7 Meaningful Condolence Gift Ideas

It is no secret that our culture often struggles with difficult emotions surrounding grief and loss. By and large it can feel as though even though death in particular is best kept “out of sight, out of mind,” when a death does occur, it can lead us to feel overwhelmed about what to even say. Finally confronting what we long tried to not dwell on, whether because it is taboo or because we simply don’t want to say goodbye, often leads us to open the Pandora’s box of questions that all boil down to: “Where do we go from here?” – both in terms of the departed, and in the very real sense of making sense of unfathomable loss: how do we manage our own grief by sharing it with others, and offering meaningful condolences?

Celebrating a Life

One of the most profound ways to turn tragedy into honor and recognition is by finding meaningful ways to celebrate a life well loved, and dearly missed. Of course, in many ways, this is easier said than done, as we also want to recognize that celebration need not be a trite way to bypass difficult emotions, but rather to put the spotlight back on the cherished loved one and the best that they gave of themselves in life. There is a reason why “celebration of life” ceremonies have increased in popularity over the traditional funeral, and that even the most joyful moments are still mixed with tears of loss. As a result, when people look for ways to offer condolence gifts, it is an art in and of itself to find beauty and joy amidst the somber.

Gifts to “Celebrate Life”

That, of course, is left entirely up to the loved ones of those who knew their person best and is often as unique as the person being celebrated. Here are a few of the many ideas one can use to plan how to memorialize a loved one through a meaningful gift. While this is not an exhaustive list, it can serve as either direct or indirect inspiration to guide your condolence gifts and other remembrances.

  • “In Lieu of Flowers…”

Certainly, flowers are staples when it comes to honoring a loved one and a simple showing to immediate loved ones that you care and are thinking of them. However, for a variety of reasons, many families are kindly requesting that gestures of remembrance be done in other ways. First and foremost, it is important to respect the wishes of those closest to the lost loved one. Are they asking for donations in memory of that person? Perhaps they do suggest flowers or trees, but would rather that you plant one in memory of that person – especially if the one who passed was an avid gardener or outdoors person. Another idea that shows “I care and I want to celebrate this person’s life” is by gifting a special treat that does not have to be consumed right away, such as a favorite beverage that was enjoyed by both the dearly departed and those mourning.

  • Making Meals and Doing Other Chores

One of the best gifts you could possibly give is peace of mind for those still living. Grief can be a full-time job in and of itself, to say nothing of preparing for final arrangements, wading through the paperwork that can feel merciless at times, and taking care of any other business in the wake of a person’s passing, particularly if it was a sudden and unexpected loss.

Check to see if those closest to the arrangements and closest to the loss (such as the spouse of the deceased loved one) have any sign ups for providing meals, running errands, or doing chores around the house such as laundry or yard work, especially if the person grieving often relied on that loved one for some of those daily needs.

If they do yet have such a sign up, and you feel you have a close enough relationship with the grieving person, check in and offer to set one up for the days, weeks, and even months to come. After all, grief does not follow a simple path, nor does it simply “go away” after the legal documents are signed and the memorial service has ended. Maintaining presence by reaching out and offering practical support, for the long haul, is a beautiful way to continue showing that you are still thinking of both the loved one and their immediate circle.

  • Being Present

As is often said, sometimes the best present is your presence. Check in with the loved one – even a simple text offering to connect will do – in a way that offers specific ideas without demands or a time limit. Grief can make even the most extraverted person feel shut out from a world that seems to not care that their world has stopped. Opening communication by suggesting particular activities, from the meaningful to mundane (even if they are declined!), can show that you care and are thinking of that person.

  • Giving Donations

It is highly possible that the deceased loved one, and/or their immediate family, will have suggested meaningful charities that can be given in memoriam. Perhaps there is an additional organization that meant something both to you and that person, such as if you and the loved one shared meaningful experiences volunteering together. If your personalized donation is outside of the original suggestions, politely offer if you think this organization would also be an appropriate way to honor their legacy. Even if the family declines the offer, they will likely appreciate the story that led to your inspiration.

  • Caring for Pets

Often overlooked in grief is if the loved one passed on before any of their beloved animals. In such a case, one of the most meaningful gifts you could help provide a safe and loving home for any pet, who, after all, is also grieving their human. If you or an immediate loved one can’t take in that pet, helping to arrange for a new home and outside of a shelter will ensure that the love given to that pet will carry on.

  • Carry on Traditions

Simply put, what did this person love to do? Did they enjoy baseball? Going on silly, themed fun runs? Doing a silly dance in front of every birthday cake? Taking part in a meaningful ritual, particularly if you share the same religion as the loved one? Sharing with your loved ones how you will continue to do activities in memory of them, and/or being part of their traditions, can be just as much a gift for you as it is for everyone else.

  • Capturing Memories

Of course, cherishing memories together, from life milestones to simple, everyday occurrences that make life what it is, is one of the most profound ways to honor a person’s memory. In fact, many loved ones are turning to personalized urns as one of many ways to directly celebrate their loved ones’ lives through poignant displays of their uniqueness and how they will be remembered.

There are many ways to continue to have their stories lived on. Consider ideas such as customized photo albums, or, for the artfully inclined, scrapbooks, or other personalized crafts that connect that person to your fondest memories of them.


It can be intimidating to know where to start when offering a condolence gift. It is also okay to feel awkward at first; with that in mind, the best way to start considering your gifts is to acknowledge that grief can be awkward and messy. However, feel confident that whenever you are gifting in the spirit of respectfully celebrating the loved one, your thoughtfulness will go a long way. The community of those mourning a cherished person will appreciate that you took the time out to show how much both that person, and their wider circle, will forever mean to you.

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