This morning I was doing a bit of work on my new business cards for my wedding floral design business. It got me to thinking about all of the beautiful flowers that were given for my late husbands funeral. After the funeral I donated all of the flowers to local nursing homes. I had no desire to take those flowers home. They didn't feel joyful to me. They felt depressing and heartbreaking and I decided they would bring someone else a heck of a lot more joy than they were going to bring me.
So, what are some ideas for gifts to give a grieving friend instead of sending flowers? Yes, by all means go in with a big group of friends or family and send flowers or a nice plant to the funeral but remember that the real grief starts after the funeral ends and it's a very warm and loving gesture to send a gift after the funeral if you can.
1. A blank notebook. No, I'm not going to tell you to send a newly grieving person a book about grief or death or loss. Why? After my husband died.....when I would look at the words on a page of a book I literally could hardly make them out. My brain was so fried that it couldn't compute the words on the page. I'd try to read one page of a book someone sent me and it would exhaust me. Yes, months later I dove deep into books that helped aid in my healing but not in those first few days or weeks. A blank journal is a place for a newly grieving person to write down things they don't want to forget even if it's just..."Remember to put the trash out tomorrow for garbage day." Or sudden memories of their loved one that pop into their head. Or just, "Remember to call the funeral home to pay the bill." They can use it however they wish and small things like finding blank paper when you need it may seem silly to those who have never experienced someone in their home dying but finding anything in those first days is exhausting and daunting to the griever.
2. Food. So many people do and will drop off dinners. Go beyond that. I had people who dropped off kid snacks, boxes of crackers, fresh fruit, fresh veggies, and other easy snack like items which saved me for a few weeks from having to tackle the grocery store when I felt like a total hot mess. I also had people who dropped off toilet paper, bottled water, bulk coffee, juice boxes, and treats for my dogs. All of these things were so, so wonderful to receive and felt so loving and unexpected. Life's necessities are great gifts. You don't even have to knock on their door. Just drop with a note and go.
3. Blankets. We received warm fuzzy blankets and this is always, always a comfort to a newly grieving person.
4. Gifts for the children. I had friends who brought a toy for each of my children, teddy bears, crafts, new movies, coloring books and fresh crayons. So wonderful. My children were obviously grieving too so this was beyond wonderful for them to feel like their sadness was being acknowledged too.
5. Bubble Bath. So simple and everyone could use a good soak in a hot bath while crying their eyes out. Might as well throw in some lovely bubble bath to make it more enjoyable.
6. Essential oils. A friend of mine gave me an essential oil diffuser and an oil blend called "grief". I can't explain how wonderful that gift was and how it relaxed me at night when I was all alone.
7. You. You are a gift. Just show up. Most of the time if you ask a newly grieving person if you can stop by.....they will say No. At least this is how I felt most of the time. I just wanted to be alone. I was exhausted. My kids were exhausted. My brain couldn't conjure up even the simplest conversation. But I had wonderful neighbors who just showed up and mowed my lawn. What else could you do? If someone is a new widow with young children? Show up to their house and say, "I'm here. If you want to leave and go to the store or for a walk or just take a hot bath or a nap or I can take the kids down to the playground? I'm going to be here for the day and I will take care of the kids." I had friends show up in the evening with bottles of wine and cheese and crackers, gifts for my kids, and we all sat around my kitchen table talking. I felt so loved and less alone.
8. Cards. Handwritten letters. To this very day I still receive handwritten cards and letters in the mail from people. It doesn't have to be anything long or over the top. Just a simple beautiful card with the words, "I'm thinking of you." It helps to know that people are still thinking of you even months and years later.
I hope you remember these ideas if you have a newly grieving friend. Flowers are wonderful and beautiful but they don't always bring the comfort that we need when we are newly grieving. They are just another beautiful thing that lives and dies.
Give something that warms a heart.
Give something that money can't buy.
Give something unexpected.