Ideas for Sympathy Gift Baskets

If a friend or relative has recently suffered a loss, sympathy gift baskets can be a meaningful way of expressing your condolences and providing support. Condolence gift baskets are available at many florist shops and gourmet food retailers, but a personalized, homemade gift can help a loved one in knowing that you put your time and care into composing a basket for their healing and grief. Here are some of the best, most thoughtful sympathy gift basket ideas and how to make them.

How to Make a Sympathy Basket

One of the primary things to keep in the forefront of your mind when planning to craft a grieving gift basket for a loved one is that loved one’s needs and character. Consider how this loss may have affected, or continues to affect them, and determine what should be in the grief gift basket based on this. 

Are they facing any level of depression since the loss? Do they now have to adjust to a new life without their partner, parent, child, or other significant person in their life? Thinking of these possibilities will help you not only to narrow down what should be included in the basket, but also help you to avoid the potential insincerity that may be portrayed if you simply default to flowers. 

Below, we’ll give you some sympathy gift ideas (other than flowers) that you can put in a basket to make a true difference in the life of the recipient of this thoughtful gift.

Homemade Sympathy Gift Basket Ideas

One of the best ways to support someone who is experiencing a loss is to give them a helping hand in daily activities. Simple tasks can become monumental efforts to those who are grieving. 


For example, grief can cause people to struggle in keeping a regular diet and eating schedule. With this in consideration, one of the best things you can do for them is to relieve their burden of activities like cooking. This is why large, hearty dishes such as casseroles are so often passed between loved ones after a significant loss in the family – it is a dish that fills you up quickly and can be stored for relatively long periods of time in the fridge. 

While you can certainly create a grief basket that include already-prepared meals, you may want to consider composing a basket of ingredients and simple, easy-to-follow recipe cards. For example, you might include pasta, a container of homemade spaghetti sauce, freshly grated parmesan cheese, and garlic bread for quick, easy-to-prepare meals. Other foods, such as cooked ham or turkey, can be kept in the refrigerator and eaten over several days or as needed. 

You may also be able to include more perishable ingredients than might be found in a store-bought or other pre-made basket. Fresh ingredients may be a welcome change for the family from heavy casseroles or frozen meals. The idea is to keep the meal simple so that there is little effort required by the individual or family, so keep that in mind when choosing a recipe.

Many families hold visitations or receptions either before or after a funeral so that friends and other mourners can stop by to pay their respects. Consider including comfort foods in your condolence baskets that are easy to share with a crowd. You might include several types of cookies, for example, which could be offered with coffee. Other options include nuts, dried fruit platters, brownies, or other easy to serve desserts. During a time of loss, healthy options like those in a fruit basket can be a good choice. Include a note, or sympathy card, with your condolence basket offering your sympathies and telling the family that they are welcome to share the gift with their guests. 

Journals or Books

Some people cope with their grief by refusing or being unable to cope with it at all. This can manifest in individuals becoming unable to express themselves emotionally, or have difficulty in conveying their thoughts. Forcing someone to talk about the loss and sadness they may be feeling can be counterproductive to their grieving process, so instead, help them by providing them with another medium of expression.

A journal, especially one featuring daily encouraging quotes, can do wonders by uplifting someone’s spirit in hard times. Also, if they do not wish to speak about their feelings, they still have the freedom of expression with writing, without having to exert themselves in other forms of communication.

If not a journal, you may want to include a meaningful book or other memorial gift. There are a range of books available for dealing with grief, and if you’ve found one that’s been particularly helpful for you in the past, it can be a good addition. 

Alternatively, you might want to include a book by an author that you know the recipient likes, even if it’s not directly related to their loss – your friend might appreciate the distraction. Other good options include books of poetry or biblical stories, if you think the recipient would enjoy them.

If you feel that such books would be too heavy in subject matter, lighthearted books, such as fiction novels or perhaps even comics, can provide your family or friend a means to escape the solemnity of the present by giving them a fun world in which to exercise their imagination.

Sympathy Gift Basket Ideas for the Day of the Funeral

You might not want to wait until after the funeral to provide someone a gift of comfort. If you’d rather bring a bereavement basket to the funeral, items such as facial tissues, wet wipes, a water bottle, tea, and throat lozenges can help a grieving person right away as they say goodbye to their loved one. These basket additions will ensure that they will be able to keep their face clean from any tear stains, tissue available for crying, a water bottle and tea to help with calming down and staying hydrated. 

