Beyond Cards and Covered Dishes

Visiting with your friend at the funeral home, sending cards and taking a casserole by their house are important ways to show you care.

There are many other ways to show your concern during the first few days, months and even years.

Even a small gift can mean much when it is given with consideration.

Consider your area of giftedness. Are you a seamstress or mechanic? Do you enjoy cooking or painting? Can you balance a checkbook or 3 extra children for an evening?

Here are some suggestions:

Gift baskets

Purchased or assembled by you, may include: Stationery: thank you cards, blank cards, stamps, a nice pen Comfort: fluffy towel, candles, bath salts or oils, lotion, bath pillow, eye mask, handkerchiefs Paper goods: tissue boxes and pocket packs, napkins, paper or plastic plates and cups, paper towels, aluminum foil, Saran or Glad wrap, zip lock bags, toilet paper Relief: headache medication, Pepto Bismol, soothing eye packs and eye drops, Bandaides, breath mints Coffee and tea: nice coffee mug or tea cup and saucer, tea bags, coffee, chocolates, breath mints, coffee shop gift card Any basket could include a personal note, appropriate gift cards or cash.

Gift cards

Burying someone, as you may know, can be very costly but there are always other expenses.

The family may still be left with bills for emergency services, surgeries, hospital stays, nearby hotel, restaurant foods, counseling, etc.

Death not only robs us of our loved ones and our resources, it forces us to do painful things and make agonizing choices. A pocketful of gift cards will not solve everything but it lets us choose how, when, where and what we will do during the torturous weeks and months that follow.

Drive-thru restaurant

Nice for family with children or when they just don’t want do get out of the car

Eat-in restaurants

Death leaves an empty chair at the dinner table making it difficult to enjoy meals. Eating out at a nice place can help in so many ways; provides a nice meal without need for clean-up and a place for making new memories.

Grocery or department stores

Movie theater tickets

Massage Therapy or Spa sessions

Oil changes or tire rotations

Gas station debit cards

Book store

Favorite barber, hair or nail salon

Lawn care for a summer

Magazine subscription – so nice to have something besides bills and sympathy cards in the mailbox

Housekeeping services

Food, food, food

For so many reasons. It represents care, concern and a loving touch. Its aroma drifts through the home, filling their senses with something pleasant and memorable. They may not eat it right away. They may not eat it at all. But, the fact that you took time to make and deliver it will mean more than you may realize.

Our son died a couple of weeks before Christmas. Considerate, thoughtful people sent wonderful dishes. And ham. Lots of ham. In fact we got nine full-sized hams. For a long time I was sick of seeing, smelling and eating ham. For years it reminded me of those agonizing days. At some point, I’m not sure when, I found a tender spot for ham again. The sight, smell and taste of it The sight, smell and taste of it now remind me of the love given us during a time of anguish. I love ham.


For most people, chocolate is part of a universal love language. Speak!

Comfort foods really do comfort. You may enjoy cooking and creating culinary works of art. If not, consider buying some delicious items to arrange on a platter or tray.

Frozen meals, frozen breads and vegetables

When giving food items, please consider these suggestions:

Arrange food on disposable trays, platters and containers.

Place food in pretty container or dish that does not need to be returned. In other words, as a gift. Include a note letting them know your intentions.

Including your name and address on each food item will be helpful.

If you are a good friend, you may want to return to pick up the dishes. This will give you a chance to say, “I’ll come over Thursday and pick those up” – letting them know you will be there for them again during the week.


When our son died people brought token gifts of remembrance to the funeral home.

  • A framed Senior picture of Christopher appeared, seemingly out of nowhere.
  • A friend gave us a video with him in it.
  • His dance teacher handed me a photo of him, dancing with me.
  • As a friend gave me a hug, she slipped two little packs of soothing eye masks into my hand.
  • Another kind person gave me a charm with his birthstone in it.
  • Someone brought journals and photo albums with blank pages for visitors to write notes to us. There were so many pages that we were able to insert photos and thoughtful notes.
  • Other thoughtful gifts were a silver friendship ball, a glass and silver pomander with scented powder inside, and a souvenir from someone’s vacation and a small, dainty bone china dish from their trip to England.

These seemingly unnecessary little tokens reminded me that I was cared for and remembered.

Random kindness

Do something thoughtful:

A friend of Chris’s chopped a load of wood and brought a truck full. That winter we were warmed inside and out by such thoughtfulness.

Leave cash lying around:

The day of the funeral a couple stayed in our home to guard against intruders. When we came home we found a sweet note and a $100 bill. Later we learned that this couple was between jobs. Unbelievable.

Dying is expensive. Mountains of crippling debt can result. If you are able, or willing to do without for a while, consider giving cash to your friend. Your generosity may bless them beyond your imagination.

Shop for them

A couple of days before the funeral a friend purchased several outfits for me to choose from and returned what I didn’t wear. My parents took our children shopping for something appropriate and comfortable. Family members bought picture frames in various sizes to hold photos of Christopher and placed them around the Funeral Home.

Share something

Your vacation home:

Christopher died just before Christmas. We didn’t want to be home. A sweet gentleman offered his family chalet in Gatlinburg for a few days. We made some wonderful memories there. What a gift.

Are you a Doctor, Nurse, Police Officer or EMS?

A physician friend patiently translated and waded through the translated and waded through the Death Certificate results with us. Another helped us wade through accident scene notes.

  • Offer to go over test results, charts, x-rays, accident reports, etc.
  • An artist may paint a family portrait which includes the missing family member.
  • Children can contribute by making cards and writing notes or decorating a cake or cookies (there is something calming about receiving an innocent gift from a child).
  • Can you offer the gift of time? You may choose to run errands, wash their car, change the oil, house sit or babysit.

What do you have to offer?

Feel the need to share? 

If you would like to share your story on our blog or privately with one of our grief counselors, please submit it to us through the Contact page.

*If you would like your story shared publicly on our blog, please omit, or replace names of person’s that have not consented to their name being used. With your permission and upon review, we will do what we can to share as many people’s stories as possible. 

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