8 Sympathy Gift Ideas for Children
After the death of a loved one, children can feel confused, isolated and alone. As loved ones, you want to do anything you can to support them during this difficult time, but may be unclear the best way to do so. Here are eight ideas for thoughtful gifts that could provide a small amount of comfort to a grieving child after suffering a loss.
Sympathy gift ideas for the loss of a father, mother, or other loved one
For a child, the loss of a father or mother (or other relation) is one of the most painful experiences they are likely to ever face. If you're like most adults, you may feel intimidated or worried about picking the "right" sympathy gift for a child who has lost someone -- luckily, there are a wide range of thoughtful gifts that you can choose from. Here are some ideas to get you started.
A memory box filled with items that remind them of their loved one
Creating a memory box filled with cherished memories of a loved one can be an incredibly special gift for a child, no matter their age. Memory boxes offer a space for children to reminisce and remember times of joy, laughter, love, and happiness. The items that can be included in a memory box are also endless. Examples of these items include ticket stubs from park visits; movies or shows; toys or trinkets; perfume, cologne, or things that smell like their loved one; photos; and notes with their loved one’s handwriting on them.
The memory box can also serve as an interactive gift that's made collaboratively -- you can purchase a customized box and let them know the purpose of the box and what you think it should be filled with. (If you're unsure how to start this conversation, here's an example for someone creating a box with a child who just lost their father: "I'm wondering if you'd like to join me in a little project I'm starting. I thought we could gather a few items that remind us of Dad and keep them in this special box. Whenever we're feeling sad, we could take out the box and pick out an item that reminds us of him. What do you think?" The items included in the box should aim to capture the spirit of the deceased’s person and bring joy to the child whenever they open it, reminding them that although their father is gone, his memory will live on forever.
A photo album with pictures of happy times spent together
One option you may want to consider is a photo album full of heartwarming memories of happy times spent together. This simple but meaningful gift will remind them that, though their loved one may no longer be present, the impact they had on their life will last forever - something truly special to look back on and appreciate in years to come. This is a fantastic option if you have access to lots of photos (or can gain access to them).
A personalized blanket or pillow made from the person’s clothing
Personalized blankets or pillows made from the clothing of a loved one are an especially powerful and comforting gift for children who have experienced loss. These blankets may make a better gift for a younger child who would find comfort in knowing that a piece of their loved one is always there with them, whenever the blanket is near them, but this type of gift can be made age-appropriate for any grieving child.
You can include a child in this process by asking for their input on what they'd like the blanket or pillow to look like once it's finished. Or you can maintain the surprise by asking general questions. (What are your favorite colors? What's a favorite memory you have with the person who passed? Did they have a favorite piece of clothing they always wore?) and then going from there.
A children's book about loss
Loss is a difficult concept for children and it can be difficult to know how to explain such a complex topic to someone who is grieving and may not be at a stage where they can comprehend the loss. A children's book about loss can offer an age-appropriate explanation, support, courage, and even hope in the face of loss. Such books can teach young readers how to approach loss and can normalize many of the emotions they may be going through. They provide an avenue for children to find healthy ways to cope and can often provide comfort in the form of another's story.
A stuffed animal that they can cuddle with at night
Cuddling a stuffed animal at night can provide younger children with a sense of safety, security, and comfort. For some, having that sort of comfort at night can help to reduce stress and assist with relaxation. Stuffed animals also make great companions for children to talk to while lying in bed or getting through their day. Many stuffed animals can be customized and some are even specifically made for children who have lost a loved one. It's also possible to find stuffed animals that can contain a recording of the deceased or can wear "clothing" that is similar to what the deceased used to wear.
A journal to write down thoughts and feelings about their loved one
Writing in a journal can be an incredibly valuable tool for children and when reflecting on the loss of their loved one. Keeping track of thoughts and feelings in writing can offer focus and clarity in confusing times. It can also provide a creative outlet to explore difficult or unexpected topics, like confusion over changing dynamics in the household or navigating newfound anger and frustration. In this way, the process of writing can lead to deeper understanding of oneself and one's relationship with the loss of their loved one. Ultimately, it is a fantastic opportunity to gain perspective and offers a safe and healthy coping mechanism for children who enjoy this type of activity.
Quality one-on-one time
Sometimes a child who has lost a loved one is seeking more than just physical gifts. Quality time spent with someone they trust can be of great value, helping them process their feelings and emotions in a safe environment. Alternatively, it can also act as a healthy escape from the hard and scary feelings they might be experiencing after losing a loved one. In terms of parent loss, specifically, if only one parent was lost, the remaining parent may also be having difficulty juggling the loss of their partner, the transition into being a single parent, the needs of their child, and all of the tasks they have to handle after a loss. Offering to spend intentional, one-on-one, quality time with a grieving child can be a blessing to both the child and the parent.
A therapeutic art project is an excellent combo sympathy gift for a child who has lost a dad or a mom. Art provides a unique way for children to express themselves and their emotions. Through art, they can explore the grief process in a safe, creative, and satisfying way. Art also comes in many different forms, whether it be playing with clay or Play-Doh, painting, drawing, or even making a collage. These crafts allow children to channel their emotion into something productive and helpful, allowing them to process the loss in a meaningful and fun way. Art can also be used as an opportunity for family members or friends to bond with each other over the same project, creating a sense of unity during difficult times.
The loss of a loved one is a difficult and heartbreaking experience, particularly for young children. It takes time to process this kind of grief and there are many ways to offer comfort during this period of adjustment. Providing the right support in the form of books that normalize emotions, stuffed animals to cuddle with at night, journals for writing down thoughts and feelings, or quality time with a trusted adult, can all be meaningful for children who are struggling. With the right level of comfort and understanding, children can feel supported and cared for, despite this difficult transition in life.