You might even consider throwing in some pain medication along with the lozenges, as many people tend to develop a headache from long periods of crying. 

Other Unique DIY Sympathy Basket Ideas

A custom picture frame can be a nice addition to a gift basket.

You don’t have to stop at food, journals, or books – so, what else can you put in a sympathy gift basket? 

Let your grieving friend know that you care for them by adding some personalized touches on their condolence basket by including personalized charms, pins, or other small items.

There are many other gifts and mementos that you may want to include in your sympathy gift baskets. Items like memorial stones, funeral wind chimes, and personalized picture frames can all be affordable and meaningful gifts to include.

Giving Flowers or Other Plants in a Sympathy Basket

There is nothing wrong with sticking to the basics and opting to give your loved one a condolences basket full of flowers or foliage plants. In fact, it may match their character and interests more to do so, especially if they shared an appreciation for a certain flower or other plant with the departed.

The gifting of a plant for a person in grief can also be deeply metaphoric and surpass a simple gesture by offering a creative route to healing. For example, if this person and their departed loved one shared a love for orchids, gifting them an orchid could represent the departed’s spiritual presence with them even after passing.

Many people like to send flowers to honor the deceased, whether they are part of sympathy baskets or sent separately. If you’d like to include flowers in your basket, you should bring it to the family’s home rather than the funeral or other service. It’s also a very good idea to put the flowers into a vase or other container so that they are ready to be displayed and so that the recipient doesn’t need to worry about arranging them.

What Not to Do When Gifting a Bereavement Basket

When giving any kind of gift basket for sympathy or condolences, it is vital that you recognize potential cultural differences in the way communities or individual families respond to the death of a loved one. A gesture or traditional practice that may seem simple and straight-forward to you may not make any sense for someone else, and may even be offensive. 

Consider Religious Sensitivities

Differences in religious beliefs and traditions may pose a challenge when you are considering gifting a friend or loved one a grief basket. Make yourself fully aware of what these differences may be before moving forward with a gift to avoid any potential for offense or disrespect. For example:

Do not gift flowers to a Jewish family that has experienced a death. 

Why? For a week after the funeral, the family members will typically be in deep mourning and may be observing a shiva. During this time, mirrors are usually covered and mourners should not be worried about their appearance or the beatification of their home or surroundings. Displaying flowers at this time, therefore, is generally not considered to be appropriate.

Consider also that your friend or loved one may not believe in an afterlife or Higher Being at all. In this case, the gifting of a Bible verse or similar religious gift may come off forceful, as if you are using this opportunity to persuade them into your belief system. In circumstances such as this, you will need to be mindful of how you present your condolences and what it may mean to them.

Keep Diet Restrictions and Allergies in Mind

Of course, the last thing you want to do when attempting to comfort your loved one is subject them to any illnesses or other diet-related mishaps attributed to your gift basket. Be careful in your choice of…Include fresh, healthy, easy to prepare ingredients in a sympathy basket.

  • Ornamental plants: Not only should you be aware of any potential allergies your loved one may have to flowers you might include in the basket, you should also take note of ornamental plants that may be toxic to dogs, cats, and other pets if they happen to have any. The last thing you want to do is add a vet bill to their list of worries!
  • Ingredients and pre-packaged meals: Do your very best in crafting meals and snacks for your friend or relative by ensuring that nothing in the basket is going to make them sick or give them an allergic reaction. Even better, you can make specifically add foods to ensure that they remain healthy and relatively energetic with the foods you provide (i.e. fresh fruits and vegetables).

Take the Pressure Off of Yourself

Such cultural differences may leave you at a loss, and perhaps wondering what you should put in a sympathy basket. If you are stuck and cannot navigate through these sensitivities, it may be best to simply offer a shoulder to cry on and your presence instead.

Please recognize as well that there is no pressure on you to produce the perfect sympathy basket for your loved one. As hard as you may try, there is nothing you can do that will heal your loved one in the blink of an eye, and render them suddenly much better after losing someone they care for. 

Remember that the goal of your basket is to simply be a helping hand, and a reminder that they are not alone in this difficult time. 

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