What is a nice condolence gift for a friend whose mother died?
January 12, 2018 12:28 PM   Subscribe

My friend and I would like to send something nice to a friend whose mother died. (We live in different cities.) What is a nice gift for this sort of situation?


* We had thought about a magnolia because those seem to be offered by flower companies for condolences; however, she's a renter who cannot plant the tree.

* We're willing to pay something like $75, but less if fine and more can be discussed.

* It's been about two weeks since she passed - we heard about it and wanted to let the holidays pass.

* We're good friends, and former roommates, but contact is infrequent.
posted by kensington314 to Human Relations (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
A friend of mine always gives wind chimes in this situation. In the card she usually suggests they try and think on their mother whenever they hear the chimes go.
posted by backwards guitar at 12:38 PM on January 12 [3 favorites]

A houseplant.
posted by amro at 12:40 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]

The tradition in my community is a hand written note and a gift to charity that was of significance to either the mother or your friend - the idea being that the mother's memory is still be carry carried forward in the world by the acts of goodness that will happen because of this gift.
posted by metahawk at 12:49 PM on January 12 [6 favorites]

Have a tree planted. When my Dad died, someone had a tree planted for him, and we quite liked the idea of a life in place of a life. Our family then took on that gesture for others.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:51 PM on January 12 [4 favorites]

My mother died this summer. I got two things that were incredibly meaningful to me

1. One of those basic "Huge basket of snacks" things. I pooh poohed it a little at the time but I spent so long being basically unable to really think about meal planning or whatever, it was useful. Also people kept coming by and it was nice to have something to feed them
2. An aeropress coffee thing. This is probably specific to me, but it was just a nice little thing that gave me a new little thing to fuss over which helped me do a thing I cared about that was mine and got me a little out of my grieving head.

You know your friend but I feel iffy about plants because they are an obligation. People also made nice donations to a charity she preferred. They also shared remembrances or photos (some I had never seen, these are treasures) about her in socially appropriate ways. Some of this really depends on how close she and her mother were. Me and my mom had a complicated relationship so I appreciated the HELL out of people who acknowledged that my grief was complicated and didn't do some of the usual "Your mom was a SAINT" stuff and instead let me talk about how weird some of this stuff was. Even people who texted "Thinking of you" often put a smile on my face.
posted by jessamyn at 12:59 PM on January 12 [7 favorites]

A friend of mine knitted me a pair of socks when my grandmother passed away. It was almost silly, but also really, really sweet because I knew she was thinking of me while she made them. Now, when I wear them I think both of my grandmother and of my friend.
posted by carrioncomfort at 1:14 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]

If you do go the "big basket of snacks" route, Zingerman's has a nice bereavement gift box, though a bit higher than budgeted.
posted by praemunire at 1:21 PM on January 12 [5 favorites]

If she knew the woman who passed and has a nice story about her, or what she thinks of when she thinks about the woman (strength over adversity, etc), I could see where a handwritten letter saying those things would be welcome.
posted by blueberry at 1:28 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]

Any of the the above ideas are nice. Another idea is a nice simple locket; I have a nice silver one with a picture of my late mother on one side and a baby picture of me on the other. Blue Nile has some pretty ones around your budget. Include a sincere condolence card.

Also for future, I wouldn't wait for the holidays to pass if you hear of someone in mourning. Holidays are very difficult when you've just lost a loved one, and I'm sure your friend would have appreciated hearing from friends. It's not like you can "remind" someone of their loss, as it's never far from their mind.
posted by JenMarie at 1:33 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]

Nthing jessamyn on the plant obligation thing. It might be hard enough for her to look after herself, never mind another living thing, and if/when it eventually withers might feel bad/resentful/relieved.... not that I'd know, or anything.
posted by kate4914 at 1:36 PM on January 12 [3 favorites]

This will sound silly, but a group of friends got me a big fat Starbucks card when my mother died. Ephemeral, yes, but it was a kindness to be able to get a little comfort caffeine and sugar when I wanted for awhile, especially since we all work on the same campus and if I needed a break, we could walk over together. I'm tearing up thinking about it.
posted by joycehealy at 1:47 PM on January 12 [4 favorites]

My mother died a year ago. I appreciated thoughtful, handwritten notes, donations to charities she supported, and the couple of flowering plants I received. Both plants are thriving and are a constant, lovely reminder not only of my mother, but of the kind friends who sent them.
posted by Dolley at 1:50 PM on January 12

When my Mother died, I also really appreciated those "huge basket of snacks" things that jessamyn mentioned. You are in different cities, so this would be harder perhaps, but also so helpful was prepared frozen food that I could just pop in the oven. Cooking was the last thing on my mind for some time.
posted by Lescha at 1:50 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]

