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Do I Need to Give a Sympathy Gift to Someone Who had a Family Member Die?


When a friend or family member tells you that someone they knew has died, you may wonder if you need to get them a sympathy gift.


Meant to offer comfort to those who are grieving, a sympathy gift is a kind gesture that helps you express your condolences. Giving a sympathy gift to someone you care about is never a bad idea. However, if you’re still trying to decide, consider the following ideas about sympathy gift etiquette: 


You Should Give a Sympathy Gift to Someone If…


They’re a Close Family Member or Friend

In most cases, you only need to give a sympathy gift to someone if you have an established, personal relationship with them. This includes family members, friends who feel like family, and even close co-workers.


They Were Close to the Person Who Died

Sympathy gifts are most appropriate when given to someone who has lost a Loved One who they spent a lot of time with. For example, you would want to give a sympathy gift to someone who lost their mother, but not necessarily someone who lost a cousin they rarely spoke to.


It’s Within Two Weeks of You Hearing the News

If you are thinking about giving a sympathy gift, it needs to be done days after hearing the news—not months. Offering your support is always best when done as soon as possible as it shows how much you care. Waiting longer than two weeks will make the situation uncomfortable.


Their Culture Warrants It

A lot of cultures accept and appreciate sympathy gifts, but that isn’t always the case. Use your best judgment before giving a sympathy gift to make sure you won’t offend or upset anyone with your present. In addition to the recipient’s culture, keep in mind their own personal preferences and beliefs before you start shopping.


Many families will state in the obituary whether donations, flowers, or gifts are wanted. It’s best if you respect their wishes either way.


You’re Unable to Attend Funeral Services

Attending the visitation, funeral, and other celebration of life events is often a gift itself to the griever. However, if you are unable to be present at the memorial services, you will want to consider giving a sympathy gift in your absence that represents your continued support.


How to Give Someone a Sympathy Gift

The best way to give someone a sympathy gift will depend on your relationship, location, and situation. Sometimes, the best thing to do will be to bring it to the memorial service in-person, while other times it will be more appropriate to have the gift delivered privately by a mail carrier to their home.


Below are different options for giving the gift, and considerations for each:


  • Bring it to the Memorial Service: If there is a public memorial service being held, you can bring the gift to the event in-person. You can give it to the recipient as you walk through the receiving line or during a quiet moment alone. There may also be a table of gifts set up with a guestbook where you can leave it.
  • Deliver it to their Home: Bringing the sympathy gift to the recipient’s home is a great idea if you are already stopping by to show your support. You can also have it delivered to their house if they prefer privacy during this time or if you’re out of town.
  • Send it to their Office: In some cases, you may want to have the sympathy gift sent to the recipient’s workplace. This is a good option if they are a close co-worker or friend. However, you do need to be mindful of the environment where they work. Sympathy gifts can trigger emotions, and their office may not be the best place for that.


No matter how you decide to give your sympathy gift, be sure to include a card or short note expressing your condolences. This handwritten note will help the recipient to know who the gift is from while also adding extra meaning and a personal touch to the gesture.


Inspiration for Personalized Sympathy Gifts

The best sympathy gifts are ones that are personalized to bring comfort to the recipient. This can be their favorite homecooked meal, a perennial plant to add to their garden, or a memorial Keepsake engraved with the fingerprint of their late Loved One.


As you’re shopping for a sympathy gift, take into consideration what will bring your family member or friend joy during this hard time. After all, that is what will help them to begin their healing journey and get closer to the peace they deserve.