Sympathy Gift Etiquette: The Crucial Dos and Don’ts

Sympathy Gift Etiquette: The Crucial Dos and Don’ts

Most of the time, gifts are a wonderful way to celebrate a positive milestone in a person’s life. You can give a gift on an anniversary, when someone accomplishes something important, like graduating school, or even on a birthday.

However, there are also times when you might find that a gift is a good idea to soothe and reassure someone during a difficult period. Get-well-soon gifts and sympathy gifts are a common example of this. The question is, how do you deliver a sympathy gift in the right way?

There are often different expectations here compared to what people expect when they give a gift that’s supposed to be a positive thing. Let’s take a closer look.

Know When to Give Sympathy Gifts

Sympathy gifts are often a good choice when you’re unable to attend a funeral, or you’re not going to visit someone in person. When you give a sympathy gift, you’re offering your condolences, and providing an extra something to help someone through a difficult time when you can’t be there yourself. If you attend the funeral or visit the person, you can still bring a gift, but you may decide to offer something a little smaller.

Think carefully about the occasion and the personality of the person before giving a gift. Bringing a basket of muffins to someone who can’t eat when they’re upset isn’t a good idea. You might also find that some people in your life feel a little uncomfortable about receiving gifts.

If you’re sending the gift in place of your attendance at the funeral or an event, try to send it as soon as possible. If you can, it’s a good idea to have the item delivered either before, or just after the funeral.

Choose the Right Type of Gift

Choosing the right type of sympathy gift is a lot like choosing any kind of present. The most important thing you can do is think about the unique preferences of the person that you’re giving the gift to. In all cases, start by purchasing a sympathy card. Unless you know for a fact that your friend or loved one hates cards, this is often the best way to convey your sympathy in a way that’s going to be easier for both of you.

If you’re giving a present to a young child, then it’s often a good idea to choose something that’s soft and reassuring. A teddy bear or a soft blanket that they can snuggle up in might be a good idea. Remember that for adults, thoughtful gifts are often the most meaningful. A framed picture of them with the person they’re mourning may be a good idea. You could also consider offering service-based gifts, like paying for someone to clean your friend’s house while she or he grieves.

Pay attention to any specific requests that your friends or loved ones make. Some people ask for people to give donations in a person’s name to a specific charity instead of buying flowers. Others ask for people to avoid gifts altogether. No matter what your thoughts might be, follow the instructions of the person in mourning.

Be Respectful

Finally, no matter what kind of relationship you have with the person you’re giving the gift to, this isn’t the time to be light-hearted or inappropriate. Although it may be admirable to want to make someone laugh during a difficult time in their life, it’s too easy for comedy gifts to come across as rude and insensitive. Think about what would really matter to your loved one at this time and focus on being there for the person who’s suffering.

This isn’t the time to let your own opinions get the better of you. Think about the person’s religious customs, and their preferences when it comes to dealing with things like death. For instance, it’s appropriate to send flowers for a Christian funeral, but the same isn’t true for someone in the Jewish faith. It might be worth doing some research before you begin shopping for presents if you’re not sure what the rules are in this case.

When you’re not sure what the best option is, speak to the person that you’re getting the gift for. They’ll be able to tell you whether they agree that your idea is suitable for the occasion. For instance, you might be able to ask whether they would like you to make a donation to the charity or give some cash to them to help with the funeral expenses. Assumptions are never your friend in these cases.

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