Many times, we don’t know what to say after a loss. It can be difficult to determine what will comfort a hurting friend, but it’s always better to reach out than not—and even though words can fail us, acts of kindness speak volumes. Especially when many friends and families live faraway or cannot attend a service in-person, sending gifts of sympathy shows the ones you love they’re loved.
Because everyone’s needs are different while grieving, we’ve collected a variety of sympathy gift ideas, from tangible keepsakes to gifts of service. Read on to be inspired and feel equipped to give something from your heart.
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Every loss comes too soon. It’s hard to understand the whys and scary to think how life will be going forward. Many who grieve are searching for meaning and trying to find ways to keep their loved one’s memory alive…and that’s where a good friend can come in.
Here are some meaningful sympathy gifts that are beautiful ways to honor a life:
- Send a lovely flower arrangement or plant with special meaning. Look up the symbolism of flowers and colors to find blooms that fit your friend’s situation and the personality of the deceased. You can even add a plant stake with a touching message to a potted plant. If there are pets in the home, make sure you send something that isn’t poisonous. The ASPCA has a toxic and nontoxic plant list for pets.
- Find photos of the deceased. Put one in a frame that matches your friend’s style. Or make an online photo collage through a private Facebook group or Instagram page in memory of your friend’s loved one. Offer to add approved friends and family to the account so they can share photos, too.
- Pass on a treasured heirloom or gift the deceased once gave to you. Maybe it’s a piece of jewelry you can give to their daughter, a good book you can offer to their parent or a baseball mitt that can tell a thousand stories. Attach a note to the gift to share what it meant to you and especially what their family member meant to your life.
- Order a personalized piece of jewelry with the deceased’s handwriting customized into the piece. Old cards and letters can help you find just the right word or phrase.
- Give something that reminds them of their loved one’s interests. How about a guitar pic with their name or initials? Or a bookmark with their printed photo? Maybe it’s a donation to their favorite philanthropy or place of worship.
- Write a poem, song or a memory of their loved one. Put inside a frame, scrapbook or simply email. If you’re comfortable with performing your song, send them your video through a private video link or just text a recording from your phone.
- Pick out a pretty stained glass suncatcher. An angel, flower, star, heart, butterfly, feather or dove are all beautiful choices.
- Share a cardinal figure with your friend. Cardinals symbolize many things, from inspiring us to take good care of ourselves to reminders that a loved one is saying hello.
- Buy a brick with an engraving of the deceased’s name or a meaningful quote. Many universities and organizations will make these to raise money for their institutions, which becomes a donation and a piece of history.
- Plant a tree in the loved one’s memory. You can conduct a ceremony in your yard or your friend’s, depending on their preference. Hiring a local arborist is a great way to make sure it’s planted correctly and safely. Trees have meaning, too, so check your plant zones and find something that’ll memorialize that special environmentalist or nature lover.
- Gather a group of friends and dedicate a beautiful park bench to the deceased. Agree on a favorite location. This is a great way to pool your money together and go in on something meaningful.
- Name a star after that bright soul you loved. This is nice for a spiritual person or nature enthusiast.
- Virtually adopt a pet, a child in need or an acre of land to save endangered wildlife. Many organizations will send you a memory card, and share how your gift is helping others.
When a death is sudden, it’s especially difficult to prepare financially. Whether you want to help with the costs of the funeral and aftermath or your budget is tight, here are some sympathy gift options that are just as practical as they are kind:
- Offer to help write, address and mail thank-you notes to friends and family who sent meals, flowers, cards, gifts or reached out with a phone call.
- Pick up a guestbook, a memory candle, poignant quote and other items they might need for the ceremony.
- Drop off a homecooked meal or dinner from their favorite restaurant. Check their schedule first to see if they’ll be home and if it’s okay to leave at the door.
- Sign your friend up for a meal subscription box. Figuring out meals when you’re grieving is the last thing you want to do.
- Send restaurant gift cards or combine resources with friends to do one substantial amount from their favorite place or kids’ favorite eatery.
- Set up a meal train service you and others can participate in, so they’ll have many lunches and dinners taken care of.
- Give gift cards for food and grocery delivery services like Instacart, DoorDash and UberEats.
- Offer to pick up their groceries, clean their house, sweep their porch, take out their trashcans or mow their lawn.
- Offer to walk their dog, watch their kids or drive them to an appointment.
- Offer to teach their child how to play a musical instrument or act as a tutor for some of their school lessons.
- Collect a donation for funeral and life expenses from your church or group of friends. Drop off with a gift basket of snacks and mini meals.
- Start a prayer chain with close friends and relatives. Let your friend know who’s lifting them up each day.
- Give a memory trinket box that will help your friend collect keepsakes they can easily organize and store together.
- Crowdsource a community fund for a family who’s experienced the loss of the primary breadwinner, multiple losses or a tragedy due to fire or natural disaster. GoFundMe is a good place to start.
