While working in a funeral home when I was younger, I was amazed at the amount of money spent on flowers and plants...and that so many were left behind or discarded after the funerals ended. So beautiful, but seemed so wasteful.
I avowed to be more creative when it was my turn to send condolences, buI I too have spent thousands of dollars over the years on flowers when someone has passed. Sometimes there was an option to donate to a cause, but I still wanted to send something else if I was close to those grieving. The options were sparse, and was disappointed in myself each time I spent $100 on a flower arrangement that would be tossed in a couple days. This is the EXACT reason I created a special gift collection for this.
While beautiful, if flowers are taken home after the funeral, they require some work and may trigger more grief. Changing water, clearing away wilted pieces, and eventually disposing of the flower remains is a process that keeps the funeral experience in mind. I remember when the rose from my Grandma’s casket spray dropped its last petal, I cried. My grandma died, and then the pretty rose died too! I should have looked into having it professionally preserved.
Sending plants instead is a great alternative, but again, they require maintenance, which may be too much to ask of the bereaved early on. There’s also the chance of the wrong plant being sent....I once ordered a Peace Lily to a funeral, and a Lucky Bamboo was what arrived. I was mortified...!!!
Other gift trinkets can become overwhelming in number, and tend to become dust collectors in their own depressive vignettes....or they are put away and forgotten. I’d suggest saving those things for someone whose taste you know extremely well....if they love Willow Tree figures, stick with those. If they have a garden, a personalized garden stone might be nice. Do they have a collection of some sort? Help them add to it with a sentimental piece in kind. Otherwise, steer clear of knickknacks, and opt for a lovely journal, as this can be kept and used daily.
If you love the idea of plants and flowers, something like a selfwatering plant kit can be put away until the recipient is ready to tend to it. It sends the same sentiment as flowers or plants, without all the negatives. Instead of sending cut flowers that won’t last, you are sending something that is life giving!
Tree growing kits are also are a great gift. Trees represent the beauty, vibrancy and continuity of life. A specially planted and located tree can honor the person who died and serve as a perennial memorial. My favorites are spruce trees, because they are lovely year round. If the recipient has space, a tree like a sequoia would last for generations, as would a stone or brick with the deceased’s name, which could accompany the tree.
Naming a star or donating a bench in a favored location is usually an appreciated gesture too, especially as more families are opting for cremation. I personally love that the Make a Wish Foundation had star in Orion’s Belt named after my brother, and that there’s a brick at our local Botanical Garden (a place we went often as a family) with his name on it too. Something else that is outdoors but portable would be windchimes. Every time the wind blows can be a gentle and beautiful reminder of the deceased. (A windchime paired with a tree kit would be perfect!)
The final gift suggestions I have are things that are often overlooked, but so important....they have more to do with caring for the grieving instead of (or in addition to) a memorial. The first few days and weeks after a loss can blur together....phonecalls and emails have to go out, funeral arrangements have to be made, company might be arriving...and still the grieving has to eat, do laundry, care for children, etc. The mundane things become frighteningly huge when you realize you’ve run out of food, or toilet paper, or no one has clean underwear. With all the company coming in and out, dishes start to pile, and things start to fall by the wayside. What would help with this? Chip in and help pay for a house cleaning service, or grab a friend or two and go quietly help keep things in order at the home of the grieving. Send or bring foods that can be snacked on without having to be prepared, a variety of healthy and comforting foods. Send paper plates and utensils so the dishes don’t need worried about. Take their vehicles to be cleaned and gassed up, or tend to their lawn or pets for a few days. If there are children in the home, offer to care for them.
Offer what you can do specifically, instead of asking what they need, or telling them to call if they need you. These open ended offers put pressure on the receiver to try and come up with something that won’t inconvenience you, and they will most likely never end up asking.
I vividly recall the week my little brother passed away at home from his cancer. On Thursday he was walking with a walker, on Friday he was too weak to leave bed, on Saturday morning he fell into brief coma, and we knew the end was hours or days away. We were all so exhausted, physically and emotionally, but no one wanted to leave his side...we stayed awake in his room in shifts, so that another person could sleep, eat, bathe, etc. Close friends would also take shifts sitting with him, either keeping us company, or watching for any changes. Other friends kept our fridge stocked & toilet paper stocked, and the dishes done. I remember I wasn’t really ever hungry per se, but I kept nibbling on a seemingly bottomless box of Krispy Kreme donuts....for three days.(There were other things available, but the raspberry filled donuts were oddly comforting). Sunday was a continuous flow of family and friends coming to bid my brother farewell. It was such an amazing show of love, and it kept us going far into the evening, when we eventually gathered said our own private goodbyes. My brother took his last breath a little after midnight on Monday morning, and our house once again filled with people, almost continuously, for the rest of the week. When the time for sleep came, we couldn’t...because it hurt. When the time to prepare for the Memorial service came, we were handicapped by our fatigue and sorrow. Without hesitation, our friends and neighbors quietly carried us through those dark days....coming in and out with food, or to clean, do laundry, or just to hold our hands.
For friends & acquaintances that are not of a close nature, there are still gifts of comfort and care that can be given. Gift cards for restaurants, cleaning companies, or spas in their area are thoughtful, as well as sending self-care packages. Something many don’t realize is that practicing good self-care doesn’t mean feeling sorry for oneself, or being self-indulgent; rather, it means creating conditions that allow for true healing.
“When we recognize that self-care begins with ourselves, we no longer think of those around us as being totally responsible for our well-being. Healthy self-care forces us to mourn in ways that help us heal, and that is nurturing indeed.” ~Dr. Alan Wolfelt
So what’s good to send in a self care package? Warmth & coziness. Bath bombs, candles, and herbal teas to warm and help facilitate sleep, are a great start. These gifts can be utilized immediately, or put away until the bereaved is ready, but they remind them to slow down and take time for themselves....which is essential.
When in need of these gifts for tough times, check out my Sympathy & Comfort Collection, or reach out and see if we can find a better solution! ❤️