Healing Gifts for the Grieving, Crafted by Grievers.

5 Things to Consider When Buying a Sympathy Gift

5 Things to Consider When Buying a Sympathy Gift

At some point in life, you're probably going to ask yourself a difficult question.

“What do I buy someone who is grieving?”

Gift-giving is a very human way to express feelings. That’s why we do it so often! Sympathy gifts can be a much tougher gift to get “right”, though, so here’s some tips to help you choose the perfect gift for your grieving friend: 
1. Don’t turn it into homework.

You know how annoying it is when someone recommends you a movie, then won’t stop asking if you’ve watched it? People who are grieving appreciate it even less. If you give someone a book, let them initiate the conversation about it. Don’t call them to ask if they received anything (get a tracking number instead). 

Giving someone work to do is essentially the opposite of a gift.

Cut them some slack when it comes to etiquette. Writing thank-you cards and making phone calls can be daunting for someone that’s suffering the loss of a loved one. It’s unfair to hold them to the same standards as someone who’s celebrating. Just accept that your loved one does appreciate the gesture, whether they formally thank you or not. You’d appreciate the slack too, right? 
2. Timing is (and isn’t!) everything. 

People tend to worry if they’ve waited too long to give someone a sympathy gift, at the risk of opening “old” wounds. The thing is, with grief, that wound isn’t going anywhere. Reminders of lost loved ones crop up in all sorts of unexpected places. When those memories are paired with a reminder that they are loved by a dear friend, they’re much more enjoyable.

In fact, sending gifts throughout the year can be way more appreciated than you may think. Reminders of your loved one throughout the year mean more than a gift given in the sea of sympathy cards and flowers. 
Everyone’s there in the beginning, but the level of support wanes over time. Being there for the long-haul shows that you still care and that you’re still thinking of them. 
Acknowledging things like the birthday of the deceased, the day they passed, and other special days is a powerful gesture. Don’t worry about reminding them of their loss. They know what day it is. They definitely haven’t forgotten. 
3. Tread carefully.

You may not think much of it, but be a little extra-considerate when you’re choosing a sympathy gift for a friend. Different cultures and religions have “rules” and traditions about death and grieving. Make sure your gift isn’t insensitive by checking up on their belief system. Of course, you should probably do this research from a healthy distance. 

Your intentions may be pure, but someone in the throes of grief doesn’t deserve to be offended because you were careless. 
4. Make it personal.

First, ask yourself: is this a genuine gift from my heart or am I just doing the most convenient thing for me? 

Avoid leaning on “easy” traditional gifts, like showing up with flowers long after the wake. Perhaps your loved one prefer a donation to their favorite charity or a gift certificate for a massage. Giving a sympathy gift that feels unnatural is just a reminder of how abnormal and foreign their life is feeling at the moment.   
Gestures of sympathy mean a million times more if they have a personal touch. Hand-write any cards, and don’t be afraid to use the name of the deceased. If you have the option, hand-deliver your gift. If you live close to your grieving friend, make an effort to reach out to them and visit (after making sure they are comfortable with it). 
Prepare yourself for tears, but don’t try to fix their pain. Not only is it an exercise in futility, it’s frustrating for a griever. The most valuable sympathy gift is loving support.
5….but don’t make it about you.

On that note, please remember that you can give meaningful support to your loved one without diminishing their grief! It’s simple: don’t use it as an opportunity to talk about your own. Someone consumed by the pain of loss has enough to worry about. It’s tempting to try to use your experiences to connect. However, just “being there” as a listener is almost always more appreciated. Know your loved one, and learn how you need to offer your comfort. Until then, keep your stories to yourself.

It is okay to say that you do not know what to say. It’s okay not to say anything. Often, a gesture or a gift says more than you could ever hope to, because sometimes the words don’t come. 

Giving a friend tools to help them grieve (on their terms) is a particularly special thing to do for someone. You’re acknowledging the personal nature of their grief, while still expressing that you care. Grief doesn’t need, or appreciate, an audience. Gifts that gently encourage your loved one to ruminate, celebrate, and honor their loss are a treasure. 

It’s certainly more unique than flowers, anyway. AFTER products were designed with all these considerations in mind. 

Ultimately, whatever path you take to show your love and sympathy, you’re doing a kindness. And even if it’s not written in a gilded thank-you note, they appreciate your effort. 

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