These sympathy gifts and ideas will help you say “I’m sorry for your loss” after someone dies. Whether it’s a sudden death in the family or an expected death due to an illness, all losses are shocking. We know we’ll grieve a family member’s death, but we’re often unprepared for the depth of the pain and shock.
If you feel helpless and uncomfortable about saying you’re sorry after someone dies, you’re normal! It’s hard. A family death is painful, and it doesn’t seem like enough to say how sorry you are. But, remember that simply saying “I’m sorry for your loss” can be a huge comfort to someone who lost a family member. By acknowledging their pain, you’re saying that you care about them. And that, my friend, is huge.
In 17 Comforting Gift Ideas for a Loved One at the End of Life, I share ideas to help families prepare for a death. This article focuses on the grief that comes after an unexpected loss and offers ideas for comforting a mourner after a shocking family death.
You don’t have to say “I’m sorry” by giving a sympathy gift; this isn’t about the gift itself. Rather, these ideas are meant to offer comfort and hope to mourners whose hearts are broken. Their lives have been shattered and they’ll never be the same. A death in the family isn’t something anyone ever gets over, and there is no moving on when someone dies. Your gift won’t heal the pain, but it will show your friend that you care.
It matters less what type of gift you give – whether you give a sympathy gift to say you’re sorry for their loss, a condolence gift to say you’re sharing their pain and sadness, or a bereavement gift to acknowledge the death of a family member.
What matters most is showing your friend you care by offering a symbol of hope and love. It doesn’t have to be a store-bought gift or the best sympathy gift in the whole world. What matters saying that you’re sincerely sorry for their loss, and even being honest enough to say that you don’t know what to say. That is the real gift that will give your friend hope, help, and encouragement through the grieving process.
Gifts That Say “I’m Sorry for Your Loss”
When you’re searching for a gift that comforts someone after a family death, remember that you may never find the exact right gift. And that’s okay, because death isn’t right and grief isn’t exact.
A Sympathy Card With a Personal Note From You
I have a Box of Sympathy Cards that I can dip into whenever I need to. This saves the hassle of going out and buying a card to go with the sympathy gift, and it allows me to focus on finding a gift that expresses my regrets and condolences.
What do you write in a sympathy card? It depends on your relationship with the family and the person who died, but it’s always good to simply say, “I’m so sorry for your loss. It always hurts to lose someone you love, and my heart is broken for you and your family. My thoughts and prayers are with you.”
I often add something about the family member who died, such as a pleasant memory or funny experience. It’s important to talk about the person who’s now gone, to remember and share stories! This keeps them alive in our hearts, and helps us heal the pain.
An Invitation to Remember Together
I love the idea of a Ceramic Josephine Teapot because it’s an invitation to visit, talk, and connect with someone you care about. It’s uplifting and light, and focuses on being with friends and tasting life, instead of going deeper into the pain and grief of a family death.
Here’s a creative way to say “I’m sorry for your loss” to a close friend who needs comfort and support: give her the teapot, an assortment of flavorful and interesting tea bags, and a request for a visit in a month’s time. This is an especially beautiful sympathy gift idea for people who need to talk about the grief of losing a family member.
Pay attention to your feelings while you’re scrolling through these ideas. Which sympathy gifts resonate with you? Which ones lift your heart a little? Remember that there is no one perfect gift that can erase the shock and pain of a family death. Gifts are symbols of how much you care, and how sorry you are that a loved one is no longer here.
An “In Memory Of” Stepping Stone for the Family Garden
The Memorial Stepping Stone is a beautiful symbol of love, memories, and goodbyes. I love the idea of not adding clutter to a home – especially after a death in the family. Giving an ornament or figurine isn’t the best sympathy gift for everyone (even if it’s your favorite way to say you’re sorry after someone dies). Ornaments and figurines require decisions to be made and space to be created in the home.
A stepping stone, on the other hand, is flat and unobtrusive…yet present and sentimental. If your friend has a garden – or if the family member was a lover of nature – then this may be a comforting gift.
This Memorial Stepping Stone is engraved with this poem:
I thought of you with love today
but that is nothing new
I thought about you yesterday
and days before that too,
I think of you in silence
…I often speak your name
All I have are memories
and your picture in a frame
Your memory is my keepsake
with which I’ll never part
God has you in His keeping
I have you in my heart.
There are a variety of “in sympathy” stepping stones on Amazon to choose from; I encourage you to browse through them. They can be placed on decks and balconies, as well as in gardens and pathways.
Beautiful Hand-Tuned Wind Chimes
The Beautiful Hand-Tuned Wind Chime might be the perfect way for you to express how sorry you are about the death of a family member. Wind chimes are my favorite types of outdoor home decoration, and their beautiful sound is a soothing sympathy gift. More than that, wind chimes are activated by wind…and this can be thought of as the loved one’s spirit still present and active. It would soothe and comfort me, especially if my family member was a believer.
