What to send to far-away and recently bereaved friend
March 9, 2007 3:20 PM   Subscribe

What can I send to a (female) friend who's 1500 miles away and whose father has just died? I'm of course talking to her on the phone, but I'd like to send her something that's not flowers.
posted by biscotti to Shopping (21 answers total)
Where are you and where is she?
posted by CrazyLemonade at 3:26 PM on March 9, 2007

and did you know the father?
posted by phaedon at 3:26 PM on March 9, 2007

Food. There is undoubtedly some online service that will allow you buy food online and have it delivered to her wherever it is she lives (if she lives in a city). When people are grieving, not having to cook (especially when you are the opposite of hungry) is a big help.
posted by Methylviolet at 3:28 PM on March 9, 2007

Maybe this?
posted by Methylviolet at 3:31 PM on March 9, 2007

I know this may sound surprising but the answer is: MONEY. Funerals cost around $10,000 on average. If the death was unexpected, or the family didn't pre-pay funeral expenses, this is a huge burden on top of their grief. I typically send between $50 and $100.

If the funeral will be poorly attended because the deceased did not have a large social circle, attendance is a fabulous gift. Also, in this situation I would also send flowers because there won't be many.

Finally, food is usually a welcome gift because the grieving family will not have the energy to deal with this and they will also likely have many visitors.
posted by GIRLesq at 3:36 PM on March 9, 2007

Also, if the grieving family is well off, you may consider making a donation to their religious organization or to a charity related to the cause of death (like a cancer foundation or an alzheimer's foundation).
posted by GIRLesq at 3:40 PM on March 9, 2007

Depending on the age of the friend, donations towards a college fund are always helpful. Especially when there are siblings in college or near college age, money for schooling is a lot more appreciated than flowers.
posted by RobertDigital at 3:50 PM on March 9, 2007

Flowers are nice, and appreciated, but sadly, if there are many, most will only get thrown away.

A food basket is nice. Something handmade along the lines of "we're thinking about you", is nicer, but if you don't have the time, food works.

My grandfather passed away last month and food was valuable, since everyone in our immediate family was tired, had been busy visiting him in the hospital, which meant no time for grocery shopping, and we had guests over.

A personalized card is also a good idea. Aside from one that might come with a food or gift basket, that is.
posted by cmgonzalez at 4:04 PM on March 9, 2007

Thanks so much for the quick responses. I'll try to give as much detail as I can: she's in her 30's, married, mother is still alive; I did not know the father other than to hear about him from her; he was ill for a while so while I'm sure it was at least somewhat unexpected, I doubt it was completely out of the blue; she's in Toronto, I'm in Texas; lots of people are already sending food and flowers; there is no way I can attend the funeral although I'd like to be there for her; she's an artsy-craftsy type and a computer geek. I also do intend to make sure to touch base with her over the coming months, because I know that it's often after all the fuss is over that people really need support, but I'd like to send her something now (in addition to a card, of course).
posted by biscotti at 4:04 PM on March 9, 2007

Send a condolence letter. I still remember the two I got after my father's death, almost twenty years ago.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:09 PM on March 9, 2007

Maybe some music (not that anyone buys CDs anymore). Depending on her personality and needs, she may appreciate something uplifting and inspirational, or maybe something that reminds her of her dad.
posted by Unsomnambulist at 5:13 PM on March 9, 2007

Second the recommendation for food etc. - often when one is grieving the idea of cooking is overwhelming, and the whole process of funerals etc. make one forget to eat. A nice food basket can't hurt.

On a more emotional note, I don't know if you can find out how he died, but if possible, a donation in remembrance of someone is quite touching - i.e. 'in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Canadian Cancer Society' etc. (what girlESQ said).
posted by rmm at 5:27 PM on March 9, 2007

Just like you said, I try to think not just of the time right after the loved one dies, but to commit myself to calling, writing, sending a gift basket 3, 6 months or at the year anniversary of the event.

