It can be hard to think of the right words to say to someone who has recently lost a loved one. When you don’t know how to react, you might be tempted to leave them alone, but the grieving process can be isolating enough without friends keeping their distance just because they don’t know what to say or do.

Though it may be difficult or uncomfortable, there are many ways you can provide comfort and support, and the people grieving will greatly appreciate it.

If you’re thinking, “What do you give someone who lost a loved one?”, our guide on gifts to send and kind gestures will convey the right message even if you aren’t sure what to say.

Kind Gestures and Gift Ideas

1. Take the time to listen

Make yourself available to your friend, and give them the opportunity to talk about their feelings and memories. The last thing you want to do is put your foot in your mouth, so it’s wise to listen more than you speak. Be fully present and attentive.

2. Offer your help

Since your friend may feel overwhelmed, it’s better to be specific when offering to help rather than a vague “let me know what I can do.” Offer to help with anything that has to do with the ceremony such as informing other family members of the funeral mass.

3. Check in regularly

Immediately after the funeral, a friend may be barraged with back-to-back phone calls and sympathy. As time goes on, the phone calls may drop off but that doesn’t mean the grieving process is over. Make a note to check in a month after the loss and keep birthdays and anniversaries in mind. Sending a card or gift such as this Gone but Not Forgotten music box can remind your friend that they are not alone.

4. Share memories

If you knew the deceased, share your memories and stories about them with your friend. If you didn’t know the person, you can also help your friend put together a memory book of pictures and mementos of their loved one, and encourage them to share stories with you. A sweet gesture would also be to gift them with a keepsake box in which they can keep mementos.  

5. Send a gift of hope and inspiration

An inspirational book or a funny movie to help them take their mind off things for a while can aid your friend in the healing process. Since talking and writing can be a major part of the grieving process, a journal is a thoughtful condolence gift idea. You could also gift them with a CD of meditational music or a soothing windchime to help them relax and rejuvenate.

6. Help with daily tasks

The family will be grieving and dealing with a lot at the moment. It’s best to check in and see if there is anything needed around the house: taking out the trash, dog-walking, mowing the lawn or cleaning.

7. Take them on an adventure

It’s possible that the last thing a person who is grieving wants to do is go out. However, offer to take them to their favorite place, dinner spot or a walk on the beach. Fresh air and a little sunshine can go a long way.

8. Put together a self-care gift 

A person who is grieving often forgets to take care of themselves as much as they should. Compile a variety of items such as toiletries, a gift card to the grocery store, pajamas, magazines and candles.

9. Offer to babysit

If the person who is grieving has kids, it would be nice to take them on a stroll or on an adventure to give the parents a little time for themselves. Even an hour or two will help them out tremendously.

10. Show love

The most important thing you can do for someone who is grieving is to show your love. Oftentimes a person can feel alone, especially if they lost someone they lived with. Let them know how much you care and be there to listen.

Do’s and Don’ts of Condolence Gift Giving

Don’t go overboard

Now is not the time for a grand gesture or over-the-top gift. Even a gesture as simple as sending a card and beautiful bouquet of flowers will speak volumes.  

Don’t expect a thank you

No need to sit around waiting for a formal thank you card. They may pick up the phone to thank you, but even the day-to-day may be a struggle for someone going through a loss. Be patient and know that your gift is appreciated, even if they have trouble sitting down and writing out a thank you note at this time.

Do find out their religious preferences

When choosing a sympathy card to send, be sure it’s appropriate to their faith. You wouldn’t want to send an atheist a card with spiritual overtones, but it would be appreciated by someone with a firm belief in heaven. It’s also important when sending a gift. Flowers are an appropriate gift after a Christian passes, but some cultures and religions frown upon flowers during this sad time. 

Do bring food

Since self-care isn’t generally the top priority of someone in grief, a special meal is a thoughtful and practical condolence gift. If you aren’t a good cook or don’t live nearby, you could send a gift basket of fresh fruit and sweet treats. Typically, something that is easy to store or freeze would be most appropriate so that it can last the family a couple of days. Find out if anyone in the family has any dietary restrictions as well.  

Oftentimes people mistakenly avoid mentioning the loved one’s name, but this may seem as if the deceased has been forgotten or erased from our lives. In addition to using the person’s name, personalized memorial gifts are a special way to remind our friend that the memories of their loved one will live on forever.