50 answers

What to Do When Someone Dies

I have a friend who lost her father today. She lives out of state so the things I would usually want to do like offer meals and my presence/support/etc. won't really do. I thought of sending flowers and a card but is that just so generic? I have never lost anyone really close like that so I am at a loss. Any ideas? If you've lost someone close, what helped you through it?

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I recently lost my mother in law, my out of state friends sent a variety of things, flowers, plants, and an angels. My favorite are the angels. They was one for my garden which the kids like as they can go in my flower garden know that Grandma is thinking of them. The other angels are in the forms of knick-knacks for inside which is great also...
And the best thing of all i received was the love they sent via emails, cards, phone calls, flowers, plants, etc.. it didn't matter to me what i got from whom, it was just that they were thinking of me and my family...

1 mom found this helpful

My father passed about a year and a half ago and I really enjoyed a nice potted plant I received from a friend. I still have it and everyday I see it I'm reminded of my dad.

I lost my Gram last year. We were VERY close. I would've really liked a handwritten letter from a friend. Please, do NOT use the old lines 'it will get better with time', 'he's in a better place', 'now he can be with his family that has already passed'. None of that is helpful at all. When you lose someone, you just want them back. Let her know that you are there to listen, then follow-up with a phone call and do just that. I would have loved to have had that.

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Having lost both of my parents, I can tell you that I treasured every card and note I received. Knowing people cared about me at that time helped me alot. Stay in touch with your friend, even if you think you don't know what to say or worry that you won't say the right thing, she'll appreciate that you care enough to stay in contact, because its not what you say that matters, what matters is that you are there for her.

1 mom found this helpful

hello A.. I am so very sorry for your friend's loss. As someone who has lost a number of close relatives in the past 5 years, I would say that the best thing for you to do is whatever your heart feels led to do! Don't think of anything as menial or not good enough. Your friend knows that you can't physically be there so any gesture is going to assure her that you are thinking of her and that's what she needs right now. I don't anyone's faith background but maybe you could send her a care package that is based on whatever her beliefs are. Whatever sacred writings, or symbols that she can relate to. You can even just send a personal letter from your heart. People don't need big gestures, it's the little things that help get them through these times. And also remember that she is going to need uplifting for several months to come to don't forget to stretch out those gestures. Some people think that everything can be done over a week or month and that person and the family is going to be grieving for much longer than that. I hope I have been able to give you some insight and if you have any more questions, please reply back to me. Take care and good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

My best friend from childhood was a great help to me when my father passed away last year. While she lived a few hours from me, she was able to come to the funeral and was just there with a packet of tissues to talk me through the visitation and funeral. After the funeral, she sent me a small gift (pair of cute fun earrings) to cheer me up, then, a few weeks later a book arrived. They were little surprises that made me feel great knowing someone was still out there thinking of me even if she couldn't actually be here.

So maybe you could send her a little care package of tissues, your favorite chocolate chip cookies, some flavored tea or coffee, uplifting books etc... to keep her spirits up. My friend sent me cards too - lots of them throughout the rest of the year - on what would have been my dad's birthday, at Christmas, just anytime she thought I might need a little cheering up... and the cards always came at the perfect time!

So don't discount the card idea throughout the year - it's not just difficult to get through the first few weeks, the whole first year and beyond is difficult! It's nice knowing someone is still thinking of your pain.

Hope these are some ideas you'll use - your friend needs to know you are there for her even if you can't be there in person.

1 mom found this helpful

I recently lost my mother in law, my out of state friends sent a variety of things, flowers, plants, and an angels. My favorite are the angels. They was one for my garden which the kids like as they can go in my flower garden know that Grandma is thinking of them. The other angels are in the forms of knick-knacks for inside which is great also...
And the best thing of all i received was the love they sent via emails, cards, phone calls, flowers, plants, etc.. it didn't matter to me what i got from whom, it was just that they were thinking of me and my family...

1 mom found this helpful

One thing my family really used and appreciated when my father died recently was a couple of "fruit" flower bouquets we got from friends. They were great healthy snacking when we really didn't feel like eating much and great for the kids to snack on rather than sweets. I know I will send them in the future to friends I can't be with or make a meal for because they live far away. They are even pretty to look at when you are feeling sad. Hope that helps

1 mom found this helpful

I also live out of state, away from close friends and family. One thing that I tend to do is send a plant, or order some perennials through the mail for them(the perennial one is dependent upon the season). This way, the person receiving the plant, etc. knows that it is in honor of their loved one, a rememberance that will always last. And since a plant of perennial lasts for a long time, they know that even though there is a long distance between us, they are in my thoughts. I have gotten alot of positive comments from people that have received this from me.

