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What to choose for a sympathy gift

By Catalogs Editorial Staff

If you are wondering what to choose for a sympathy gift take some cues here

If you are wondering what to choose for a sympathy gift take some cues here

Everyone has known someone who has suffered a loss. Perhaps they were widowed or lost a child or parent in an accident, to disease or old age. It is a time when we need to reach out and do something but we are not always sure what to do.

What is appropriate? You do not want to overstep the boundaries of good taste. If you are wondering what to choose for a sympathy gift, the suggestions here should be helpful.

There is something called ‘sympathy etiquette,’ which we should all be cognizant of. People grieve differently and on their own terms and time frame. It depends on the individual’s personality and the specific circumstances surrounding the death. The rest of us need to be aware of this and be considerate.

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Remember to treat others as you would want to be treated in a similar situation. This may be a time when you should listen more than talk.

Should you send a gift of some kind? This is appropriate but be sensitive to the person’s plight. This is not a joyful time like Christmas or a birthday.

Sympathy Care Baskets 

Consider sending the person a care basket containing various condolence and sympathy gifts. These baskets contain fruits, food, chocolate or whatever you want included in the gift. It may not be the right time to send wine but, on the other hand, wine may be greatly appreciated and needed.


Think about the recipient and what you believe he would most like in his time of sorrow. The gift baskets are designed based on your relationship with the deceased and with his survivor. The contents can be very personal or professional if it is a work relationship. 

The gift can be customized, reflecting the survivor’s personality. Does he love gardening? Garden tools can be included. No, he may not feel like getting out and digging in the dirt right at the moment but in time he will. When he’s ready, he will have what he needs, thanks to you and your thoughtfulness.


When a child suffers a loss this is a paintful situation for everyone. how can you make the child feel better? Consider giving him a basket containing objects that will cheer him up in his time of sandess. 

The gift can include crayons and coloring, tasty snacks, Silly Putty, a teddy bear, balls and other items that distract him from his pain, at least temporarily. These items arrive in a pretty wicker basket. 


If you have a photograph of the departed person, include that in the gift basket. This gives comfort to the survivor knowng the deceased person’s memory remains and continues to fill the hearts of those left behind. A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say.


Include a card and write a heartfelt message. What you write doesn’t have to be eloquent. Express your feelings in writing as you would in person. Be genuine. Tell the survivor how much the late person, and they, mean to you. Express how the deceased individual inspired you. Recall tender memories or share a short story. 

Do not dwell on the particulars of the death or ask for information. Avoid saying the person’s death was ‘for the best.’ Do not make religious indications unless you know these sentiments are shared by the family. 

Let the survivor know you are there to help and mean it. Do not say it if you are not going to follow through. In the months to come, the individual may need assistance. Give it. That’s what a true friend does. 

If you remain uncertain what to do in a time of a friend or family member’s bereavement, turn to Emily Post, the doyenne of etiquette. She can walk you through situations are are not familiar with or comfortable in. 

You do not want to inadvertently say or do something that could be interpreted as thoughtless. Mrs. Post will help you avoided these unintentional faux pas.


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