Due to the different customs and rituals associated with a particular religion or culture, it can be challenging to decide what the most appropriate condolence gift might be to properly reflect respect for the deceased and the family. There are several items to bring or send which would be meaningful gifts for a grieving Catholic family. The type of gift and the amount spent often is dependent upon the relationship that has been shared with the deceased and family.

Sending a condolence gift is a common and appropriate way to express sympathy to friends, colleagues, clients and others. Depending on the traditions and customs observed by the individual the most traditional items include sympathy flowersbaked goods and desserts, fruit, dried fruit, & nuts, and assorted chocolates. These types of gift items provide both comfort and nourishment to mourning families and are a respectful way to offer condolences.

Here are several common ways to express condolences through a gift. These are meant to show respect, to affirm remembrance and to comfort the bereaved.

Sending a Condolence Gift

Following a death, the family gathers and often receives many visitors. One of the most customary and traditional ways to express sympathy and offer condolences is by bringing or sending food and condolence baskets to the family members of the deceased. There are several different types of food arrangements, baskets and sympathy gifts that may be sent. Appropriate food items and gift baskets include baked goods and desserts, fruit, dried fruit, & nuts, and assorted chocolates. A gift basket is generally delivered or shipped to the home of the mourning family. When a family is mourning a loss, it is common to provide support and comforting items. Additionally, those who cannot attend the funeral or memorial service may consider sending a sympathy basket or other condolence item to the home.

Find and Send a Condolence Gift

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Gourmet Gifts Baked Goods & Desserts Fruit Baskets Assorted Chocolates

Food, Meals and Sympathy Baskets

Family and friends often help meet some of the physical responsibilities of the bereaved by providing meals and food baskets during the intense time of mourning. Sometimes the food is needed during the visitation, funeral and burial services. Most Catholic churches have specific traditions structuring each of these services. Those wanting to help with these needs often will consult with close family members or the funeral director to determine specific needs.

Food baskets sent to the home after the funeral provide a meaningful way to show the family that they are still remembered and cared for. For many, simple tasks like planning and preparing a meal while in the early stages of grief can be stressful and even overwhelming. Providing food and meals is a thoughtful expression of compassion during the difficult time.


Making a donation in someone’s memory is always an appropriate gesture to express condolences. Donations are a concrete way to demonstrate honor and respect in a lasting way. The type and amount of the donation will be determined by many factors including the relationship shared with the deceased, the circumstances of the death, an individual’s personal situation and the traditions of religion and culture.

Many organizations allow for donations to be made in the memory of a departed loved one. Sometimes the family will recommend a charity, educational institution or organization to receive the gifts. Such a recommendation will often be listed in an obituary or in a note at the funeral home. Many families will ask that donations be made in lieu of sending flowers.

If no recommendation has been made, some appropriate choices to receive a donation would include the deceased’s favorite charity or religious organization. The local church that the deceased attended is often a good place to start to direct donations and gifts. Catholics believe that donations made to the church on behalf of the deceased can alter the afterlife experience of purgatory of the deceased.

An educational institution is another choice where a donation made in memory of the departed would be meaningful. The individual’s alma mater or favorite college can be an appropriate recipient of the gift. If the deceased did not have a particular college that was special, local elementary, middle or high schools usually have several needs that could be met by such a gift.

If the deceased spent time during the final days in a particular hospital, extended care or hospice center, these organizations may have made extraordinary efforts to provide comfort and care not only to the deceased but to the family. A donation to one of these organizations can enhance their ability to provide service for others, but also can be a specific expression of gratitude for the care offered to the deceased.

If a financial contribution is unrealistic at the time, many organizations would accept a donation of time and service in memory of the deceased. Volunteering time in someone’s honor is an appropriate way to pay tribute.

Cards and Notes

A sympathy card or handwritten note is always a meaningful source of comfort and strength to the grieving. Thoughtful words representing the care and compassion of a friend can encourage the bereaved and assure them that they are remembered. During times when spoken words do not always come easily, the note of sympathy can convey respect for the deceased and empathy for the grieving.


In Roman Catholic traditions, it is appropriate to send flowers to the funeral home, church or home of the bereaved. Flowers are considered a meaningful way of acknowledging a loss. While special expressions of flowers like sprays for the casket are generally given by the closest family members, displays like bouquets, planters and wreaths are appropriate expressions that will provide comfort to the grieving family.

Funeral flower arrangements are often larger and more formal. These are sent to the funeral home or church and serve as a tribute to the deceased. These gifts make tangible evidence for the respect that people have for the departed and the empathy and compassion they have for the bereaved.

Flowers sent to the home of the family are often called sympathy flowers. These arrangements are smaller and can be set on a table or cabinets. Flowers sent to the home provide a keepsake that honors the deceased for several days after the funeral. It provides the grieving family with a reminder of the personal care that has been shared with family and friends.

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