I was at a funeral recently and saw garden stones delivered--they were beautiful! I thought that was a wonderful idea and something they can have forever!

Sorry to hear of your friend's loss.

I lost my dad last year, and I will tell you I was never one to send cards prior to this. I thought they really had no meaning, boy was I wrong. I will never forget the cards I received from cousins, and sorority sisters with thier favorite memories of my dad. They are the ones I saved, the letters I still look at, and even found a special spot in a family scrapbook for some of them. Everyone deals with loss differnt, me I knew it was coming and I read and read on how to prepare my then 3 year old to understand, and it ended up helping me prepare myself better then one could expect. I highly recomend if you have a memory of her father you share it with her, it will mean so much to her that you actually rememberd the person so special to her. Also for something special to send, if she owns her home/land then contact a local nursery and get a gift card. Send that over to her with a note that when the time is right to plant something special in memory of her Dad. This is something my neighbors did for me, and it truly means a ton. My daughter calls it papa's bush, and she knows she has to behave herself when she is in the yard because she is playing near Papa's bush. You could also send it with a book from borders on dealing with loss, especially if she has children because they grieve much differntly. They get nervous that this can happen then to thier parents, and even now if one of us has to go out of town our daughter will ask are you coming back or are you going to see papa. It has been a year and she was so young, but she still remembers. I hope this helps.

We lost my father-in-law about a month ago and someone sent a large basket of goodies to the funeral home from a local bakery. It was awesome and well appreciated! Also, a good friend of mine sent a plant to the funeral home and I made sure that I took that one home. It looks really nice in our house and reminds us of him.

I think anything you do to show you are thinking of your friend would (and should) be appreciated. Often people say "If you need anything, just let me know..." and honestly when you're in the midst of it, you can't even begin to know what to ask for. Just DO something. A card, a phone call, a donation if the family has designated a favorite charity, flowers if you're more comfortable with that. Also, you may want to think about a gift card to a restaurant in her area or perhaps a massage or spa day a month or so down the road. If you knew her father, think about sending a note remembering a special memory you shared with her and her family. If you have any pictures of them, perhaps you could frame a copy and send it to her or place a note and a picture in an album and send that.

I think, more than anything, it's comforting to know that you've got people supporting you no matter how they choose to show it. Thanks for being a good friend and good luck.

In situations like this, I usually but a well thought out card and add a personal note. Most people now adays have a charity or fund picked out for donations. You might be able to find out if you can find the death notice on the web. Even if you can't find it out on the web, if you can find out hte funeral home, you can call and get the information

You being there for her right now is great and the thought of sending flowers and a card is not generic by any means. You are simply showing that you care by putting your words in action with that special token of your love.

I have lost my father so I can understand and relate to how your friend may be feeling. During this time and up until the funeral there will be all sorts of people around to console her and possibly spend time with her.

Where you will come in is after everything has settled down. When it really sinks in that her father is gone, this is when she will need you. And it doesn't matter if you live far way from her. Just the mere fact that you call or write her from time-to-time will be such a help to her as she grows through the grieving process of loosing her father.

If you knew her father it would be good if you could share the awesome moments or memories that you have of him or all of the funny stories too.

I hope that helps, let me know...


The most important thing to do is to acknowledge her loss. Be it with a card or flowers or a phone call just to see how she's doing, she'll appreciate it. She may not be ready to talk, but she'll know you are thinking of her, which will be a comfort. And the best thing probably is to keep remembering her. Two weeks from now, when the hub-bub has died down and people are returning back to their normal lives, she'll still be grieving. On her Dad's birthday, give her a call just to talk. You don't need to bring up her Dad's death, but having someone to talk to may help.

Don't make the mistake of not knowing what to do and doing nothing. When my grandmother died, several of my out of town (and in town) relatives didn't even acknowlege it and my mother was extremely hurt. After speaking with some of them, they told me they weren't sure what to do and were still puzzling it out weeks later when they thought it was too late to mention it.
Good luck!

Hi A.:

If she belongs to a church, contact the church and make a donation for having prayers said in honor of her loved one. Ask the Church to send her a prayer card in honor of your request.

Solace is hard to find when someone is hurting - time and patience as well as the type of support you speak of will allow her to know friends are there for her during her healing process.


send an edible arrangmant www.ediblearrangements.com

When I lost my father there were a couple of gifts that stood out. One was a food basket from Harry & David. It had fruit, nuts, candy, very good. The other actually was flowers but it came like a month after the death and was a big pick me-up. Even a funny card a little bit later is always appreciated.

