Sympathy flowers are a long-running tradition in the U.S., but sometimes a bunch of flowers doesn’t feel like the right way to tell someone important that you care.
Here are five alternative sympathy gifts for bereaved friends and family that will let them know you’re thinking of them.
1. A house plant
Throwing flowers away can sometimes feel too final, especially after a funeral. A potted house plant is longer lasting and will brighten up a room long after cut flowers are past their best.
Your grieving friend might be too busy coping with their bereavement to remember to water it, so pick a tough plant that doesn’t mind dry conditions. Jade Plants (Crassula ovata), Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii), and most kinds of succulents are all good choices.
Cooking for the bereaved is a great, practical way to lend support in the days and weeks after a bereavement.
Instead of sympathy flowers, you could send a basket of muffins or other sweet treats to your bereaved friend. Or, if you want to keep it healthy, a basket of fruit is just as thoughtful.
In the weeks leading up to and after the funeral, you might consider making some pre-prepared meals for when your friend is too tired or upset to find the energy to cook from scratch. Classics include things like lasagna, casserole and pie – all recipes that can be prepared in advance and heated up easily.
3. A charitable donation
Many bereaved people like their friends to make a charitable donation instead of spending money on flowers. You might want to choose a worthy cause that is close to your friend’s heart. If the person who has died was battling a particular illness, donations to charities researching a cure may be appropriate.
Most major charities allow you to donate online for your convenience, or you may be able to send them a check in the mail.
4. A candle
Candles are traditionally associated with mourning. Some people find that taking time to reflect while lighting a candle is a positive way to remember a loved one.
There are many candle holders and candle gift sets available to buy that are specifically designed for someone who is grieving. They may have a thoughtful quote inscribed on them, or be in the shape of an angel, star or dove. Alternatively, you might choose a calming aromatherapy candle.
5. A quilt, pillow or cuddly toy
During grief, sometimes a little bit of comfort can help. A gift of a special quilt, pillow or teddy bear can be hugged, providing physical and emotional comfort. You can make or buy quilts, pillows and cuddly toys with quotes about grief embroidered on them to mark them out as special.
Another option is to customize them yourself. Some people embroider their own message onto a pillow or teddy, or even use old clothing of the person who has died to make a very special pillow to hug. However, this should obviously only be done with the permission of the bereaved, and it may not be an appropriate gift to suggest if you do not know them very well.
Read more on how to support a grieving friend or family member.