it insensitive to celebrate the season when someone’s recently lost a loved one? Can “Happy Holidays” even exist amidst grief?
I suppose it’s different for everyone, but based on my own experience, my best advice is to find some middle ground that acknowledges the holiday without ignoring the loss. In that spirit, I tried to come up with a few gift ideas for someone who’s grieving.
By the way—I’m not an expert gift giver. (Believe me, I’ve got family members to back me up on that one!) But I have to admit, ever since my Mom died a few years ago, my eyes were opened to the experience of grief in a way that they hadn’t been before. Where I once had a tendency to avoid the topic of death at all costs, thinking I was sparing the other person of additional pain, I now know how important it is to acknowledge the loss, at least in some way.
Are you wondering what to do this holiday season for someone who’s grieving?
Maybe your usual gift ideas are falling flat? I don’t pretend to have The Definitive Gift for Grief, but I do have a few ideas to share from my own experience, as well as from friends who have also lost a loved one and were generous enough to share some thoughts with me, too.
Trust Your Gut
Is that funny mug appropriate for someone who has a lot of tough stuff going on at the moment? The answer really and truly might be yes! Someone who’s dealing with death isn’t suddenly a different person who’s devoid of personality or a sense of humor.
The trick here, though, is to somehow still acknowledge the loss rather than sweep it under the rug. It may be as simple as prefacing the gift by saying something like, “I know this has been a rocky few months for you. I am hoping this will bring you a little laugh with your morning coffee.” That way, in addition to the present itself, you’re also giving the gift of acknowledging someone’s loss.
Make a Memorial Donation
Before my Mom died, I didn’t pay much attention to the “in lieu of flowers” line in an obituary. You know, the part where the family lists a few causes or organizations that were significant to the person who passed away?
I used to feel like donations were impersonal. But now I can tell you, it really means a lot to see that your loved one’s legacy lives on and is continuing to make a difference in the world. So, do a little digging, see if you can find a meaningful organization, and honor someone’s memory as your gift this year.
Plant a Memory
The gift of a tree or a perennial plant is a long-lasting and concrete reminder of the person who has passed away. Check out The Magnolia Company, A Living Tribute, or Arbor Day Foundation — or simply give a gift card to a local garden shop or nursery so that the recipient can select a planting for his/her own yard that has personal significance.
And speaking of significance, you may find inspiration in the name of the person who has passed away. My sister received the gift of a hydrangea plant in memory of our Mom, who loved flowers. But what made the gift even more touching was that her friend specifically selected it because it was an “Alice” (our Mom’s name) Hydrangea. There’s something so thoughtful about that added level of detail, which might be something to consider incorporating into your gift.
Customize with Engraving or Handwriting
Any gift can take on more meaning when you customize it. One friend shared that she received a wind chime that had been engraved. Another showed me pie plates that can be personalized with a handwritten family recipe. And along those same lines, you can even have jewelry made with a loved one’s handwriting etched into it. These are all ways to give a gift that also acknowledges someone’s loss.
Write a Note
Remember, gifts don’t have to be purchased. Maybe it’s just because I’m a writer, but I really believe you can never go wrong with a handwritten note. There is something about the effort it takes to sit down and put pen to paper that is inherently meaningful. If you can share a story or memory about the loved one who has passed away, even better!