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Sympathy Gift Guide

When somebody has experienced a loss, sending a gift is a kind gesture. Perhaps you cannot attend a funeral because you live too far away. Or you want to reach out but do not feel your relationship to the family is close enough to attend the services.

If you are sending a gift that is to be displayed at the funeral, send them to the funeral home as soon as you hear the news. They will be signed for, appropriately displayed and given to the recipient. When sending a personal gift, send it to the home of the bereaved anytime up to a month after the death.

Always include a personalized note. DON’T send flowers to a Jewish families; traditionally flowers and plants are considered inappropriate because they are a painful reminder of the life that ended. Instead send food baskets, a personal note, or a charitable donation.

Flowers: Flowers are beautiful, traditional way to a to honor a death and let the bereaved know you are thinking of them. Some of the more common types of funeral flowers are casket sprays, wreaths, altar bouquets. Typically the family will provide casket spray; friends and non-immediate family should consider another floral gift. White flowers, like gardenias and lilies,; are always appropriate.

Plants: Plants are an appropriate gift both for the funeral services and as a personal gift to the bereaved. They are beautiful and will offer memories of your thoughtfulness for months and even years to come. A green leafy plant or white flowering plant is always appropriate. Give more exotic plant varieties, or colorful flowering plants, if you were close to the deceased and feel they are a better reflection of their personality and spirit.

Food Baskets: Sending a basket of food, fruit and wine is a nurturing gesture for the bereaved. They can enjoy the food basket with friends and family who gather to comfort them. Or they can partake in their own time, perhaps after the funeral is over, when they will appreciate your kindness even after the formal public mourning is complete.

Charitable Donation: Many families specify a charity to which they request friends and family make donations in the deceased’s name. There is comfort in knowing that from the death, there is hope for those in need. If the family does not specify a charity, giving a gift to an organization close to the deceased’s interests, like an ecology group or university fund, is also appropriate. Sending a note that “we made a donation to such and such organization” is meaningful and will comfort the bereaved.

Personal Services: For many people, losing a loved one is very sorrowful, but also carries new responsibilities– paperwork, banking, lawyers. Services that make life just a little bit easier can ease the pain and uneasiness. A cleaning service, child care, spa afternoon or meal delivery service can help.

Sharing Memories: Memories comfort those left behind, offering evidence of a well-lived, rewarding life. Photos and videos are often especially cherished. Sending a small album of photos, a framed photo – even a photocopy of a kind note or short poem, keeps the memories of the deceased alive, and helps the bereaved learn “who he or she was” to the important people in his or her life.