Another vote for any sort of memory or story. When my dad died, almost 40 years ago, one of his friends came by and said:
You know what always amazed me about your dad was how strong he was. I went hunting with him once and we got an antelope. We were struggling to carry it out and he says "Oh, get out of the way", heaves it over his shoulders and walks off with it.
It was just a few seconds conversation but even after all these years I remember it. I love that little vignette, it brings my dad back to me as much as anything can.
posted by BoscosMom at 2:08 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]

Just a card with an actual heartfelt message of condolence would be nice.
posted by rd45 at 3:06 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]

A donation to our public library specifying that it be used to purchase mysteries was especially meaningful when my mother died. The books have "in memory of" labels.
posted by Botanizer at 3:39 PM on January 12 [4 favorites]

When my mother died, friends who lived in two different states went in on a food basket for me (maybe from Zingermans!) -- so logistics shouldn't deter you. It's easy to send a basket from anywhere. I had never heard that the food basket was a thing after a death, but i was so touched by it. I was certainly able to cook for myself, but nevertheless there was something about a gift of food that felt like just the right thing.
posted by swheatie at 3:44 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]

My mother died in May of 2017. I appreciate my friends' gifts to my mother's choice of charity, Best Friends. A big basket of snacks would've been awesome and appreciated. A houseplant would've died of neglect. An outdoor tree wouldn't have suited her, so that suggestion should be weighed against your friend's mom's style and lifestyle.

Jessamyn's comment about not projecting your expectations of grief on her is on point. Not everyone works through the 'stages of grief' in order, or in ways that are recognizable to you. Don't expect her to act any certain way, just let her know you're there for her.
posted by workerant at 4:04 PM on January 12

When my mother's brother died a few years ago we received a large green plant arrangement that was particularly nice. I eventually broke it up into smaller individual plants and several of them are even still alive. We also got a snack arrangement that was helpful for the reasons others mentioned. When my Dad died I really appreciated the condolence cards that were personalized, with actual remembrances of him. I also appreciated donations to charities that some people made, but those didn't really hit me the same way that the physical things did. Don't sweat it too much. She'll be pleased that you made the effort, whatever you decide to send.
posted by clone boulevard at 4:07 PM on January 12

When my mom died:

1. My office at the time sent a bonsai. It was gorgeous and I was in no shape to take care of it — another life I couldn’t save.
2. My husband’s office sent an edible arrangement. In the wake of enough wine, cheese, fish, and other rich food to literally induce gout in one of us, fresh fruit on skewers was a nice change of pace.
3. A family friend went to Trader Joe’s and grabbed various snacks, like olives and bread and who knows what else. It was wonderful.
4. My in-laws brought weird frozen pizza and then waited around while we cooked it. It was awkward and took a lot of energy to keep them entertained.
5. A friend knit me some beautiful fingerless gloves. I almost cried.
6. Lots of people sent thoughtful cards and letters, which was lovely.
7. One person phoned at rush hour every day for a week and unburdened me with her own feelings, then relentlessly encouraged me to have a good cry, which was less lovely.
8. One person showed up with wine, cheese, and ridiculous games to help us through the first night. Subsequent gout attacks notwithstanding, this was crucial care.

May any of these anecdotes prove to be somehow inspirational, or at least cautionary.
posted by armeowda at 4:56 PM on January 12 [6 favorites]

To piggyback on one of armeowda’s points, my mother and I received an edible arrangement after my dad died last year. Mom wasn’t as into it as I was, but I found the fruit really nice to munch on, especially since we’d been eating so much comfort food (and whatever snacks we brought to the hospital).

Other than that, we were really touched by how many people made donations to a local animal charity in memory of Dad.

I would have loved self-care items (bath stuff, face masks, nice tea, etc.), but that sort of thing depends on your friend’s preferences.
posted by QuickedWeen at 7:18 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]

Food. My friends sent us a full Indian dinner from a local restaurant a couple days after my mother died and it was the nicest thing to have food for the whole gathered family that nobody had to think about. Any food is good. There’s a reason why people bring casseroles over.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:02 PM on January 12 [4 favorites]

When Pope Dorothy died almost five years ago dear friends who were living in Columbus, Ohio sent a box of ice cream from Jeni's to me out in Portland. This was random, unexpected, delightful, and a memory I will always cherish. (Terrific ice cream too!)

While giving and receiving flowers is wonderful for some significant events (see: numerous comments about giving a dead gift) and telling someone all about what your death experiences are like may make you feel like you are helping someone navigate new waters I would caution against any gift or action that involves anything that needs maintenance of any kind - not just watering.
posted by TomSophieIvy at 11:41 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]

When my mom died, none of my local friends did any of the traditional things like bringing over a casserole and I was really not in a place to deal with things like preparing meals. A gift card for a food delivery service such as bitequad would have been very appreciated. The snack baskets are also a great idea. Memorials are also very nice, but I think it's lovely of you to think of giving your friend something that would help them in the immediate.
posted by missmerrymack at 9:34 AM on January 13

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