I feature a different wind chime — the Woodstock Inspirational Amazing Grace Chime — in my blog post Thoughtful Sympathy Gifts for the Loss of a Mother.
Here’s what a reviewer said about this gift after a family death: “What a wonderful and thoughtful gift to give for any occasion, and perfect to receive one in remembrance of a loved one. Such a delight to listen to! When I hear it, I think about my mom. I sit outside and let the gentle music calm me.”
“Remember Me” Jewelry
The “A piece of my Heart lives in Heaven” – Remembrance Necklace is, to me, the saddest way to say you’re sorry after a death in the family.
This necklace is engraved with the words “A piece of my Heart lives in Heaven”, as well as a disc for the first letter of the loved one’s name and the death date. The angel wings are a gorgeous and heartfelt finishing touch on this sympathy gift…and it just makes me feel both sad and happy at the same time.
Remembrance pendants and bracelets are sentimental sympathy gifts that allow mourners to carry their family member around with them…even after death. This is comforting and encouraging, and can even help with the healing process.
Christmas Tree Ornament
The Merry Christmas From Heaven Ornament wasn’t my first choice when I was searching for ideas on how to say you’re sorry after a loss! But it received so many positive “comforting sympathy gift” reviews on Amazon – and I realized that this gift can be given to the whole family after a death, not just one member. So I just had to include it!
This oval pewter ornament makes a wonderful gift not only at Christmastime, but as a gesture of remembrance in the days and weeks after a loss. It’s a gift for everyone after a death in the family, and can help you say “I’m sorry for your loss” in a way that commemorates the holiday season.
This sympathy ornament features the last four verses of the “Merry Christmas From Heaven” poem and arrives gift-boxed with a complimentary poem card:
“I love you all dearly,
Now don’t shed a tear,
I’m spending my Christmas
With Jesus this year.”
The poem is under copyright (1990) by John William Mooney, Jr.
A Glass Memorial Ornament
The Engraved Remembrance Heart Personalized Ornament is less “Christmas-y” and more general. This sympathy gift would be appropriate for someone who celebrates the Christian holidays, but not as an actual believer in Jesus Christ.
I like this gift because of the family aspect. You may know one member of the family (your friend), but there’s a whole family who is grieving the death…and by giving an ornament that can be shared, you express your regret and condolences to everyone. This is a powerful way to say “I’m sorry for your loss” to the entire clan, and can be healing for everyone.
A Book to Encourage Someone After a Family Death
In Option B – Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, Sheryl Sandberg describes how the sudden and shocking death of her husband affected her and her family. She shares her process of healing, and how her co-writer Adam Grant’s research and support helped her grieve.
This is a wonderful book that will help mourners through the pain of a family death. Not everyone will want to read it right after the funeral, cremation, or burial…it may be a sympathy gift that comes later. It depends on your friend’s personality, and how they cope with grief and pain.
Some people prefer to work their way through grieve “cognitively”, by thinking and reasoning. Others want to focus on the emotional and spiritual aspects of healing and grieving after a family member’s death.
How you say you’re sorry for their loss depends on how well you know them, and what you think will help them feel less alone. The best sympathy gifts are a symbol of your friendship, your relationship and your future together.
The movie The Shack is based on William Young’s book of the same name. Formally, this DVD is about a father’s transformative and spiritual journey that will show him the ultimate truth about love, loss, and forgiveness.
But informally, this story is about a shocking family death of a little girl that devastated the parents and siblings. Mack is the father; this movie describes how he struggled with the grief of losing his daughter, and how he reconciled his relationship with God. That’s the short version – Mack’s journey to healing was more painful and difficult than that!
The book version of The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity would be a good companion sympathy gift. The movie is very emotional and would be difficult to watch for someone who recently lost a family member in a shocking or violent way.
If you want to say you’re sorry for your friend’s loss and you know they’re struggling with disbelief and anger towards God, then this would be a good sympathy gift. Again, it depends on your relationship with the person. Even if it’s not the perfect sympathy gift, if your heart is in the right place, and if you’re sincere about saying “I’m sorry for your loss”, then your friend may find comfort in the thought alone.
Do you need help saying you’re sorry to your boyfriend after a sudden death in his family? You may find it helpful to read How to Comfort Your Boyfriend When He is Grieving.
I hope you found a few sympathy gifts and ideas to help you say sorry for the loss. There are no easy or perfect ways to reach out to someone who is coping with the death of a family member…but if you simply reach out and say, “I’m sorry for your loss”, you will warm their heart and lift their spirits.
What sympathy gifts have you received? Do you have ideas for how to say sorry to mourners? Please, share below. I’d love to hear from you!
Your thoughts are welcome below! I don't give advice, but you can get free relationship help from marriage coach Mort Fertel.