How to choose a gift for a friend that’s grieving
Gift giving is a challenge when the person you’re buying for is grieving.
Instead of shying away from giving a gift because you’re worried it won’t strike the right tone, gifts actually provide a meaningful opportunity to show your loved one that they’re not alone because you’ve been thinking of them.
Perhaps most importantly, the gift itself can offer a nurturing, healing experience that’ll last long after it’s unwrapped.
Here’s our list of thoughtful gift ideas sure to warm the heart of anyone grieving this holiday season. Above all, remember to consider their unique personality, and add a loving note for a special touch that brings them comfort.
Grief is often accompanied by experiences of anxiety or depression, which can make your loved one feel disconnected from the world around them. Self-soothing techniques will help draw them back into the present moment. You can make self-soothing easy and enjoyable for them.
Soft fabrics provide a sense of comfort and tactile connection to the physical world. Consider choosing a soft new robe for them to snuggle into or even a pair of fuzzy slippers.
Weighted blankets are scientifically shown to reduce anxiety and provide a sense of calm because of deep touch pressure. In fact, weighted blankets have been shown to help people fall and stay asleep. If you know your friend has been tossing and turning in bed, a weighted blanket will improve their quality of life and make grief less overwhelming because they’re getting in their most basic self-care: sleep.
Finally, items like a skincare kit or face masks will reconnect them to their body and the present moment.
Make it easy for your loved one to access grief support and a safe community that understands their journey through grief.
You might consider a subscription service like the Modern Loss online community. This is a great resource for the grieving to access helpful resources, read essays and ideas about loss, discover creative ways to process grief, and simply connect with others who know what they’re going through.
Griefnet is another good option with online support groups and mental health resources for both adults and children to receive support. For a loved one experiencing complicated grief, or even processing a traumatic experience, Online Grief Support provides communities for specific types of losses.
In today’s internet age, no one needs to go through their grief alone.
Consider how your friend is experiencing their grief: do they feel overwhelmed and are looking for relief? A novel could provide a helpful escape at the end of their day.
If a long book seems like a major feat, consider resources that are easy to pick up and set back down again when they need it. There are books about grief for both adults and children. Good adult books include Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant, and I Wasn't Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping and Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One by Brook Noel.
An autobiography is also a meaningful gift when it’s written by someone they admire. When your loved one sees how someone they respect has dealt with grief, it can inspire positive coping skills and help them make meaning out of their own journey through loss.
For kids, The Memory Book: A Grief Journal for Children and Families by Joanna Rowland is a very helpful way to process their experience. On the other hand, sometimes a great short story is what’ll help kids find joy. Plus, reading together will create a moment of connection with their caregivers, which is healing in itself.
Family losses can shake up our sense of home and belonging. This is particularly true when someone loses a parent: mom and dad are often associated with a feeling of coming home.
Your friend may miss dad’s cookies and the smell of mom’s favourite candles in the house. Now, they may feel out of the place where they live. Bringing in cozy elements will help your friend, no matter who they’ve lost in their family, to create a home anew wherever they are.
Candles have long been used across cultures to bring light, both literally and symbolically, in dark times. We only have to look at the light of the menorah or the classic candlelit German Christmas trees to see it! Candles are also considered a critical element of coziness in cold, northern countries, like Denmark, where the phenomenon of hygge – coziness – continues to inspire the world over. If you know that your friend enjoys scented candles, consider choosing one that stirs up feelings of the home like gingerbread, or feelings of calm like lavender. Diffusers are a good, fireless option for soothing scents too.
Plants are another way to bring life into the home. Make it easy for your friend by choosing a plant that’s already potted and low maintenance, like a cactus or a succulent. Having something to care for can also bring your loved one’s sense of purpose back, even in a small way.
Other cozy options include throw blankets, sweaters, mugs (especially if you can find one that’s temperature-controlled), and of course, plush animals for kids – or even a friend who really needs to feel like a kid again or would love a good snuggle.
Your Gift Matters
Grief is a personal journey, and it can be hard to watch a loved one grieve from the outside. We wish we could help them, but there are no quick fixes. Over the holidays, a gift is often just the reminder they need: it shows you’re thinking of them, they’re not alone, and there are still joys and comforts in life.
We hope this list of ideas is helpful when choosing gifts for your friend or family member who’s grieving this year.