What to Give When Someone Dies?

Updated on January 21, 2011
M.M. asks from Duluth, MN
13 answers

My husbands uncle (dad's brother) died yesterday after a long and hard battle with cancer. We will be sending a card, but I just feel like thats not enough. Is it appropriate to send money to help with funeral expenses? And if so, what is an approriate amount? Is there any other type of "gift" that would be helpful to the family? If we lived closer, I would cook a meal to bring over. However, we are in Georgia and they live in MN. It won't be possible for us to make it to the funeral either due to my husband's work, as well as travel expenses. We are not extrememly close to the family, but did visit their home twice in the past and also exchange Christmas cards each year. They have one college-aged daughter. I just want to do the right thing. Also, should we send a card to my father in law for his loss? He and his brother were very close. Thank you in advance for all advice!

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So What Happened?

Thank you for the wonderful advice you have each given. We decided we were going to have an arrangement sent to the funeral home, but luckily, we talked to my father in law first and he told us that instead of flowers, the family preferred to have donations made in his name to a specific charity. We also had a small plate engraved with his name and a prayer, and had it mounted on a matted collage with several openings for photos. He was passionate about matting and framing and did it as a hobby and also matted and framed several paintings for us- so we thought it was a fitting thing to send in his honor. We believe it will be well recieved. Thank you again for all of the creative and thoughtful ideas!

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answers from Atlanta on

Defer to anyone from MN posting on this. I had NEVER heard of sending money to the family (only to charitable causes they requested donations be made to) when someone died until about a month ago on this board! I've lived in GA all my life, and I've never known it to be done or witnessed it or anything. The only exceptions have been public donations mentioned on the news when a child of a poor family is killed or something tragic like that. Anyway, I believe several people posted on the other questions from MN who said that it is evidently a custom there. If it were me, especially with people of this age, I would just send flowers or a plant to the funeral home or donate to any charity they specified or send an Edible Arrangement of fruit to the family to enjoy in a few days.

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answers from Houston on

at a very young age i lost a lot of people, my parents included. The only gift i ever received that stood out was a tree. it was a key lime tree i received at my dads funeral, i planted it and now every time i pick a lime i think of my dad sweetly. Giving something that will live on, or something that nourishes(like a casserole) is the best idea i think. Better than giving flowers that will soon die (imo)

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answers from San Antonio on

i like the Edible Arrangement idea.

I have also never heard of sending money for exepenses unless it were asked for. Yes send your FIL a card. He will likely not get very many, so a sweet and simple one that just states that you feel for him and you're there for him sounds very caring. Perhaps send one to the college-age daughter too. Send her a gift card for Starbucks or something and write that you know class won't be easy, but maybe this gift card can perk you up and help you get ready for class.

If my husband died, I'd like to know that someone sent my daughter something and that someone cared enough to send something to them. I mean how many flowers will I get right? Well what about my kids - I bet the kids would like Edible Arrangements too. I hear that their fruit is very tasty and ripe.

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answers from New York on

Either a fruit basket, muffin basket to FIL's home as no one really wants to cook or prepare food at all. Or flowers at the funeral. Unless asked for cash, or you know they absolutley couldn't afford a funeral, I wouldn't send it. Sorry for your loss.



answers from New York on

Especially since you said you would cook for them if you lived closer, go online and order from a local deli or even a restautant, not having to worry about food for family and drop-in guests is a big relief.
And for sure a card for FIL and widow and daughter, maybe remembering a special moment or character of the uncle, letting them know how he was special to your family will be special to theirs :)



answers from Bismarck on

My mother-in-law just passed away right before Christmas after a hard battle with ovarian cancer. We live just a few miles from my in-laws and are very close with them so we were there with my father-in-law every step of the way. There is nothing really that you can give that will make them "feel" better but we did receive a pouring of cards that really made us feel like people were supporting us and thinking/praying for us when they couldn't be there in person. Even those who were here in person still gave us cards. A lot of people gave money in the cards ranging from 5 dollars to sometimes even a 100 dollars. Although we as a family did not need the money for funeral expenses we had a memorial set up in her name that will go to a music ministry (my mother-in-law was a music teacher and had a passion for music ministry). Another thing that we received a lot of was flowers or pants. When we went to the family service to view her for the first time we were in awe at how many people had sent flowers to the funeral home with a little note attached. We all thought that was such a beautiful gift and something we were not expecting. Those are just a few of the things we received that you could do from far away. Really though, just knowing that you care and are there to support is the greatest gift you can give.


answers from Kalamazoo on

We usually send flowers to the service. You could include a nice poem or something like that with it. Contact a local florist there - I'm sure you can find one online......Send a card to FIL too and of course his widow and daughter. You or hubby (probably you, cause I know how men are) could write a nice heartfelt letter of how special he was, a certain story you remeber etc.....



answers from Pittsburgh on

Is there a charity mentioned in the obituary? If so, make a donation in his memory. It's always appropriate to send the family a gift of money, or have a plant, tree, shrub delivered. You could also send flowers or a gift card to somewhere they can get food--a market, Panera, etc......


answers from Dallas on

I think it would be very nice to also send a card to your FIL. That is very thoughtful.

Depending on family traditions.......you can send flowers to the funeral home.



answers from Minneapolis on

I am from MN, and actually posted a similar question not that long ago. However, my question was more related to should I send money because it was my ex-husbands, wife's daughter that passed away (more of an ex-husband question than anything). Here in MN, it is pretty common to send money to a relative's family if someone passes away OR bring food over - not both. It is also common to send flowers to the funeral OR a live plant to the family's home - not both. Because of the distance, you could have a tray of food delivered from a local eatery like others suggested, which I think is a good idea. Between that and the flowers or plant, you would be just fine. If you were going to send money to anyone, I would send it to the college aged daughter to help with her expenses to travel to the funeral/wake and the time off of work/school to grieve.

Good luck.



answers from Dallas on

If they are having a service after the funeral, I would locate a nearby deli/restaurant and deliver a platter of food - they will have so much going on, and preparing food during these times are difficult.
You can also send a card with a note to donate to a cancer association in honor of his memory.


answers from Columbus on

Our local flower place does an arrangement that has a plaster "book" with a beautiful poem by Helen Steiner Rice. Everyone we've sent it to has loved it and kept it. If you call your florist they can probably get one to send for you. Here's the poem:

When I must leave you
for a little while
Please do not grieve
and shed wild tears
and hug your sorrow
to you through the years

Start out bravely
with a gallant smile
and for my sake
and in my name,
live on and do
all things the same

Feed not your loneliness
on empty days,
but fill each waking hour
in useful ways

Reach out your hand
in comfort and cheer,
and I in turn
will comfort you
and hold you near

Never, never
be afraid to die,
For I am waiting
for you in the sky.



answers from Harrisburg on

Send a card and call every day or when you can to give your support and condolences. Ask how they are feeling, doing otherwise, help them to laugh (not being facetious here, it helps when you bring back the good memories, versus focusing on the sad part). - Just be there.