The Most Helpful Sympathy Gifts, According to a Therapist

Tamara Kraus

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There comes a time when the people closest to you will face the loss of a loved one. You want to do anything you can to help them in a time of grief, but sometimes all they really need is a small token knowing you’re there for them until they are ready to talk. Picking out a sympathy gift that’s meaningful and equal parts helpful to them can be tricky to find — for a child, you’ll want to give them something like a stuffed animal, and things like meal kits or some (not all are helpful) books can serve as a guide during this time. The etiquette surrounding sympathy gifts can be confusing, so we asked Lara Krawchuk, the owner and therapist at Healing Concepts LLC, a therapy practice based in Philadelphia, about everything you need to know — from the timeline to send a gift to her top picks that they’ll actually find useful during this time.

So, when should you send the gift? Krawchuk recommends waiting a few weeks to send a gift or card since that’s when the person grieving can feel the most lonely or forgotten and will need to know someone is still thinking of them. And don’t follow up to see if they received it — they probably did. “Assume it was well received or the grieving person is too overwhelmed to respond,” she says. “They get a pass on gift etiquette in these painful times. If you are very close to the person who is grieving, it is important to continue to check in on them in a loving way.”

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When it comes to what you should give them, think about what they actually need. Krawchuk says that her clients say their homes often feel like a funeral parlor with all the flowers they receive, so consider something more practical in early gift giving. The best option is to select something that brings comfort. A stuffed animal is a sure choice for kids and a gift basket can be helpful for parents. You’re probably wondering: what about self-help books? Krawchuk says to try and refrain from them as they often go unread and are too overwhelming to read. If you do want to send one, just make sure you’ve read it so you know there’s actually helpful information inside. Other ideas include concrete gifts such as candles and journals. At the end of the day, the ultimate gift you can give is your presence, but a small gift can offer a lot of hope and healing. Picking out a sympathy gift isn’t as simple as a birthday gift, so ahead, we’ve rounded up Krawchuk’s go-to picks as well as some of our favorites that can help a loved one when they need you most.

This sweet sympathy set is ready to go.

A memory box is a great gift for later on when the person is ready to collect some items and photos that commemorate their loved one.

Instead of flowers, opt for a plant that will last for years to come.

These calming candles are made for mindfulness and relaxation.

Give this snuggly rabbit to a child to feel protected and comforted.

They’ll feel cozy wrapped up in this wool throw blanket.

The last thing they want to do is cook, so this box of comfort foods will certainly be appreciated.

This grief journal will let them process their feelings when they’re ready.

If you do want to send flowers, Urban Stems has plenty of gorgeous sympathy options.

Help them create a calming ambiance at home with this relaxing diffuser.

This adorable stuffed-animal-blanket duo gives a child the best of both worlds.

If cooking is therapeutic for them, gift them easy-to-make-meals delivered right to their door.

This pretty book features uplifting words alongside flower illustrations they can cut out and transform into a beautiful bouquet.

You can never go wrong with an assortment of gourmet snacks to add a dose of light to their day.

Need more gift-giving ideas? Take a look at our slideshow of subscription boxes below:

Best subscription boxes
Best subscription boxes

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