaved are overwhelmed with flowers, food, and condolences before and during a funeral. But when the flowers have died, the food has been eaten, and the friends have all gone home, a gift from you is like a hug that whispers “I’m still thinking of you!”

So, even though you may send your condolences at the time of the funeral, don’t forget to follow up with a sympathy gift a few weeks or even a month later.

It doesn’t have to be expensive or large. It could even be something as simple as offering to watch the children for an afternoon, dropping off a meal or a desert, or doing something else that may make life easier as he or she attempts to adjust to the loss.

One of life's most challenging and heartbreaking experiences is losing a loved one to death. Finding appropriate condolence presents for someone who has recently lost a loved one might be tough. We hope our list of sympathy gift ideas for grieving loved ones will help you choose the right present to show them you care.

Some Suggestions for Appropriate Sympathy Gifts

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