Holiday Gift Guide 2021

My gift list is a bit late, I realize. In truth, because grief is 24/7/365, when you give a gift to a griever or when you (as a griever) buy yourself a self-care present is somewhat irrelevant. This guide is for both grief supporters and grievers.

If you are looking for a special something this holiday season for a griever in your life, remember that the post-holiday season can be just as charged with emotion (if not more so)–the hype has died down and the fuzzy feeling have been shared and things quiet down again. Grievers are left with the hollow reminder of what wasn’t there and in the new year, there is nothing to distract us from feeling the sudden loneliness that descends after the holidays are over.

Grievers, in case you need reminding: it’s okay for you to buy yourself a gift during the holidays. It’s called self-care, and you deserve it. I buy myself some yarn and a book, small gifts that my mother would have given me. I buy an ornament for my child, to keep the tradition my mother started with me.

Holiday Gift Guide 2021

This post contains some affiliate links for and If an item is purchased through one of these links, I receive a small commission from the sale at no cost to you. Please see my affiliate disclosure for more information.

If you are hesitating to give a memorial gift to a grieving friend or family member because you think you will somehow “make things worse,” please rest assured that your gift isn’t going to exacerbate the already awful feelings a griever has. It’s not like we’ve forgotten that someone died. If anything, it might have the opposite effect: it could make the griever feel seen and remind us that someone else remembers our loss too. If you are really worried about triggering an emotional ambush, do ask the griever if it is okay to give them something to memorialize their loss. They will tell you whether they are ready for it, interested in it, or not.


I recently purchased a Christmas angel gift set for a friend from Woodstock Rustic via Etsy. The set consisted of a bell, framed angel print, and a metal angel ornament. It is simple and subtle, and doesn’t immediately scream “Dead Relative Here.” A couple of years ago I bought a memorial heart image from Woodstock Rustic for another. (That item is no longer sold.) I find Woodstock Rustic’s memorial pieces appealing because the items are simple, subtle, heartwarming, and personal. There are no cheesy messages, just symbolic imagery that quietly acknowledges loss. Psst: Woodstock Rustic is not an affiliate link. I genuinely love their products and want others to as well.

HANDWRITING BRACELET from Silver Handwriting Jewelry

A few Christmases ago, I asked my father to give me a handwriting bracelet from Silver Handwriting. The handwriting sample I used for the bracelet is my mother’s signature from cards that she had given me. I absolutely love it. Pre-pandemic, I wore the bracelet to work and when I was out and about. It made me feel like I was carrying a little more of her with me during the day. I can look down whenever I wear it and feel her presence. There are many artisans on Etsy who create handwriting bracelets, so explore the options and find one that is right for you. I love the piece that Silver Handwriting made for me, and I recommend them highly. Psst: not an affiliate link.

MEMORIAL PHOTO ORNAMENT or CANDLE has a variety of memorial photo gifts including candle holders, photo books, wall plaques, and ornaments. Two simple options I recommend are:

Using a picture ornament in a Christmas tree is a nice way to honor a loved one during the holiday season; it gives them a place of honor and incorporates them into the festivities. The memorial candle provides ambiance, and also adds a spiritual layer to home décor: whenever you light the candle you are lighting it in honor of your loved one. The holder is reusable so when the candle is exhausted you can insert a new one. Not an affiliate either, I just like their products.

The Book of Joy (The Dalai Lama & Archbishop Desmond Tutu, 2016)

The 2016 book from The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu (written by Douglas Carlton Abrams) addresses the question of how to find joy amidst suffering in life. Both The Dalai Lama and the Archbishop have dealt with the their fair of traumatic suffering: The Dalai Lama lives in India, exiled from his native Tibet amidst political turmoil, and Archbishop Tutu was front and center in the fight against apartheid in South Africa. Despite their personal traumas, both men have found ways to live with joy, and this book is about we can achieve this as well. Abrams chronicles the two men’s conversations and public lecture about how we can work toward this end. The book is an easy read, yet spiritually thought-provoking, as it discusses how we can remain compassionate and forgiving in a world that makes neither easy.

The Book of Joy is not a new-agey presentation of how to be happy no matter what. It offers a spiritual view (Buddhist and Christian) on how to approach and meet our suffering in a way that can allow joy to return to our lives and remain alongside the suffering we experience. The book asks us to face obstacles we put up to block joy from our worlds and leaves us with a foundation of Eight Pillars on which we can (re)build a life that includes joy and happiness.

