If you’d prefer to reach out to the family on your own, that’s just as beautiful. We hope these tips inspire you.
Start with your relationship
Give yourself some quite time to consider what the person you’ve lost
meant to you: ways they influenced or inspired you, how they made you
feel, what you loved about them. Think about unique aspects of your
relationship—stories, memories, or sides of their personality not
everyone got to see—you could share with their loved ones.
Think about how to share your feelings
Depending on what you’d like to express, there are a variety of ways to capture your thoughts:
- Cards and letters: Handwrite a letter to the family filled
with stories and memories, lessons you learned, favorite quotes or
habits, and acts you appreciated. Or find a card that perfectly sums up your feelings about their loved one and add a personal message. (Here are some ideas for things to write in a sympathy card.)
- Special skills: If you express yourself by telling stories,
writing poems, drawing, crafting, cooking, gardening, or making music,
use your talents to create a tribute. You can make a video or record a
song on your phone, hand-letter a poem or create a collage, bake a
special dessert or deliver a whole meal, or plant a tree or a whole
- Photographs and mementos: If you have access to photos or
videos, creative or work projects or other artifacts from your
relationship with your lost loved one, make copies and share them with
their immediate family. Details of the parts of their family member’s
life they didn’t witness firsthand can be irreplaceable gifts.
- Commitments: Honor a legacy with a promise to do
something—run a race in their memory, volunteer, carry on something they
started, or improve your life or someone else’s.
Make a meaningful contribution
Donating to a charity with special meaning to your loved one or their
family is a beautiful gesture in itself. Along acknowledging a donation
in their name, some non-profits offer a tangible memorial as well. You
- Purchase a brick, plaque or another piece of a meaningful place, such as a school, park or church.
- Provide a scholarship to a camp or class.
- Figuratively “adopt” anything from a wild animal to a section of highway.
For a caring person, these tips and ideas may not feel like quite
enough for a time of grief. If you’re struggling with that gap between
what’s needed and what’s possible, it might help to think of it this
way: This is not what I wish I could do for my friend who’s hurting, but this is what I’m doing until I’m able to do more. Try to look at this time of distance as a chance to give ongoing comfort and support, until you can show up in person at last.