The loss of a loved one can be complicated and isolating. If you know someone who is going through a loss, it can be difficult to know how to support them. That’s why we spoke to an expert to find out what you can do.
Number one: don’t ask them what they need. “They don’t know what they need,” says David Kessler, grief specialist and author of “find meaning.” “If you want to know what they need, you have to do one thing. You must listen. To find out what they need, Kessler suggests you recognize that what they’re going through is heartbreaking and ask them what their daily challenges are.
Sure, a thoughtful phone call or note is all it takes, but if you feel like you want to do a little more, try one of these heartwarming gifts we’ve rounded up for the bereaved you know.
A finely drawn image of beautiful forget-me-nots marks the front of this card. Fill it with your own words or a favorite quote to show sympathy for their pain.
This simple card can show your sympathy to people who are going through hard times.
This card has pretty flowers and a simple, thoughtful design that makes you realize how deep and indescribable their feelings are right now.
Gift baskets and sympathy food
Kessler recommends dropping off groceries or offering grieving friends a meal subscription service. “Many people have to feed their families and a family member has died. Just thinking about a box containing a few meals is such a great gift right now,” he says. Each Plate is known for its easy preparations in six steps or less and is one of our favorite meal delivery services.
Warm them from the inside out with this gift set from Mouth. It comes with tea biscuits, honey and two different kinds of tea depending on their mood.
Murray’s Cheese has been a New York institution since 1942. Its Greatest Hits collection is a thoughtful way to show a cheese lover you care. Gruyère, Brie, Cheddar and Manchego are the base of this spread which includes olive oil crackers, cherry jam and toasted almonds.
$74.99 at Harry & David
Sometimes a pint of ice cream is just what the doctor ordered. Well, not literally, but this thoughtful set of four pints of sympathy ice cream is a good idea. Each pint carries a message of condolence like “Tub of Hugs” and “Pint of Compassion”.
Waffles, muffins, cakes, scones, rolls and more in this bakery basket will give them something to choose from as they process whatever they’re feeling. Select the six baked goods they will love the most from a list of 44.
Relieve tension and stress
It’s a favorite of our editors: it’s easy to move from sofa to bed to car and can help massage and relieve any tension in your neck, head and shoulders they may experience during this stressful time.
Aromatherapists say lavender has calming properties (although this has not yet been proven by science). Either way, this luxurious lavender scented candle comes in a two-pack, providing up to 70 hours of burn time in total.
Grief can sometimes cause insomnia, and if you know they’re having trouble sleeping, a weighted blanket like this one from Gravity Blankets might just be the help they need. For more ideas on how to help them rest, check out our guide to better sleep.
Another way to send a hug is with a pair of these ultra-plush slippers from comfort shoe mega-brand Ugg. They even have a rubber sole which makes them perfect for running errands.
A membership in the Book of the Month – an institution since 1926 – might be just what they need to get their heads together for a little while. They will receive five carefully selected options each month by email and choose one to be delivered to their home.
Sympathy flowers and plants
This lovely living room palm doesn’t require much light or care and is pet friendly, so it’s ideal for just about any type of household. Standing 15 to 22 inches tall, it arrives in a pot in your choice of four colors: stone, clay, indigo, or charcoal.
Kessler advises avoiding sending traditional funeral arrangements. Instead of a large display, we suggest opting for this simple white bouquet of vanilla roses, snapdragons and delicate lisianthus. You can add a vase and coffee at an additional cost. (Check out our roundup of the best places to order flowers online for more ideas.)
We love this succulent gift box as another alternative to a traditional arrangement because succulents are known for their easy care. This gift set comes with a note “with sincere sympathy” and a simple candle – choose from four scents – in a pretty box.
If you know they have a yard or garden – and a bit of a green thumb – this memorial tree kit is a wonderful way to honor a lost loved one.
Honor the lost loved one with a set of forget-me-not seed packets personalized with their name, date of birth and date of death. There are enough seeds to plant an entire flower box’s worth, or order up to 300 packets to send to other family members and friends individually and expand the memorial garden far and wide.
Sympathy Jewelry and Memorials
Help them keep their lost loved one close to their hearts with this delicate angel wing pendant that comes with a separate initial disc of your choice. Choose from three chain lengths and a rose gold or silver finish.
This 11 inch cast resin garden stone is made to last and is personalized with a name (up to 20 characters) and the years of their birth and death.
If you are close enough to the family to have meaningful photos of the deceased, choosing a personalized set of 10 5 x 5 inch photos to fill this simple slotted walnut pad is a lovely way to remember them.
Paint Your Life takes the photo of your choice and recreates it in pencil, charcoal, oil paint, pastel, acrylic or watercolor; you also decide what type and size of painting you want. You can also choose the artist from the database and give special instructions.
Use a photo from social media and create this keychain as a memorial gift. Your photo is printed directly onto the stainless steel insert. Choose from six leather options and customize the exterior with up to six characters.
Books of Sympathy and Inspiration
$17.99 at Barnes & Nobles
Bereavement specialist and founder of Sorrow.com, Kessler approaches grief in a new way in his sixth book on the subject by introducing the concept of the search for meaning. Kessler also hosts a free bereavement support group which has reached over 15,000 people since its launch just a few weeks ago.
The most visited page on Sorrow.com, according to Kessler, is the page on the worst things to say to someone who is grieving. This heart-shaped porcelain dish is accompanied by a comforting inscription already thought out for you. You can also choose to personalize it with a name or year for an additional fee.
Help your friend or loved one sort through all the feelings that go through them every day as they grieve. This manual provides prompts, themes and reflections on grief in a way that allows them to browse and choose a relevant page or section for that day.
This meaningful little gift lets you decide how much personalization you want. Choose from white or kraft paper wrapped around a 9 oz or 12 oz candle in one of 21 scents. Personalize the back with text – a thoughtful poem or respectful note of condolence – or let the message on the front, “Sorry for your loss”, simply speak for you.
Unravel some of the complexities of grief for young children with this bestselling book. It was written to help grieving children see the lifelong bond that remains with a loved one, even after their death, as an invisible string.
Let them know you understand they must be going through a lot of pain right now with this sympathetic stainless steel “stone”. They can keep it in their pocket and rub it as a reminder that this tough situation needs to be handled one day at a time.
Send solace in the form of an angel designed to catch sunlight and color the room with blue or pink glass and shiny copper foil that will patina over time.