10 Sympathy Gifts to Send That Are Not Flowers

10 Sympathy Gifts to Send That Are Not Flowers

By Suzanne Robitaille

In these strangely different times, some of the most meaningful gestures to help support the bereaved—a hug, a visit, an offer to babysit the kids—are all out, at least for the foreseeable future.

It can be tough to know what’s an appropriate gift when you’re not there to hand deliver it with your condolences. But several companies are making it easier,  so you don’t have to fret about whether you’re doing the right thing.

1.   Comfort with food 

Food gifts are one of the most requested items in a recent Wishbar survey and many online shops (and chefs) are rising to the occasion. We like the offerings at GoldBelly, a curator of nostalgic foods across America’s best known establishments. Think savory instead of sweet: Splurge on a New York Brunch Kit for 6 from the infamous Ess-a-Bagel or comfort food like Oprah’s Favorite Signature Chicken Pie from Centerville Pie Co.

2.   Give a chocolate fix 

There’s somewhat of a fine line for sending chocolates to express sympathy. It could come off as too whimsical. The trick is in the presentation. Save the chocolate covered pretzels for a happier time, and choose chocolates with subtle colors, flavors and boxing. We are partial to Ginger Elizabeth’s dark chocolate collection and Jacques Torres milk chocolate bonbons that come with a sympathy sleeve, in flavors like pate de fruit and chocolate mint tea.

3.   Send a handwritten card

A card isn’t revelatory, but it’s one of the most lasting things you can send someone who’s grieving. Reignite this lost art form at Wishbar, where we help you find the right card and for just the right message. The card is handwritten and mailed out on your behalf, making it an easy way to show you care, with the sentiment to match. If you prefer to send the card yourself, choose the ‘Mail it Myself’ option, or shop sympathy cards from our card makers Em & Friends and Belle & Union.

4.   Keep memories safe

A bereaved person can easily become overwhelmed with “stuff” after their loved one’s passing. A sturdy box to store meaningful tokens, cards, photos, recipes, jewelry and more is a moving gift. There are many beautiful boxes, like this large, hand stained one from Hereafter. Etsy also has a few well-made boxes, like this walnut-and-cherry wood one that can be engraved with names and photos.

5.   Commission a quilt

This requires a little tact to pull off, unless you’re really close with the bereaved. Offer to pick up some t-shirts, which can be sewed by artists into colorful quilts. We found two sites that do this with flair: MemoryStitch.com does t-shirt quilts, pillows and pillowcases. Project Repat makes quilts sewed by American factory workers—many  who are refugees. You can also send in polo or button-down shirts. Both sites sell gift cards. 

6.   Print a photo blanket

Have a favorite photo of a loved one? A photo blanket is an easy and thoughtful sentiment. Zazzle.com has an ‘In Loving Memory’ fleece blanket, while Collage.com will weave your photos into a cotton blanket with fringed edges. It goes without saying that a framed photo or photo book for their coffee table will also make a nice impression. Hint: Use group photos as emotions may still be raw.

7.   Plant a tree

In some faiths, the gift of a tree or sapling symbolizes budding growth and rebirth from loss. The Gifted Tree lets you select a location with special relevance from forests around the world and present to your family or friend as a card, certificate or plaque with your personal message. Another option, from The Comfort Company, will mail  someone the seeds to plant a tree for herself.

8.   Create a recipe plate

This is a good idea for carrying on family traditions. Upload a recipe everyone loves and have it transferred onto a quiche plate or serving dish so  it can become a permanent display in someone's kitchen and remind them of their favorite cook. Prairie Hill Pottery’s store on Etsy will memorialize any recipe. Crafty gifters could even try to DIY this project with just a few materials.

9.   Hire a service

It’s rare to expect to lose someone, and when we do it seems everything goes awry. Give someone the time they need to process grief by taking care of some of household activities like cooking and cleaning. Pop a gift card into an appropriate letterpress card and you’ve done a helpful deed in no time. Seamless and Handy are good choices.

10.   Try a grief box

There are endless places to turn for non-food care baskets but we find many too hollow to send as a sympathy gift. You can’t go wrong with Spoonful of Comfort’s solace package, which comes with a lush (and practical) blanket. We also liked one from Laurelbox that holds a personalized candle and a pretty mango wood keepsake box.

Sending a sympathy gift is one of the most thoughtful things you can do. Even when distance separates you and someone who is grieving, these gestures are designed to spark memories, connection and comfort and will make a deep and lasting impression.

Suzanne Robitaille is the founder of Wishbar.

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