Remembering a grieving friend or family member after a loved one has died is a kind gesture in a difficult time. While funeral or sympathy flowers or potted plants are the typical way of offering condolences, many thoughtful alternative funeral gifts can help at the time of loss and beyond.
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Why Send An Alternative To Flowers
While flowers are beautiful to look at and many people enjoy them, there are reasons to send something other than funeral flowers. First, did you know that it is impolite to send flowers to a funeral in some cultures? A sympathy gift is more appropriate.
In the US, even people who love flowers can be overwhelmed with many more plants and vases of cut flowers than they can use. Larger displays may be repurposed for a hospital, so the family only enjoys them for a brief time.
Sometimes a family makes a clear statement requesting that people not send funeral flowers, and there are many reasons for that. First, most funeral flowers are cut flowers that will not last terribly long. People may request a charitable donation to a cause dear to their heart in lieu of flowers.
Perhaps you know that the loss is unexpected, and the family is struggling financially to pay for funeral expenses. In this case, a monetary gift is most appropriate. If you are looking for sympathy gift ideas, you are in the right place.
When To Send A Funeral Gift
According to etiquette, funeral gifts should be sent within a couple of weeks of the passing of the person. Of course, it is never too late to show your respect with a thoughtful gift or card. In some ways, it is quite lovely to send something a month or so after the fact. Are you wondering why?
As soon as someone suffers a loss, the grieving family is inundated with people stopping by, calling, and checking in. A few weeks after the memorial service is completed, reality sets in. The whole world seems to be moving forward, and the family is still grieving heavily. Can you see where they might appreciate a care package at this point?
There are many types of gifts you can send, including:
- Wind chimes
- Gift Basket
- Personalized Memorial:
- Gift Box
- Photo Album
- Ceramic Cardinal
Personalizing Alternative Funeral Gifts To Best Meet The Needs Of The Grieving Person
If you know the family well, it is likely you can come up with some great ideas all on your own. A gift card to a favorite place could be very well received by the grieving person. A gift basket filled with self-care items might remind the person that they are still living and must take care of themselves.
Many beautiful keepsake-type items are also available in stores or via online vendors such as Amazon. Included in the list of best sympathy gifts are wind chimes, photo albums, patio stones with a personal message, and other memorial gifts.
What To Send Instead of Flowers
Offer Extra Help
Families often struggle with doing everyday tasks when deep in mourning. When a friend of mine lost her husband unexpectedly, there was a terrible storm just weeks later. Her best friends all came together to help her clean up damage from the storm. To a widow with no knowledge of how to wield a chainsaw or where to place brush debris, this offer of extra help was a practical gift that she really needed.
You can also drop off entire meals, schedule a date to help with yard work, or just stop by to walk the dog for the bereaved. You can help in many ways but don’t wait to be asked. Just show up!
If you know that there were many attendees to the funeral visitation, perhaps you can offer to help write thank-you cards, so they get sent out in a timely manner. Sometimes, the most unique and welcome gift is that of your time.
Specific ways you can help are:
- Volunteering at the funeral service: Sometimes, there are ways you can help, such as cooking food for a luncheon, serving food, or cleaning up after.
- Help make funeral arrangements: This is not always welcome, but if you are close to the bereaved, they might really appreciate a solid friend or close family member beside them as they visit the funeral home and florist.
- Transportation: Do they have a large family flying into town for the funeral who might need transportation? Offer to pick up relatives at the airport or be on hand to drive them around.
- Accommodations: Offer to host friends or family members coming into town for the funeral, so they do not have to pay hotel fees.
- Yard work: As the seasons change, things still need to get done, so raking leaves, cutting grass, shoveling snow, or cleaning up the year might be right on time.
- Cleaning: This could be general household cleaning or assistance cleaning out an apartment or home of the deceased.
- Cooking/dropping off meals: Grieving people often forget to eat. Meal delivery of either home-cooked or restaurant meals can be helpful.
- Childcare: This is especially helpful if there is a widow or widower with young children left behind and suddenly navigating being a single parent.
- Grocery shopping: Offer to make a run to the store to help the person have one less task to do.
- Memory Book: You can make a gift such as a memory book. Better yet, invite the bereaved to make it with you. Show up with plenty of scrapbooking paper and a lovely book and work together.
- Gift Certificate: You could get gift certificates for tasks that need to be accomplished, such as an oil change or tire rotation. Take another thing off of their plate.
- Place Memorial Gifts: Did the person receive a lovely windchime as a memorial gift? Offer to hang it for them and show up with a hook and all the tools you need to get it up.
Be A Source Of Comfort
Sometimes the thing the person needs most is just to talk about their loss. A way to offer comfort is to stop by and share a special memory. Offer to bring a meal or a bottle of wine when you schedule your visit and sit down and share the meal with them. Especially if the person has lost a spouse and is now living alone, company may be exactly what they need. What better than a visit from a close friend to help bring up the spirits?
Schedule a time to stop by with a condolence gift three or four weeks after the funeral is done. This is likely to be a time when the bereaved really needs some support. When it feels like the rest of the world is moving on without you, that can be a very lonely feeling.
Grief can be very complicated, and there are stages of grief that people must go through. Your funeral home might provide insight into the feelings to expect to go through. If the person feels guilt, try to help them work through it.
Grief might come out in the form of anger, leaving the person trying to figure out why they are so angry. Helping them to identify that anger is truly a stage of grief can prove helpful.
Convincing those in mourning that it is okay to ask for and accept support is a very powerful thing. Be persistent with this.
Try to facilitate opportunities for the person to engage in positive interactions and/or hobbies. Have they always wanted to learn to paint? Sign you both up for a painting class. Having a positive outlet helps you to move forward,
Paying Tribute With A Meaningful Gift
There are many ways to pay tribute to someone in a celebration of life. This might be in words spoken in a eulogy or sympathy card or by giving a unique gift. Purchasing a patio stone or set of wind chimes with a special quote or scripture are both great options.
Reaching Out To The Kids
When children suffer a loss, they often can’t adequately articulate what they are feeling. Children will likely appreciate a different type of gift. A child could enjoy receiving a stuffed animal. If the child lost a parent, sibling, or grandparent, a memory bear might be the perfect gift.
Memory bears are stuffed animals made using patches made from articles of the person’s clothing. A sympathy gift basket can also be themed to be child friendly and appropriate.