Sending something is a nice way to show her your support. It would be nice to send her something that she can keep as a keepsake rather than flowers or plants. My suggestion is a carruth statue. I know I have given several of them as rememberances for friends who have lost a love one. You can order them online and I belive they will send it directly to her house rather than the funural home so you know that she gets to keep it. I also suggest sending it a few days after all the funural happenings have finished. I know from experience that it is nice to get things after the funural. I hope this was helpful to you.

I lost my brother 2 years ago. I can tell you that a card or a phone call meant so much. Just knowing that people are thinking of you is all the comfort you need. There's nothing anyone can say or do to make the pain less, she needs to be with her family now and believe me it takes time to heal. One thing I hated was when people told me that God has a plan and everything happens for a reason. Just let her talk to you, be honest with her tell her you know there's nothing you can say to make it better but that you would love to just be there for her whenever she needs it. She'll appreciate that the most. It may be a while before she feels like talking but she will eventually. You could donate something in his name, like school supplies to children in need or plant a tree. Some people paid to have services read at their local church for my brother and my husbands family gave me a statue for my garden of a brother and sister, I see it out my window every morning.

Each person grieves differntly and each friend has different ways that they are able to be there. If just making a phone call letting her know she is in your thoughts and prayers and sending a card won't do, if you can contact another family member or friend to see if there's something else you can do can offer some ideas. When my father passed away, a distant cousin paid for the minister for the funeral services. Another person, who I don't know, had sent gift cards to a nice local restaurant for me and my siblings to use. It was nice using them, getting away from dealing with home, the stress of not wanting to cook, being exhausted and we had a good meal.

I know how hard it is when you can't be there for that person. But, if you can find a larger supermarket or a specialty deli near your friend, you can order a food tray of some sort and have that delivered to your friend. (If the stores will accept charge/debit cards)Even a pastry shop in their town. Food is always appreciated at a time like this. Then maybe you can send her some flowers from you to her with a personal note. My friends brother just died and someone did this for her. She LOVED it. That someone took the time out to think of her like that. Hope this helps.

You might still be able to send a meal if that is something you really want to do. When I had my baby, my out of state girl friends sent me a meal via Honeybaked...it really came in handy.

Hi A.,

I lost my grandma whom I was very very close with 2 weeks ago. My best friend lives out of state and sent me flowers and a card. I really appreciated it and did not expect or want anything more. Everyone local to me and my family showered us with the food you mentioned - which is also much appreciated. Truthfully, for myself, it definitely is the thought that counts at times such as this and just knowing my friend took the time to send me a card written with words from her heart and beautiful flowers to look at for a few days - in a vase I'll keep forever - was all I needed. (She has also called every few days to talk with me, which is priceless.)

Hopefully this will help and my sympathies go out to your friend and her family.

My father passed about a year and a half ago and I really enjoyed a nice potted plant I received from a friend. I still have it and everyday I see it I'm reminded of my dad.

Sorry about your friend's Dad, A.. What a good friend you are, especially trying to think of something your friend would feel supported by. I give a gift certificate for a blooming plant...so that my friends can plant something in their gardens and think of their special loved one every spring. In the past I received a very pretty sweater(symbolic of warm hugs) with a note stating they were sorry they couldn't be there for me. Every time I wore it, I had special memories of the friend who sent it and my mom. I'm sure whatever you decide to do will be appreciated...a kind note, lunch later, whatever. Sincerely, MS

I agree that being their emotionally is the most important thing. When my mom passed away a few years ago, it seemed that everyone felt that they should *not* talk about her, and that made it harder.

Anything that you send would mean a lot to her. I do suggest a plant over flowers, that is something that she can keep as a memory of her loved one. Peace lilies are a nice choice. Also, if you want to send food there are many services that will deliver a meal. Sometimes you can even pay for a meal/s and allow her to call and arrange for delivery at her convenience.

My husbands grandmother (her and I were very close) passed away a few months ago, so on the receiving end, I can understand that grief. At that time, nothing is generic - any expression of condolences are appreciated, no matter how simple. One thing that really helped during the planning, visitations & funeral was food. My grandmother brought us enough food for three dinners. Of all the expressions though, one co-worker gave us a gift card for a dinner out. Of course, I didn't get it until after the funeral, but it served as an escape after we were all done with it - and a chance to get back to reality. I hope it helps.