It can be harder to cope when there are less people who are supporting you and sending you things. Remembering that someone is still likely to be grieving after the first few months is a really important thing to do for someone.
posted by mulkey at 5:44 PM on March 9, 2007

My father died less than 6 months ago and I can tell you the 2 things that meant the most to me. One was a small metal tray with a lovely inscription, "Let not the tears of today, nor the fears of tomorrow spoil our joys for today", the other was a cotton throw blanket with Psalm 23 woven into it. These are items I will keep forever, I thought the sentiment was beautiful and it was something that would not die or be eaten. It was a welcome change to the huge amounts of food that we simply had to give away because there was so much...please don't take that as ungratefulness, we greatly appreciated the food, there was just SO MUCH! These 2 gifts I received appeared to be very well thought -out and sent with lots of love and care.
posted by illek at 10:12 PM on March 9, 2007

Second the condolence letter. Knowing that you cared enough to put your feelings into words will mean far more than a gift.
posted by languagehat at 7:08 AM on March 10, 2007

Anything. When my partner died a decade ago, and when my father died just over a year ago, anything my friends sent me felt like a token of affection and support.

I particularly valued the letters, even from people who never met him. But any time I went to the mailbox and found a package or an envelope from a friend, I felt a hug across the miles.

That said, one of the most helpful gifts was a meal ordered for us from a local caterer. The friend who sent it arranged a credit for a set menu (stew, roasted vegetables, casserole, and even a nice loaf of bread) that we could pick up at our convenience. Even though we all love to cook, having an entire meal ready to pop in the oven was wonderful.

(Your friend's experience may be different, but I'll mention that, after making and recieving scores of calls, I came to dread the telephone. For me and my family, email or old fashioned actual mail was a boon. It allowed me to deal with incoming messages on my own schedule, and I never had to worry about bursting out wailing to a friend held helpless on the other end of the line. I'd had enough of that.)
posted by Elsa at 7:30 AM on March 10, 2007

We always send a turkey breast from Honeybaked Ham, and instead of flowers to the funeral home, a throw. Sometimes Psalm 23, sometimes "May the road rise to meet you...", sometimes an american flag, just depends on the person. Everyone seems to appreciate that.
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:43 AM on March 10, 2007

The Good Grief Center for Bereavement Support developed a Care Package that you might want to consider (especially if you don't want to send food). If you don't want to send the care package, the website itself (goodgriefcenter.com) might give you some ideas on how you can support your friend as she grieves.
posted by nnk at 9:06 AM on March 10, 2007

Another vote for a heartfelt condolence letter. Did you know her father? Has she told you any anecdotes about him over the years? Mention things like that in your letter. My friend's dad died in 1986, and just recently she mentioned to me that she still has the letter I sent and that she still pulls it out and reads it from time to time. In it I had mentioned a few of the funny things her dad had said or done that I knew about. ("Remember when we were watching MTV and your dad Stevie Nicks' name onscreen and said "That was a guy?!") Personal memories like that can be quite comforting.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:54 AM on March 10, 2007

Seconding the suggestion to check up again (or keep checking up) three or six or twelve or twenty-four months from now, too. Most of the active support of my friends rather abruptly ended at the one-month point -- which I understand, people have their own lives and their own problems to deal with -- but it felt like a bucket of cold water had been dumped over me, like I wasn't allowed to be grieving anymore. Other than the week surrounding my mother's death and funeral, that one-month mark was really one of the hardest periods for me. An unprompted card or food basket or just some reminder that someone recognized that I was still in pain would have been really helpful right then.
posted by occhiblu at 10:55 AM on March 10, 2007

My dad died 10 days ago and I have to say that I would love to receive some fresh flowers NOW. A week afterwards, all the brightening influence of the flowers has diminished as I have had to throw them away as they die. I'd like some fresh flowers now.

That said, a nice meal or a heartfelt note would also be appreciated.
posted by MeetMegan at 1:24 PM on March 11, 2007

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