By Published On: October 8th, 2021

Before You Send Flowers, Here Are 5 Unique Sympathy Gift Ideas

The best condolence gifts for grieving loved ones

What should you send to a grieving friend or family member when someone dies? Sincere offerings can bring comfort and help ease burdens during this difficult time. Flowers are nice, but there are far more personal and meaningful options.  Many grieving family members get bombarded with flowers, making them feel overwhelmed. Some say they would prefer not to receive something that will die in a short amount of time. They are already immersed in grief over a loss. Instead, it’s best to contribute something useful, sincere, and personal to help ease their pain.

Here are 5 unique funeral gift ideas instead of flowers

In Lieu of…

In some cases, families will send an announcement stating exactly what they would prefer instead of flowers. Check the obituary first to see if they wrote something like, “In lieu of flowers, please donate to our favorite charity.” If you can’t find the obituary, try checking the funeral home website or calling the funeral home directly. They may have information regarding the family’s preferences. Do the detective work yourself before reaching out to the family directly. They will likely be consumed with funeral arrangements. If you make a donation on the deceased’s behalf, mail a card to the family with the details of the contribution. Here’s a helpful article from the Funeral Help Center for more information on funeral gifts and donations.

funeral obituary written on card, with nice ink pen and cap

Handwritten Letters

Sure, Hallmark has a whole section of sympathy cards that anyone can buy for a person in mourning. But handwritten cards or letters can help survivors feel less alone and more connected to the person who has passed. You could even organize a group of people to provide handwritten letters which include their fondest memories of the deceased. Once you have a stack of letters, it is easy to have them bound into an inexpensive book. This will help survivors to keep the memories of their loved one alive. They can flip through the pages anytime they want to remember the person they lost, taking comfort in knowing they touched so many lives. This article by Very Well Health provides wonderful insight as well as a template to get you started on your handwritten letter.

October calendar sitting on counter

A Day Off

If you have a coworker who is grieving the loss of a loved one, you may be able to donate an extra day to their bereavement leave. Many employers offer very little paid time off for bereavement, if they offer it at all. According to a Society for Human Resource Management survey, workers are offered an average of only four days off for the death of a child or spouse. Donating a vacation day could make a huge difference for someone struggling to go back to work after a loss. This is another opportunity to organize group support, asking if anyone else in the office is willing to donate one day. If five employees are able to donate, that is equal to one week of paid time off to grieve and recover. Check with your employer to see if it’s possible to donate days for bereavement leave. This could be the most meaningful gift your coworker receives.

Help with Daily Chores

After a family member or close friend dies, the world (almost cruelly) keeps spinning. Dishes pile up, dust gathers, dogs need to be walked. Taking care of day-to-day tasks can be daunting for someone who is suffering through grief. A practical offering, such as a gift certificate for a house cleaning or dog walking service, can provide relief for a mourning family. You could take this gift a step further and offer to help schedule a time for the service, with the family’s permission.

Additionally, it might be beneficial if you offer to babysit children. Offering to take them to the park for the day so their parents can tie up loose ends with an estate could ease some stress. There is often a lot of help available to families right around the time of the funeral. But they still need support in the weeks after the event is over. Reach out to the family and ask when these types of gifts would be most helpful. Some may prefer to use a house cleaning service right away, as people like to come and visit to offer condolences. Others may need it most a couple of weeks after the funeral. Let them be your guide.

2 croissants and latte sitting on grass

Food Delivery Service

When it comes to offering food, proceed with caution. The second most common gift for grieving families is food. Like flowers, the sheer volume of food can be overwhelming. There is only so much room in a freezer to store casseroles. If you would like to offer the gift of food, consider giving it a few weeks after the funeral, when the stockpile of comfort food starts to dwindle. Instead of making a meal yourself, it’s better to offer a food delivery service, such as Blue Apron or Hello Fresh. Food delivery services can give the family the freedom to choose their own dishes. Some people have food allergies or dietary restrictions. A meal loaded with foods they can’t tolerate will only cause anxiety. If you still prefer to offer a personal touch, ask them to give you their grocery list and go shopping for them. If they are too tired for company, offer to leave it at the door for them with a note. A restaurant gift card might come in handy as well. For more on the etiquette of sympathy meals, here is a handy guide.


The best gifts for families who have suffered a loss are personal, heartfelt, and useful. Giving one of these unique sympathy gifts can provide much-needed support and comfort to grieving families who have lost a loved one.

Opal Cremation is honored to serve Southern California through providing service with compassion. Our all-inclusive direct cremation package and grief services support our community during challenging times. For more information on how Opal Cremation can help you, visit our blog or contact us directly.

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