Sympathy Gifts 101: What to Gift When a Loved One Passes

Sympathy Gift Basket 2019

When a loved one or the relative of a loved one passes it’s common to not know what to do or say to the family and friends of the deceased. Often, we fail to express our condolences to the bereaved due to our own loss for words or lack of ideas for what to gift. Here at we hear over and over that our customers do not know what gift to send when a loved one passes, so they end up sending flower arrangements or nothing at all.

When to Express Your Sympathy

As soon as you hear the news or shortly after, reach out to the bereaved to express your condolences as soon as possible. Although it is never too late to share a sympathy gift, card or sentiment, time is often of the essence. Your comforting words or gift gesture will mean a lot to the bereaved

What Sympathy Gifts Are Appropriate?

Uncommon Gifts – Memorials, name a star after the deceased, plant a memorial tree, make a quilt with the loved one’s clothes, a memorial garden or memorial garden stone.

Gifts That Help/Gifts of Time – Babysit, run errands, grocery shop, stock their fridge with prepared meals, pick-up or drop-off their kids at school or extracurricular activities. Basically anything that will relieve their stress is a helpful uncommon gift that will definitely be appreciated.

Flower Arrangements – Fresh flowers seem to be the go to sympathy gift because we’re not sure what else to send. Although they are often an appropriate and beautiful gift, the deceased’s next of kin are often inundated with floral arrangements. Too often flowers go to waste or are donated after the service and are not enjoyed by the next of kin. It’s important to know the deceased’s religion as some religions consider it offensive to send flowers.

Food Gifts – Baked goods, prepared meals and gourmet gift baskets are always thoughtful gifts because they can be easily set out for friends, family, and neighbors when they come over to pay their respects. Meat and cheese gifts are popular sympathy gifts because they include something that appeals to almost everyone’s tastes. The bereaved will also appreciate gourmet gifts because they probably will not have time to grocery shop. Remember to consider any dietary restrictions or the religious practices of the gift recipient.

Is Money an Appropriate Gift?

Money is typically not an appropriate sympathy gift but is appropriate in a few circumstances. Charity donations in the name of the deceased are usually appropriate, especially if requested in the deceased’s obituary. If the deceased’s family is financially burdened with funeral costs, money is appropriate but should be given to the family before or after after funeral services.

Religion and Gift Giving

Always consider the deceased’s religion prior to sending a gift or visiting the deceased’s family. Here is a general gift giving guide for a few religions. We’d love to hear what gifts are appropriate for your religion so we can add to this list.

  • Buddhist – Money or flowers, but no food gifts.
  • Catholic  –  Cards, gifts, donations, or flowers.
  • Greek Orthodox – Charity donations.
  • Hindu – Fruit Gifts.
  • Islam – Food gifts including fruit, baked goods, or prepared meals. No flowers.
  • Jewish –  No flowers and only Kosher gifts if the family keeps Kosher.
  • Mormon – Flowers, but no flowers shaped like a cross.
  • Protestant  –  Gifts, donations, cards or flowers.
  • Taoism – White flowers (color of mourning) only, place money with deceased.

Expressions of Sympathy: Condolence Notes

Express your condolence with a thoughtful sympathy card or handwritten note. Speak from your heart and express to the recipient that you are thinking of them. Your thoughts will be well received and appreciated. Last, consider including a special memory you have of the person. Share a heartwarming or funny story about the deceased or include photos of their loved one who has passed. Refrain from mentioning yourself and focus on the person you are writing to. Here are a few helpful sentiments that can be included in your condolence message:

  • I am sorry for your loss.
  • With deepest sympathy…
  • Our thoughts and prayers are with you…
  • I was deeply saddened to hear about your _____’s passing. I know you were very close to him/her and will miss them very much.
  • Thinking of you and your family during this difficult time.
  • I am thankful to have shared memories with _____. I will miss him/her because _____.
  • I am so sorry to hear of ______’s passing. He/She was a very special man/woman. I will always cherish the memory of them. You are in my thoughts.

Gifting Advice From Our Team

Maryann – If sending flowers or a gift basket to a funeral home, it is wise to let the funeral home know the delivery is coming so they can properly arrange or set-up your gift prior to calling hours.”

Anne: – “Easy gifts are best. Fruit baskets or packaged snack foods are popular sympathy gifts. Anything that does not require a lot of time or attention. Sometimes comfort foods are nice – baked goods sampler, etc. but steer away from anything too festive.”

Final Thoughts

For more helpful information on writing sympathy notes or what to gift when a loved one passes, read How to Write a Sympathy CardThoughtful Gifts For Someone Who’s Just Lost A Spouse, or What to write in a Sympathy Card.