Faith helps many of us get through tough times. If your friend is spiritual or religious, consider sending them a sympathy gift that gives them strength through believing. Here are some faith-based sympathy gift ideas to consider:
- Add a tranquil statue to your friend’s garden. This gentle angel is a reminder of hope and the meaning of life.
- Give an angel figurine that simply says “Love you” or this angel that represents their loved one watching over them. If your friend collects Precious Moments, this Forever in My Heart Angel is a sweet choice.
- Make your own book of comforting quotes that have been a source of support for you, and pass along to your friend.
- Donate to your friend’s church, synagogue or mosque in their loved one’s name.
- Volunteer at a place that the deceased loved: Some examples are a soup kitchen, environmental group, women’s shelter or pet rescue.
- Give a handheld cross for prayer support. This one is aged olive wood from the Holy Land and a reminder that God’s love is everywhere.
- Inspire your grieving friend with Bible verses they can change out each day. This is perfect for someone who primarily works at a desk.
Anyone who’s lost a best friend or fur baby knows the intense sorrow that comes with saying good-bye. It’s so important to let our friends see that we care during this painful time when they can’t believe their loyal companion is gone. There are lots of ways to keep their memory alive fur-ever:
- Frame a photo of your friend’s fur-, feather- or fin-baby. Instagram will probably give you lots of options. Take it one step further with a holiday photo ornament.
- Make a list of the things you loved about their pet. You could even tuck it behind this pawsome quote.
- Give a garden memorial stone to display where your friend’s pet loved to roam. Or if they like personalization, order one with their pet’s name.
- Collect comforting quotes on a secret Pinterest board just for your friend.
- Give a book of pet sympathy quotes that will remind them of their little pal.
- Send a bracelet, cake, cozy blanket or flowers in rainbow colors, symbolizing the peace of the rainbow bridge.
- Give your friend something they can put on their desk, like this dog angel, cat angel or Willow Tree dog figurine.
- Give your friend something to clutch when they’re feeling sad. This inspirational stone fits perfectly in your hand.
- Provide a friend of faith with this vibrant prayer box that reminds us just how happy the rainbow bridge might be.
- Offer to take regular walks with your friend if they’re missing those daily walkies with their pup.
Guys can be hard to shop for, and it doesn’t get any easier when we’re looking for sympathy gifts for the men in our lives. But this challenge of finding a caring gift shouldn’t stop us from showing we care. Here are some sympathy gift ideas:
- Gather comforting snacks in a gift basket based on his favorites and dietary requirements. Can’t drop off in person? Ship a prepackaged one.
- Sign him up for a meal subscription box. This is especially helpful for the non-cook or the man whose partner always prepared meals.
- Give a funny letter or email his loved one wrote to you and share a little slice of the deceased’s personality he might not have seen before. (Of course, keep this classy and don’t send anything that would embarrass him or his loved one.)
- Coordinate a basket of essential supplies, like toilet paper, tissue, paper towels, toiletries, household cleaning supplies and other stuff some men don’t think about. (No offense, guys.)
- Order an engraved, personalized key chain with his loved one’s name.
- Gift cufflinks with his loved one’s initials.
- Ship him sports memorabilia of a team he enjoyed with his loved one.
- Give him something special to wear, like a watch, bracelet or necklace that reminds him of his loved one. This one is perfect for the environmentalist.
- Give an engraved dog tag necklace with the person’s name, a quote or photo.
- Order an elegant writing pen with an engraving of the deceased’s name.
- Get a personalized hammer with his loved one’s name. Perfect for someone whose dad or brother was a handy guy.
- Customize a bottle opener with an engraved toast to the deceased.
- Frame a picture of his partner, mom, dad, sister, son or daughter.
- Offer this rustic sign with the quote “always and forever no matter what.” This is nice for the loss of a spouse.
- Give a sentimental sympathy gift like this desktop figurine, whether he’s lost his dad or a child.
We’re used to getting little gifts for girlfriends but finding sympathy gifts for our best pals isn’t always as simple. If you have a caring friend in your life who needs some extra caring, here are some feminine sympathy gift ideas:
- Pamper her with a massage gift card or prepaid mani/pedi appointment.
- Chip in with your squad and gift her with a grocery delivery gift card.
- Show her you care with something for her home, like a memory candle or this hopeful Bible verse trinket tray.
- Honor her grandparent with an artistic sympathy gift like this loving depiction of a grandma and her grandchild by Ken Sheldon.
- Give a wooden wall cross as a symbol of hope and comfort.
- Remember her beloved sister with a symbol of their relationship. This sisters figurine is perfect for her desk or nightstand.
- Tell your friend you love her with a “You are loved” angel or this prayerful angel for her office or home.