This is not a “get of grief free and easy” book. It is a realistic look at how suffering and joy are part of the same life experience and explores how we can emphasize joy or suffering depending on how we choose to see and be in the world. This may not be the best book to give someone immediately after suffering a loss–grievers need time to be upset, angry, and sad without hearing about be joyous. A griever who is well enough into their transition that they are ready to begin reshaping their post-loss worldview may enjoy the wisdom this book has to offer.

  • Click HERE to purchase this book from (Affiliate!)
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Give a griever the gift of self-care, especially if they are not one to typically buy self-care items for themselves. A stocking stuffer can easily be turned into a larger gift by adding more of it in different flavors/varieties or by creating a bundle of self-care items as a wellness gift. Here are a few of my favorites:

Aveeno hand mask: Aveeno sells a variety of hand masks to nourish, repair, or boost radiance. I use the repair masks right now since I developed eczema during the pandemic. Second to how the masks make you hands feel, I love the fact that I can’t use my hands for a full ten minutes. I have to just sit and watch tv, listen to music, or just breathe. Amazon sells the various masks in packs of one, five or six.

Any coffee or tea product: You are not gifting a cop out grocery item when you give someone coffee or tea; you’re giving them a daily “cup of comfort” that they probably rely on for a moment of sanity, clarity, peace, or just warmth. A gift card to a local café (and yes, Starbuck’s and Panera count in these pandemic times because of their order ahead capabilities) is always a nice extra to give someone. A box or bag of someone’s favorite beverage is also a good gift. An herbal tea might be the best bet for a self-care gift for their stress-reducing qualities, but caffeinated black teas and coffee are also great–they can offer a moment of Zen in the morning (or really anytime) when we’re gathering ourselves for a sometimes long day ahead. Right now my favorite teas are from Twinings, Celestial Seasoning, and Vermont Artisan Coffee & Tea. I normally buy coffee from local brands I find in the grocery store. I’m also a fan of Trader Joe’s coffee blends–fancy it isn’t, but comfort doesn’t have to be. You can find any of these brands on Amazon or you can go directly to the company’s web site to order.   

Coloring Books, Paint/Color-by-Number, and Connect-the-Dots: Yes, these are the stuff childhood is made of…and sometimes that is the most relaxing thing an adult can let themselves do. Coloring and even dot-connecting have cathartic qualities that allow our minds to unwind and create a little bubble of tranquility. has a variety of activity books geared toward children, sure, but who cares. Relaxation is relaxation. Amazon has a variety as well. Thanks to my child, I rediscovered the joy of paint with water books (or Magic Painting Books, also available at Amazon. All you need is water and a brush, the paint is already on the page. I stole a page of my kiddo’s book after doing several pages together because it was exactly the kind of activity I needed on days that had a little too much grief. I have also added several of these books to my shop, where a portion of every purchase goes to supporting local bookstores.

A gift card to a book store: Whether you’re thinking Amazon, Barnes & Noble,, or a local place, giving a gift card so a griever can buy a book can be a welcome gift. Maybe there is a grief book they want to buy, maybe there is just a book they want to get because it helps them cope with grief. I buy myself a book every year because it’s one of the things my mother did since I could read. A gift card can seem impersonal, but when you’re giving someone the chance to treat themselves to something that addresses their grief your gift is quite meaningful.

Vudu/Fandango movie gift card: We all have those go-to movies we watch when we’re feeling down. Most of us want to sit on the couch and watch movies when we’re overworked, exhausted, and just need a break from life stressors. Many of us have movies we watch every holiday season, a tradition that may have been broken because of loss. A movie gift card can be the gift of relaxation or the gift of renewing a missed tradition in a new way. Click HERE to purchase a gift card. Not an affiliate item–I just like to watch movies.

Photo by Laura James on

None of these items are exclusive to the holiday season; you can purchase these for yourself or another griever at any time. Surprising a griever throughout the year with a gift that addresses their grief lets them know you are listening and that you see that their grief is a lifestyle, not something to get over.

Purchasing items such as these for yourself if you are grieving is not a frivolous or self-involved activity; it is an action of self-care.

Be sure to take care of yourself and others during the holidays. Being merry and bright never erases grief, it just distracts from it momentarily.

Published by ancarroll

Alexandra N. Carroll is an author, grief advocate, crafter, mother, and partner. She writes on grief and self-care from her home in Vermont. Her forthcoming book concerns how to untangle life-after-loss through the creation of a strong self-care plan.

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