How to Support a Grieving Friend

Contents of a Grief Care Basket with a mug, calligraphy, journal, note cards, a candle and Forget-me-not seed packet


When a family member or close friend passes away, the people left behind can feel lost and adrift, especially if the death was unexpected.  If you know someone who is going through a loss, it is very difficult to know the right things to say or do to make them feel better.  I’ll let you in on a secret - NOTHING you say or do will make them feel better.  Grief is an incredibly hard process, and the pain never really goes away.  However, knowing that someone cares makes it possible to move on to the next breath, the next minute, the next day.

I lost my healthy 56-year-old husband of 34 years to a sudden heart attack on the morning of Thanksgiving 2018 when he went for a run in our neighborhood.  The pain brought by his passing is indescribable. There were days when I didn’t think I would survive the agony, and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to.  At the time, I didn’t know anyone else who had lost their spouse.  The loneliness was unbearable.  Even in a room crowded with people I love, I felt so alone.

A few things helped me to survive those dark days.  A card or phone call or even a text from a friend, especially if it mentioned Cort by name, helped me know that others were also missing him.  Don’t be afraid that mentioning the missing loved one will “make them sad”.  I promise that they are already sad, even if they are trying to be brave and smile through the sadness.  Sharing pictures, favorite memories and how much you miss him too is balm for a broken heart.  One of the best gifts I received after losing Cort was a handwritten letter from one of his co-workers, telling me anecdotes from their days working together.  Hearing a new story about him was the next best thing to having him with me again.  

After a loss, journaling is helpful for many people, whether it’s writing to their loved one or journaling their own grief journey.  A lovely keepsake journal makes a very meaningful gift.  There will be many thank-you notes to write, so beautiful notecards are a thoughtful way to show you care.  Grief may cause the person to sleep too much, or not enough.  Gourmet coffee and a pretty mug are practical gifts that help them get through their day.

The feelings of loss and loneliness can be mitigated by something that shows an understanding of what they are going through.  A thoughtful quote in framed calligraphy can remind them that they are not alone.  A living tribute, such as planting a tree in honor of the lost loved one or a packet of Forget-Me-Not flower seeds to grow, will provide the sense that life goes on and give the grieving person something to nurture and a place to channel their love.  

A beautiful candle with a soothing scent like lavender can be calming and help combat the stress of the loss.  Gourmet chocolates are a simple pleasure that can make them smile, even if it’s just for a short time.  A donation to a favorite charity or church in the loved one’s honor is a gift that is always appreciated.  

Each of the items described above were among the most helpful gifts I received after Cort’s death.  Three Basketeers offers a Grief Care Basket and shippable Grief Care Box that contain all of these thoughtful items.  When a customer purchases a Grief Care Basket or Box, I am sad about the person who passed, but it warms my heart to know that the lessons learned from Cort’s passing will bring comfort to someone else in their grief.  

One final note:  It is never too late to send a gift of condolence.  Cort has been gone for almost five years now.  Knowing that someone is still thinking of him (and me) is a timeless Special Gift that I would cherish any time.


Sue Swanson is a co-founder and CEO of Three Basketeers, Inc a nonprofit gift basket business that provides meaningful work for adults with developmental disabilities.  With six grown children and six grandchildren, she has had many years of thoughtful gift giving. Her youngest son Brett has autism and is the driving force behind her passion for helping adults with developmental disabilities.  She has been helping customers of Three Basketeers find the perfect Special Gift since 2019.

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