Common Gifts for the Grieving to Reconsider
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Not all gifts are wanted when grieving a loss. Some gifts are painful to receive. Others just aren't helpful when your life is falling apart. And some are obviously more about the interests of giver than the receiver.
Navigating what to get those who are grieving can be hard. I reached out to other grieving parents in my community, took from my own experiences, and compiled a list of gifts that should be reconsidered.
What Not To Buy:
1. Religious/Spiritual Books - These are not for everyone, and if you don't know if the receiver is into this, they won't be received well or used.
Religious quotes on ornaments, etc. - Again, if you don't know for certain that your gift receiver resonates with spiritual items, I believe it is best to not give this type of gift. I received several of these - angel wings on necklaces - yes more than one - feathers inside ornaments saying Miles is in heaven (again more than one), and then gifts when pregnant with Nora - baby onesies saying Miles is in heaven and she was a gift sent by him from heaven. While sweet, these did not resonate with me. I do appreciate the gift givers so much, because they are personally dear to me, but it also shows that they don't know me that well.
Religious framed quotes / wall hangings. Someone may not want to put this up visible in their home and are then tasked with the homework of trying to figure out what to do with this item. I found myself at Hobby Lobby exchanging this item for a shelf to hang in my bathroom. I'm all about high function items, and a god quote doesn't serve this purpose for me.
Faith based trinkets or jewelry - Like many of the other reasons given above, many people do not resonate with faith based/spiritual items especially after the tragedy of losing someone close to them. They will often question god and why this happened to them. There is nothing like tragedy that will test someone's faith and/or trust either temporarily or possibly completely.
Consider Carefully: Necklaces - for one reason because they are SO common, and also chain lengths vary a lot. One of my necklaces from a dear friend (at the time) with Miles initial on it is way too short and I don't like it for that reason and never wear it. I think over time I got more than 10 necklaces from friends.
Houseplants - my recommendation is to ask first, some people LOVE house plants and others struggle to keep them alive, and if they die that is doubly hard.
Flowers - they die quickly and many have said it's depressing to watch another thing die and have to throw them out. I was very touched by the flowers I received, but throwing them out with the yard waste a week later was heartbreaking. It's just another reminder of death. This makes me question why funeral flowers are such a popular item.
Family specific items, such as figurines - This could be a sensitive subject and the bereaved may not want to see regularly.
Lawn ornaments - Although this may seem harmless, you never know what a tough reminder it may be for the grieving. Others may love to see a stepping stone in the garden, so consider carefully.
Specific food gift cards - something general like Door Dash, Grub Hub, or Deliveroo is much better so the griever can pick it out themselves and enjoy in peace. My colleague got me $150 to MyTownToGo and I used it on sushi twice. A nice little treat! Food IS appreciated, but general gift cards are probably best. Or just ask, my friends asked about a prepped meal place gift card and it was great. We got a bunch of freezer meals and ate them when we didn't want to cook.
Books - I got 4 or 5 copies of Empty Cradle Broken Heart, and something about how the intro or first few pages of chapter 1 are written rubbed me the wrong way and I never got past those first few pages. However my friend did gift me a book from someone with a very similar lifestyle and loss to mine, the book was on the shorter side and an easy read, and I read it cover to cover which is very unlike me. Be careful with books because they can be about a loss that is dissimilar like miscarriage for a stillbirth loss, etc. Make sure the content of the book is relatable / relevant.
I know you may not want to ask before giving as to not burden the griever or you might want it to be a surprise, but when things don't resonate they hit differently. I didn't feel like my friends and extended family members actually knew me when they sent gifts that I didn't connect with.
If you feel at a loss on what you should buy, check out my blog Thoughtful Gifts for the Grieving for a list of gifts that are appreciated by those grieving. You can also get your own Gifts for the Grieving Idea List HERE containing even more ideas with multiple needs in mind for many different types of people. This four-page document should have an appropriate gift for just about anyone.