Watching a loved one experience grief can feel overwhelming and hopeless. It's hard to know exactly what to say or do, especially in a situation where there's nothing that can make the pain go away. Supporting a loved one through grief can be even more difficult when you live far away or aren't able to be with them in person. However, you don't have to be a perfect poet or live right next door in order to show your loved one that you care and that you're thinking of them during their difficult time.
Sometimes, sending a thoughtful gift or gifting a helpful service to someone who is grieving is a great way to let them know that you care about them without saying much at all. Since grief can drastically interrupt someone's daily life and routine, a great gift is something that can make their day-to-day living a bit easier-or, at least, something that can provide comfort throughout their grieving process.
For specific recommendations on what to get someone who's grieving, we tapped Jill Cohen, a New York City family grief counselor, and Lily Dulan, a Los Angeles-based psychotherapist and grief expert. Keep reading for thoughtful gift recommendations, aside from the standard flowers and casseroles, that can support a loved one through grief.
Gifts for grieving friend:
1. Cozy throw blanket
Cohen says a cozy throw blanket is a great gift for someone who is grieving because it will likely be put to good use. "When people are grieving, they're at home, they're in bed, they're watching more TV, they're reading, they're hanging out," she explains. "So that [blanket is] saying, 'I want you to be comfy and cozy.'"
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2. Streaming service subscription
Similar to the cozy throw blanket, gifting someone a subscription to a streaming service takes into consideration how the person who's grieving may be spending a lot of their time. It also "encourages grievers to take some downtime and watch comedies or old movies for distraction, enjoyment or relaxation," Cohen says. If the person who's grieving has children, you can also gift a subscription to a kid-focused streaming service, like Disney+, which can help provide more entertainment for the kids and give the parent a little more space to care for themselves.
3. Cleaning service gift certificate
As Cohen explains, "It's hard to even think of household chores during grief times," so gifting someone a certificate for a cleaner or cleaning service can be a huge help. Not only will this gift make life a little easier for your loved one, but it also sends a message that you want to make sure they're taken care of. If the grieving person has young children, Cohen also suggests sending a gift certificate for a babysitter, which can allow the parent to take a break for a few hours or more.
4. Restaurant gift card
If you don't live close enough to cook for the grieving person or family (or if you just aren't super confident in your cooking skills) a restaurant gift card is the next best thing. Make sure to choose a gift card from a restaurant that delivers to ensure maximum convenience for your loved one. While the family may already have several meals being brought to them for the immediate days or weeks following a loved one's death, this gift card can come in handy when the meals stop coming.
5. Picture frame
If your loved one lost someone who was near and dear to their hearts, they'll likely be looking for the best ways to remember them in their lives moving forward. Sending a beautiful picture frame can be a nice way to encourage your loved one to preserve a nice memory or favorite picture of the person they lost. Plus, if you have any nice photos you had taken of the deceased, you can print and send those as well.
- 32 Available at Anthropologie
6. Nourishing food basket
If you plan to send a basket of food to a grieving person or family, Cohen says to consider sending something filled with fruit or more nourishing foods. "Grievers usually get overwhelmed with baskets of goodies like cake, cookies, chocolates that often end up being given away because of the excess," she explains. Plus, people don't always eat well after a death, Cohen adds, explaining how those who are grieving might find it "hard to remember to eat, don't go food shopping, don't feel like making a whole meal, don't have the energy, don't care what they are eating." So, sending a basket of fresh fruit, or even a box of healthy, pre-made meals can make it easier for your loved one to nourish their bodies.
7. Beverage cases
After a death, the grieving family's house is usually full of people, Cohen explains. A case of beverages, like water or sodas, may not seem like a very exciting gift, but it can be rather useful in ensuring that everyone has something to drink. "Hydration is important, especially in stressful times," Cohen adds, and having easy-to-grab waters or soft drinks on hand can make staying hydrated much easier.
8. Sweet treats for children
While Cohen says it's better to send nourishing foods over sugar-filled treats, having some sweets around the house can be a nice treat for those with young children. "It can help put some fun in the household in situations in which children are not necessarily experiencing a "fun" time with all the sadness," she explains.
9. Grief journal or coloring book
Grief comes with a wide range of emotions. Sending your loved one a nice journal can be a great way to encourage them to write about and acknowledge some of their feelings about the loss of their loved one. If the grieving person has kids, Cohen also recommends sending a fun coloring book or journal that the kids can use to work through their emotions as well. Per Joanna Rowland's The Memory Book: A Grief Journal for Children and Families, was designed to, help "grieving families process their emotions together by remembering their lost loved one and creating their own memory album full of photos and keepsakes of the person they lost," per the book's description.
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10. Memorial tree
Another way to help a loved one remember the person they lost is by sending a memorial tree or plant that they can keep in their home or yard for years to come. A small memorial tree, like this one from Etsy, can be planted in the ground or pot as a long-lasting tribute to the person's lost loved one.
- 49 Available at Little Saps, Etsy
11. Grief massage gift certificate
While a massage may seem like an odd gift for someone who is grieving, massage therapy is commonly used for those who have lost a loved one. Just as stress affects both the body and mind, so does grief, and grief-informed massages can help those who a grieving cope and release some tension. Plus, "with the death of a spouse, there is often the absence of 'touch' and a massage can be a real pick-me-up," Cohen adds.
12. Exercise classes
Grief can disrupt many self-care routines, including exercise. If the person grieving typically enjoys working out but hasn't been able to find time for it during their time of grief, purchasing classes or training sessions for them can help encourage them to continue doing the things that make them feel good. "Sometimes it's hard to leave the house [when grieving] and yet, people want to relieve stress and move around a bit," Cohen says. "So perhaps gifting a personal trainer who will come to the house a few times or Zoom exercise classes are a good idea."
13. Mass offering card
If the grieving person is Catholic and attends church often, you can request a prayer mass offering card from their church to honor their lost loved one. By obtaining a mass card from the church, which can often be done by making a suggested donation, you can dedicate a mass service to the deceased or ensure that they are prayed for during the service. Then, you can get a physical card from the church to send to your loved one, letting them know that their parish is praying for the person they lost.
If your loved one isn't Catholic but is religious and attends church, you can contact their church to see if they offer any similar services.
14. Grief yoga gift certificate
If the griever is someone who does yoga, you can purchase classes online that are specifically geared toward those who are grieving. Look up local studios that offer grief-informed classes or find sessions online that are led by instructors who have been trained to help people through grief. "Grief yoga is a special kind of yoga and I hear that for yoga lovers, it is very empowering and helps with grief," Cohen says.
15. Heart-shaped crystal
Dulan, author of the book Giving Grief Meaning: A Method for Transforming Deep Suffering into Healing and Positive Change, says she likes to give heart-shaped crystals to those in grief. She particularly likes rose quartz crystals, which are popularly associated with love and healing.
"I invite those experiencing grief to lie down with their feet resting in a chair, if possible, and place the crystal at their heart's center," she says. "I then advise them to take 10 deep, conscious breaths as a way to connect to their own heart and feel the ever-present connection to their loved one." Those who are grieving can then place the crystal on their lost loved one's headstone, near their ashes, or wherever they choose.
- 6.50-13 Available at Neeio, Etsy
No single gift or gesture can take away your loved one's feelings of grief and pain, sending something thoughtful their way will remind them that they are loved and supported.