If you have a memory of the deceased person; share the memory. Sometimes that is more important, a old high school friend of my dad's wrote a few stories about my dad from before I was born. I cherish those more than any card we received.

Hope this helps,

Hi A.,
I lost my mother 2 years ago and what helped me most were some of the things we think of as generic. A simple card meant so much because it was something tangible that showed me that someone cared. Sometimes you can be over whelmed with flowers and plants and she probably has many of these. But how about another gift just for her like a gift card to a restaurant,or manicure or pedicure. Something that would be fun.
Hope this helps to generate some ideas for you.

Maybe a card with a gift card for a restaurant so she won't have to cook.

If you knew her dad, sharing fond memories might brighten up things a little. Otherwise, just let her know you're there for her any time. Send a flower to her specifically from one friend to another and express how she can call you when she needs to.
Flowers or a card are never pass`e. You can imagine yourself in her shoes and what would help you.

Just be a friend.

Hi A.,
I am sorry to hear about your friends father, what a sad loss. My friend lost her young son a few years ago, although we are in the same town, my advice is to be there for her. Just listen to her and talk to her about her father, share any memories you have of him with her. A nice sentiment written by you in a card is thoughtful along with a plant is a very nice thought. Your friend will always have the plant & remember the good friend who sent it to her. Later on, after all is said and done a gift card to a restaurant is nice just to get out. Most of all, let her know that you are there for her. Take care

I had the same thing happen just last Sat.
I opted to call a florist in her city and send flowers.
She wrote back and thanked me via email and said how nice it'
was to know that I was thinking of their family. She even said her mother thought it was so nice. Just listening is much better than saying anything at all. Just imagine how you would feel in her shoes. There is nothing you can say to comfort really. They have to grieve in their own way.(:
My Grandma says that the best card she received upon the death of Gramps was that someone wrote only one word...NO!

Just letting her know that, even if you can't physically be there, that you are there for her to talk or cry or whatever she needs. Even if she just needs to yell it out, she's not yelling at you. Just being available on that level can really help. I know that flowers and cards are cliche, it will still help her to know that you are thinking of her.

I am so sorry for you and your friend. This next year will be hard as she goes through each "first" without her father - first birthday, first holiday - first anything she and her father did together.

Like several other responses, the best thing is to let her know that you care and are thinking about her, and that even though your aren't able physically there, you are a phone call away. At some point, she may want to share memories of her dad. Not everyone is comfortable dealing with this so if you can handle it, offer that to her as well.

Good luck - you are a great friend!

Having gone through several deaths in my family including a stillborn daughter, a 16 year old son & my mom, I would suggest just dropping her little notes every so often, that you are remembering her. It does not have to be detailed - just thinking of you. Holidays are especially hard, and Father's Day would be a most difficult one. Find out when the dad's birthday is - when her birthday is, etc. Over the next year, or even two years, would be so encouraging to her, when it seems others forget.


Hi A.,
A hand written card with your sentiments of love and how you would love to be there for her during this time would mean the world to her. I don't know if you have called, but that would be so comforting to her as well. You don't have to feel that you have to say anything, but you would be giving her an opportunity to share her pain and grief. Just letting her know that you care is important.
God Bless,

FTD.com has a Seeds of Life Memory tree - an oak suitable for planting in the area it is sent to that can be planted in someone's honor. Sending a plant is good because it represents that their memory will live on....

When my grandmother Rosalie went last spring, I made a stepping stone for my rose garden.

Call her and talk to her to let her either get things off her chest or just even as a distraction. Also, a gift card for a movie and dinner, its what you would probably do if you were there just to destress and get her mind on normal life things.. just be there for her on the phone online where ever since you cna't be there physically. this should at least help her know you care.]
Hope this helps...

I lost my dad when I was 22 years old. That was 7 years ago. The only advise I can really give is too just call and check on her often. A nice card with a note would also be very nice. Pray for her too...this will be a tough time for her, especially if she was close to him.

I sent a care package when my friends brother died: I sent a Bible (with some scriptures in the card); a bag of Dove Chocolates; a box of good tissue; and relaxing bath set. She loved it and said it was the best thing she got.

I lost my Gram last year. We were VERY close. I would've really liked a handwritten letter from a friend. Please, do NOT use the old lines 'it will get better with time', 'he's in a better place', 'now he can be with his family that has already passed'. None of that is helpful at all. When you lose someone, you just want them back. Let her know that you are there to listen, then follow-up with a phone call and do just that. I would have loved to have had that.

