Losing a loved one is difficult. When someone passes away, we want to comfort and support their family and friends in their grief. Sending flowers is a traditional way to express sympathy. However, flowers don't last long and don't provide much comfort or practical help. Here are some meaningful alternatives to sending flowers when someone dies:
Honoring the Deceased
Make a Donation
Consider making a donation to a cause your loved one cared about. Nonprofit organizations allow you to give financial gifts in honor of the deceased. The charity will notify the family of your gift. Donating to cancer research, animal welfare, or educational institutions are thoughtful ways to remember your loved one.
Plant a Tree or Garden
Planting a tree or starting a garden are living tributes to remember someone who died. Trees and gardens last for years and give families a place to visit and reflect. You can plant a tree or garden yourself or give families gift cards to purchase plants or trees. This gift celebrates the deceased's memory and life for years to come.
Create a Memory Book
Make a scrapbook or memory book filled with photos and stories about your loved one. Include pictures from different phases of their life along with written memories from family and friends. You can give the book to family members as a treasured keepsake. Adding written memories and photos creates a meaningful tribute to the person.
Supporting the Family
For families with small children, childcare is a huge help during funeral preparations and services. Offering to watch the children can give parents and family members time to plan funeral arrangements uninterrupted. You can watch children in your own home or on-site during viewings and funeral services.
Cook and Deliver Meals
In the midst of grieving, daily tasks like cooking can be difficult. Put together casseroles, soups, or baked goods that families can heat and eat during the exhausting days following a death. Deliver meals directly to the family or give gift cards for food delivery services. Home-cooked food gives families one less thing to worry about.
Do Practical Chores
Walk the dog, water plants, pick up mail, clean the house, mow the lawn, or shop for groceries. Doing practical chores lifts everyday burdens so families can focus on mourning and funeral planning. Offer to complete tasks the deceased usually handled. Make a list of chores you can do and let families pick what would help them most.
Sending Comfort and Remembrance Gifts
Give Blankets and Pillows
A warm, comforting blanket or soft pillow are thoughtful bereavement gifts. Monogrammed and personalized blankets allow families to wrap up and remember their loved one. A keepsake pillow with the deceased's photo or a quote provides ongoing comfort. Blankets and pillows deliver warm hugs when families need them most.
Send Books About Grief
Reading books about the grieving process validates the difficult emotions families experience after a loss. Books help people understand the stages of grief and offer wisdom on coping and healing after death. Some good book options are "It's OK That You're Not OK" by Megan Devine and "Bearing the Unbearable" by Joanne Cacciatore. Include a handwritten note about how much the deceased meant to you.
Create Memory Boxes
Fill a box or chest with sentimental items that remind families of their loved one. Include the deceased's favorite candy or snacks, photos, written memories, music playlists, souvenir tickets and programs, their handwriting, or crafts they made. Memory boxes give bereaved family ongoing glimpses into precious moments with their loved one.
Send Calming Teas and Treats
Herbal teas, honey sticks, chocolate, lemon drops, and other treats provide small comforts during an enormously difficult time. Make a gift basket of soothing teas and snacks that families can enjoy while reflecting on memories. Include an encouraging note about stopping to take care of themselves as they grieve.
Why send something other than flowers?
Flowers are beautiful but temporary. Grieving families appreciate gifts that provide lasting comfort and practical help during an exhausting and painful time. Alternatives like meals, chores, and memorial keepsakes support families for weeks and months after a loss.
When should I send an alternative gift?
Aim to deliver or send your gift within 1-2 weeks after the death. Check with the family first to see what types of gifts would be most meaningful right now. Avoid sending gifts on the day of funeral or memorial services.
How do I make sure my gift is appropriate?
Keep gifts simple, tasteful, and focused on comfort. Include a card sharing your favorite memory or what you appreciated most about the deceased. Avoid anything too sentimental or religious, as everyone grieves differently. Ask others who knew the deceased well for gift ideas.
Should I give money instead of a gift?
Money can be appropriate depending on your relationship with the deceased. Close family and friends may prefer a thoughtful gift. For more distant acquaintances, a monetary gift allows them to use funds however most needed. If giving money, include a card explaining you are thinking of them.
What if I don't know the family well?
Even if you didn't know the deceased's family personally, small gestures matter. Mail a sympathy card with a gift card for takeout food or groceries. Or make a donation to a charity meaningful to the deceased. Comfort foods, self-care items, and donations show you care.
Losing someone you care about is incredibly hard. Rather than defaulting to sending flowers, consider providing heartfelt comfort and care during the difficult weeks and months after a death. Give practical help, lasting memorial keepsakes, or financial contributions to ease families' grief journey. Support them in ways that honor the memory and legacy of their loved one. Whatever gift you choose, include a personal note sharing your favorite memories and what the deceased meant to you.