people and mourning concept - woman with white lily flowers and coffin at funeral in church

After a friend experiences the death of a loved one, many of us are desperate to do something to show our support. Often we’re at a loss for just what that something should be.

Yes, you can send flowers to show your sympathy. No one’s going to fault you for sending flowers, but perhaps you’d like to do something to take some of the weight off of your friend’s shoulders, rather than just expressing sympathy.

Make a care package (or buy one)

There’s nothing quite like getting a care package from a friend. No matter how far away they may be, you suddenly feel supported and know they wish they could be there with you.

Don’t have time to put together your own care package? Check out Laurelbox. Nope, this isn’t a sponsored link. A member of the community got one of these after her mother’s death and was touched by it.

Of course, you can put together your own ‘self care box’ for them. And since you know them, you can make a more personalized package than any company can!

Things you might want to include: tea or coffee, hand cream, face masks, bath oils, a bottle of wine, a book. Don’t forget to include a hand written note!

Send a gift card

Let’s be honest about just how expensive death is. End of life care support. Funerals. Untangling the estate. It involves a lot of time and money, right when you’re in the middle of dealing with the emotions of loss.

Gift cards may feel a little impersonal, but they can really take the pressure off. When it feels so hard to keep breathing and get out of bed, not having to worry about laundry is an incredible gift. You can include a note to let your friend know why you chose a particular service, to let them know you’re thinking about them and want to show your support.

People have raved about A Spoonful of Comfort, which delivers soup and cookies! That’s also not an affiliate link, it’s a suggestion that comes from the community.

Things that can really help include:

  • Gift cards for takeout (healthy or comforting, ideally both!)
  • Gift cards for meal kits
  • Cleaning services
  • Dry cleaning services
  • Dog walking services
  • Grocery store cards (especially ones with a good selection of prepared foods)
  • Yardcare services
  • Babysitting services


Lend a hand yourself

Not everyone has money for flower delivery or gift cards in their budget. That doesn’t mean you can’t show your support!

Lots of people drop off food immediately after a death (or right after a diagnosis). However, that support soon fades. When you see the initial wave of support start to fade away, that’s your chance to jump in!

  • Let them know you’re running errands and ask what they need (not if they need anything, what they need)
  • Prepare an extra portion of dinner and let them know you’ll be dropping it off (ask if they have any allergies!)
  • Offer to help with yard work
  • Offer to come do a few loads of laundry
  • Check to see if you can lend a hand by picking up the kids, babysitting, or walking the dog

Just be sure that your friend is open to this sort of support. Some people would want nothing more than for you to show up and take over tidying up the house. Others would be very upset or feel bossed around. You know your friend best, be sure to respect their boundaries.

Help them untangle paperwork

Lots of people are better at solving problems than validating feelings. If that’s you, this is a great time to offer up your problem solving services.

Can you help organize bills, check for errors, and dispute denied claims?

Can you help track down the missing key to the safe deposit box?

Can you help clean out the fridge of the deceased’s home before everything goes rancid?

Can you help them figure out what bills need to be paid, start cancelling accounts, and figuring out what needs to be done?

Can you help prepare estate taxes?

Tasks like this are so incredibly stressful. Even the most analytical person can suddenly find themselves incapable of handling paperwork when they’re grieving. If they’re open for the help and you’re ready to lend a hand, helping them wrap up the estate is an incredible gift.

Help create a memorial

One of the most lasting forms of support is helping your friend memorialize their loved one.

This is one of those gifts that is a little risky — you want to make sure whatever you’re offering is something your friend actually wants!

People have been deeply touched by planting a tree in their yard, planting a garden, or getting a bird feeder to remind them of a deceased loved one.

Other options are donations in someone’s memory to a nonprofit (like The Caregiver Space) or to sponsor a memorial bench or other local show of support.

Send them something indulgent

It’s okay to encourage them to do something a little bit lavish for themselves, especially after spending so much time taking care of someone else!

Lots of people are grateful to get gift certificates to a salon or spa. Just be sure to pick out something that your friend would actually want.

Would I ever go to a spa? Nope. Maybe they’d love passes to a local sports club, a concert coming up, or a shop in town.

Just be there for them

The thing with grief is that there’s nothing you can do to take the pain away.

It’s not your responsibility to cheer them up or get them to talk about what they’re going through.

Showing up, reaching out, and meeting them where they’re at (both literally and figuratively) is the best way to support a grieving friend.

Written by Cori Carl
As Director, Cori is an active member of the community and regularly creates resources for people providing care.

Related Articles

I’m disabled. Please help me.

I’m disabled. Please help me.

Revolving doors at office towers might as well be called “blind-person milling machines.” Try finding the bottle of vitamins you want on a CVS shelf...

The Cruelest Marriage Penalty

The Cruelest Marriage Penalty

There’s a lot of talk about different kinds of marriage penalties in the tax code (when being legally married puts you at a disadvantage relative to...

Popular categories

After Caregiving
Finding Meaning
Finding Support

Don't see what you're looking for? Search the library

Share your thoughts


Share your thoughts and experiences

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Join our communities

Whenever you want to talk, there’s always someone up in one of our Facebook communities.

These private Facebook groups are a space for support and encouragement — or getting it off your chest.

Join our newsletter

Thoughts on care work from Cori, our director, that hit your inbox each Monday morning (more-or-less).

There are no grand solutions, but there are countless little ways to make our lives better.

Share your insights

Caregivers have wisdom and experience to share. Researchers, product developers, and members of the media are eager to understand the nature of care work and make a difference.

We have a group specifically to connect you so we can bring about change.