If you got flowers, you could always get a really nice vase with it. Or just send the vase later w/ a note about how you hope when she uses the vase she'll remember her dad but also how much you love and pray for her...etc.

Blankets are nice too, reminds people of comfort! Boxes of Kleenex in pretty containers

What I think helped me through losses the most was my friends being there emotionally for me. A card a week for a few months, flowers in a few weeks when all the funeral ones have died, phone calls and prayers to help me remember that I'm not forgotten about and while I'm still struggling with grief well after the funeral week, there are people who love me and want to walk beside me (emotionally).

I truely believe that all the responses will help you in this situation. I lost my father 2 years ago and it still hurts tremendously. The best things that my friends did for me is the cards and the hugs. I know that you are in a different state. One thing i suggest is to send her a card with just hellos and special comments from you. Some time calls are to hard on both. You will run out of things to say and then it gets old talking about the same thing. Just be there for her when she is ready. The food thing can get redundant. My mom and myself had so much food that we ended up having to throw alot of it away. Cards and phone calls once in awhile are the best thing I feel.
It is really hard when you lose your father and I feel for your friend. I also know that it is hard on you aswell. Being far away doesnt help either. Just let her know that you care and that you are thinking of her alot. That always made me feel better. Just a little hint sont ask her how her mother is all of the time. That drove me nuts!!!!! Always make sure that you ask about her. Of course she is not ok and that it will take a really long time for her to move on. She will. I see my father in my son that was born only 2 months after he died. He never got to meet his only grandson. That was so very difficult. I have moved on knowing that he is watching over me and my children. I am rambleing now I am sorry I hope that this helps alittle if at all. Jennie in Michigan

You can pay for and send a housekeeping team to help with the cleaning while she is busy with other things, flowers are always welcome they even brighten things up in life and death because the are beautiful. My heart goes out to you and your friend.

I lost my husband two years ago. Call her once a week to talk and listen. learn some of the normal steps one goes through when grieving so when your friend talks you'll know what to look for. For example, it is quite normal to be angry and sometimes at something not even connect to the death. Be ready to tell her a few short light hearted tales that are happening with you. But, do keep them short. I hope this helps. B.

I have a really hard time with this one also, I'm interested to see what people say to do.

I just lost my brother in California. During a time like this, nothing is "generic". If you feel you have to send something, a plant and a card is always a good move, or something that will remind her of great memories of her dad. I received a lot of phone calls while out of town, but when I got home there were cards, some of which had something it just for me to have lunch or catch a movie.

Follow-up phone calls are great. Right now, she is probably pretty overwhelmed. In a couple of weeks when everyone is gone and things get back to normal, she will need you more, and your phone call will be very welcomed.

It always hard to lose an immediate family member, and it doesn't get any easier. My heart goes out to your friend and her family!

your food idea can definately still work. My aunt died a few years ago, and an out of state relative called an italian bakery/deli in town and had trays of meats and cheeses, breads, desserts and salads to make quick meals deliverd to us. It was exactly what we needed. With all the family in town, it was nice to just have the trays out..and anyone could eat at the house, whenever they needed to. Like when we were getting ready to go to the viewing, in between things, after it was all finished. It was one less thing to worry about.

Hello A.,

You are so thoughtful to even ask a question like this. My dear husband of 25 years died when I was 45. My father died two years later. Believe it or not, the cards were very meaningful to me, especially if the sender had written by hand comforting thoughts, prayers, memories of the deceased person, etc. Depending on the family's financial situation, it can be thoughtful to include a check, though not necessary. (There are unforeseen expenses with death. After I married my new husband, we began a business making handmade wooden caskets and urns at a very reasonable cost to help families lower funeral expenses.) Also it was wonderful when someone would call and ask me about how things were going and then really listen as I cried or complained until I was done...then offered a glimmer of hope, a prayer, or some other light in the darkness.

Hope this helps. God bless you for your desire to help your friend through this painful experience. My e-mail is ____@____.com if you'd like to contact me personally.



It's always hard to figure out if you're saying or doing the right thing when there's a death associated with someone close to you. There really isn't too much you can say to make her feel better, but knowing you're there and continuing to call and talk like normal goes a very long way. Don't just call now, but continue over months and into next year.

When the father of a close friend of mine passed away recently, I got on the internet and searched groceries and other places near her house. I sent her a meat and cheese tray, along with the bread and sides. It was easy for her and her children to make sandwiches and meals out of and I felt like I was doing more than a card.

You're a good friend.


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