- Comfort her with something that represents your friendship. This friends figurine will remind your bestie you’re keeping her close in heart.
- Gift a butterfly symbol, like this butterfly tray or cross. Butterflies are symbolic creatures that represent rebirth and immortality. In Japanese culture, white butterflies are our loved one’s souls trying to connect with us.
- Commit to regularly scheduled online video calls (adult beverages optional).
- Read a book or take up a hobby their loved one was passionate about.
Losing a mother is one of the greatest losses imaginable, so it’s important to be extra sensitive during this time. Bring some comfort to your friend’s heart with these sympathy gift ideas for the loss of a mom:
- Give a huggable or snuggable sympathy gift, like a cozy throw, shawl or a cuddly pillow in the shape of a heart.
- Remember an angelic mom with a mom angel or mother’s love angel figurine that can be displayed on a mantel, bookcase or kitchen counter.
- Give a friend of faith this calming angel to help her through a painful loss.
- Send your friend a keepsake to take with them wherever they go. This quote stone offers comfort in the great beyond.
- Offer to work out with your friend on a regular basis.
Losing a dad can shake us to our core, whether our connection was close or the love went unsaid. Daughters and sons alike need the compassion of their friends when grieving and we can do a lot just by reaching out. Here are some things you can do for those who’ve lost their dad:
- Take your friend to their dad’s favorite restaurant or drop off his favorite takeout meal.
- Ship a specialty food Dad loved, like barbecue, gourmet cookies or a snack assortment.
- Offer to help your friend with things their dad helped with—lawncare, hanging up a picture, an oil change or assistance with grilling his most famous recipe.
- Give a symbol of their dad’s strength and enduring memory with a gift they can look at every day. This peace rock is nice for a desk or to hold during a sad time.
If friends are grieving the loss of their child, it’s important to show them how much you care. It’s very difficult to express how it feels for a son or daughter to die, and only those who’ve experienced it can come close. Listen to your friends and let them know they—and their child—are loved.
- Remember your friend’s sweet baby with something they can look at every day. This angel or this angel are sweet expressions of sympathy.
- Create a gift basket with comforting self-care items like a cozy blanket, tissues, teas, snacks, giving socks, luxurious soaps and something unique like this angel wing trinket tray.
- Help your friend gather important keepsakes for their child. This memory box is for the loss of baby, but you can offer a pretty box for any age. Hat boxes or card storage boxes work well.
- Schedule regular calls or coffees with your friend. Listen to them and shower them with empathy.
- Offer a father who’s lost his child a game or movie night or a day out playing golf or listening to music. Think about what will bring him comfort, even how you’d want to be comforted if this were you.
- Commission an artist to sketch a portrait of your friend’s child or get their child’s name professionally lettered by a calligraphist. Add a frame to make it easy for your friend to display.
- Offer to help with unexpected funeral costs, chip in with friends to fund the headstone or provide a pretty floral arrangement for the service. These are all great ideas if you can’t be there for your friend in person.
Loss at a young age affects an impressionable child or teen much differently than an older adult. It can deeply define the rest of a person’s life, from future attitudes to big decisions to relationship dynamics. Caring for a grieving young person can make all the difference, and they’ll most likely remember your kindness for many years to come. Here are some sympathy gift ideas for young people:
- Take your friend out for ice cream, schedule a movie night in or send that long-distance pal a bouquet of flowers (could be their first!).
- Frame a picture of them with their loved one.
- Purchase a gift card from your friend’s favorite store to give them something positive to look forward to.
- Tell a young woman how wonderful she is with a sympathy gift of empowerment, like this brave girl heart.
- Present a young griever with a bracelet, necklace or another unique piece like this heart pin. Other symbols could be angel wings, a butterfly, a heart or a star.
- Gift a journal to a teen or young adult who might like to express their emotions through writing.
- Get a punching bag and gloves for a teen who needs to let their frustrations out.
- Make memorial wall art with macramé. Watch Hallmark Photo Stylist Andy Newcom’s tips here.
- Give this colorful cross to a young person to remind them of all the blessings yet to come…and that rough times don’t last forever.
- Send some comfy socks to a teen who’s struggling. Even something with a little humor or sarcasm will honor all of their emotions, including anger and the unfairness of it all.
- Give them a beautiful healing crystal they can tuck in their backpack or put in their car.
- Give hugs with a heatable stuffed animal like this adorable sloth.
- Make sure your friend feels loved with a framed heart they can put in their room.
- Surprise your friend with a hopeful message of empowerment like this prayer box.
- Give your bestie this otters friend box to remind her how much you care.
- Show them someone above is watching over them with this mini angel perfect for a nightstand or dorm desk.
We’ve started you off with a pretty hearty list. Now, it’s your turn to pick your fave or two, reach out to your friend and remind them they aren’t alone. Whatever you do will be a gift of love, and there’s no better gift than that.