What to Give and Not to Give… as a Measure of Sympathy

Change and Transition, Grief: Death and Dying - End of Life Planning Add comments

My dad died in December and my mom (our family) received over 200, and still coming, cards and memorials. We are all very grateful for the outpouring of love and kindness. At the same time, this being my first “first-hand” experience with a funeral and such, I learned lots of little things that I want to share.


1) Healthy Food: It’s helpful for the family to have good food to eat those first few days after a death, or even leading into it if they are in the hospital a lot and death is impending. Foods like soups, casseroles, etc., even a dozen eggs, cans of good soup or frozen hamburger with buns is helpful. A veggie plate is also good for snacking.

2) Money: directly to the family. Memorials are usually in the form of money. Checks and cash directly to the surviving spouse and family in the name of the deceased.  

3) Money: to charities or causes directed by the family, in our case, the Farwell, Nebraska Volunteer Fire Department and QRTs, Humane Society (local branches or national) Guide Dogs of America or the American Foundation for the Blind (my dad had macular degeneration and was over 80% blind the last 12 years of his life.)

4) Postage Stamps: This seems odd, but such a good idea. If you’re going to send thank you cards to everyone who sent and gave you money, food, help, etc., you have to put stamps on those envelopes. How nice to get a book of stamps.

5) Time: Ask how you can help and let them know that you’re available by phone or visits when/if they need you when you can. People need to talk at some point and being there for them is a real blessing. Make sure to check in every two weeks or so too, as after the funeral, especially if they are surrounded by family, they don’t need you as much as they will later when it’s “back to normal” again, and the loneliness sets in.

NOT TO GIVE (Just two things that were glaring to me)

1) Food of little substance: When a death happens “out of the blue” and people offer food, it may be hard to come up with a healthy dish quickly, but giving lots of sugar laden foods like brownies, cookies and/or chips, etc. isn’t helpful. Sweets are yummy for sure, but when someone is going through that much stress they need protein and healthy food to support their health through those next few days and week.

2) Flowers and Plants: It’s so easy to think of giving flowers and maybe plants, but flowers don’t last long and the money could better be used for support of the surviving as decided by them; and plants, well, just “no!” Getting small or large plants can be a chore to take care of; nowhere to put them ; the person may not have a “green thumb, or thought” as to how to take care of them; stressful to remember to take care of them, and more stressful when they start dying. Who needs more stress and guilt at a time like this!

In fact, I just met someone this week who has had a plant from her husbands death over two years ago. She said, “It looks really bad and I should just throw it out, but it has those memories and I feel bad about it even though I’m getting remarried!”

Giving someone plants actually creates more work and stress most of the time.

I want to genuinely thank everyone for everything, from soup and bread, to cookies and rolls, monetary gifts and memorials.

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal,
love leaves a memory no one can steal.

~ From a headstone in Ireland

©2009 Kim Wolinski, MSW “Dr. DeClutter” Stress, Change and Organizational Skills Expert  www.drdeclutter.com

Editors and publishers are free to reprint blog articles as long as it is reprinted in its entirety and the signature line remains intact.

One Response to “What to Give and Not to Give… as a Measure of Sympathy”

  1. tmsky Says:

    many thanks

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