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5 alternatives to sympathy flowers

Woman holding out a sympathy gifts for a bereaved friend

Funeral flowers are a strong tradition in the UK and across the world. Friends and family often send sympathy flowers directly to the bereaved, or send floral tributes to the funeral director so they can be included in the service.

However, flower arrangements may not always feel like the right way to say you care. It might be that you know your bereaved friend doesn’t like flowers; perhaps you’re worried they would see it as a waste. Some bereaved people find the sight of wilting flowers too reminiscent of death in the days and weeks after the funeral. You might just want a unique way of showing that you care.

Here are five alternative sympathy gifts for bereaved friends and family that will let them know you’re thinking of them:

1. A potted plant

Flowering cactus potted plant

Often the issue with flower arrangements is that they inevitably wilt and die. Throwing those flowers away can sometimes feel too final, as if the funeral is now really over and your loved one is really gone for good.

A potted plant, however, is more long-lasting and will brighten up a room long after flower arrangements have been consigned to the rubbish bin. Remember, your grieving friend might well be too pre-occupied to remember to water it, so pick a tough plant that doesn’t mind the dry. Good examples are Jade Plants (Crassula ovata), Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milii), and most kinds of succulents.

2. Food

Baked lasagne as a gift for bereaved friend

Cooking for the bereaved is a great, practical way to lend support in the days and weeks after a bereavement.

Instead of sympathy flowers, you could send a basket of muffins or other sweet treats. Or, if you want to keep it healthy, a basket of fruit is just as thoughtful. Whatever you send them, it is important to write a condolence message with either gift.

In the weeks leading up to and after the funeral, you might consider making some pre-prepared meals that your friend can keep in the fridge or freezer and heat up whenever they can’t find the energy to cook for themselves. Classics include things like lasagne, chicken casserole and shepherd’s pie – all recipes that can be prepared in advance and heated up easily.

3. A charitable donation

Donating to charity online

Nowadays many people are opting to make a charitable donation instead of spending money on flowers. You might want to choose a worthy cause that is close to your friend’s heart. If the person who has died was battling a particular illness, donations to charities researching a cure may be appropriate.

Funeral Guide’s online obituaries provide a donation option via JustGiving. This allows the bereaved to highlight up to two charitable causes of their choice for donations in their loved one’s memory. You can search online obituaries by name or location to see if a particular charity has been chosen.

4. A candle

Row of gift candles Photo by Denise Cross Photography.

Candles are traditionally associated with mourning and may be a longer-lasting tribute than flowers. Some people find that taking time to reflect while lighting a candle is a positive way to remember a loved one.

There are many candle holders and candle gift sets available to buy that are specifically designed for someone who is grieving. They may have a thoughtful quote inscribed on them, or be in the shape of an angel, star or dove. Alternatively, you might choose a calming aromatherapy candle.

5. A blanket, pillow or cuddly toy

Two teddy bears

During grief, sometimes a little bit of comfort can help. A gift of a special blanket, pillow or teddy bear can be hugged, providing physical and emotional comfort. You can buy blankets, pillows and cuddly toys with quotes about grief embroidered on them, to mark them out as special.

Another option is to customise them yourself. Some people embroider their own message onto a pillow or teddy, or even use old clothing of the person who has died to make a very special pillow to hug. However, this should obviously only be done with the permission of the bereaved, and it may not be an appropriate gift to suggest if you do not know them very well.

Read more on how to support a grieving friend or family member.

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