There are plenty of occasions that we recognize as times to give gifts. Birthdays, Christmas, weddings, baby showers, housewarmings. Most people immediately think of sending a gift for these celebrations.

But we don’t always think about giving gifts for life events that involve more complicated emotions. But if you think about why we give gifts, it makes sense to send gifts not only to celebrate accomplishments and joy, but also to offer support in more difficult times.

That being said, it can be hard to know what to give someone on these occasions. When someone is going through something less-than-happy, giving the wrong gift is more than just awkward; it can make them feel even worse at a time when they are already struggling with difficult emotions. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give them a gift; it just means you need to put a little extra thought into it. We’ll get you started with some tips on giving gifts in complicated times.

Divorce

Getting divorced can bring about all kinds of mixed emotions. For some people it may feel freeing, for others it can be a source of grief. And for most people, it’s a little of both, with plenty of other emotions mixed in. It can also be an incredibly lonely and isolating time. It can be hard for someone going through a divorce to know who their friends are. It may feel awkward to reach out to close friends they met through their ex. So, if you know someone going through a divorce, it’s a great idea to reach out to them and let them know that you are there for them. It takes the pressure off of them to be the one to reach out.

Reaching out by sending a small, thoughtful gift is a great way to show you care. Make sure you consider how they feel about the divorce and the nature of your relationship before getting a gift. If they are feeling angry, consider a gift certificate to a kick-boxing class so they can work out their frustration. If they are glad to be out of that marriage, a funny gift like this divorce mug might be in order. But no matter how they are feeling, a gift that emphasizes your support would always be well-received.

Quitting a Job

Like divorce, quitting a job comes with a mix of feelings. There might be fear of what comes next, sorrow at leaving friends and coworkers, excitement at moving on to a new endeavor, or relief at getting out of a toxic environment. Or it could be a mix of all of these.

A gift can acknowledge that however they might be feeling about this major life change, you recognize its significance. But the exact circumstances should determine the gift. If they are moving up to a new position they are excited about, some office paraphernalia like this I’m the Boss name plate will get them off on the right foot. If they aren’t sure what comes next, maybe avoid the personal development book (they are probably getting all kinds of advice in that arena) and just give them a guilty pleasure read to enjoy and take their mind off of things for a bit.

Surgery

We’re all familiar with sending flowers to someone in the hospital. But really, there are much better gifts for someone who has been through surgery. They might be laid up for several weeks, unable to go up and down stairs, or limited in what they can eat or drink. Flowers look nice, but they don’t last long, and they aren’t going to be as much comfort as something that is, well, comfortable.

There are plenty of practical gifts to make their life easier while they recover, like a grabber or a therapeutic neck pillow. Gift certificates to restaurants that deliver take the task of cooking and meal planning off their plate. And how about these adorable body part pillows? They are a fun and memorable way to commemorate a surgery? Recovery can also be a little bit boring, so a gift that has an element of fun is great, too. Consider sending a gift using EvaBot. From their recovery bed they can have a quick chat with a friendly gifting bot, and they’ll get something they are sure to love.

Grieving

When someone dies, people often send flowers or make a donation in honor of the person who has passed. While this certainly lets the grieving loved ones know that you are thinking of them, it is more of a tribute to the departed than a gift for those still living.

Kummerspeck is a German word that literally translates to “grief bacon.” But figuratively, it references the practice of eating when we are sad. Most of us are familiar with neighbors and friends bringing food to the family of someone who has died. But usually, there is too much food for a short period of time, and then nothing. Instead consider a gift certificate to a restaurant that can be used at their convenience. Or have some delicious food delivered, but perhaps wait a week or two until their refrigerator is getting empty.

Becoming an Empty Nester

Sure, we have moving gifts and housewarming gifts. But what about something for the parents whose final little bird has left the nest? Like many of the occasions on this list, this may be a time of very mixed emotions. But it’s a great time to reconnect with a friend who may suddenly find themselves with more time on their hands.

This is a great time to give an experiential gift, especially one that supports a passion or hobby that they may have been putting off. Painting, cooking, or photography classes are a great way to go. Better yet, go together and strengthen your friendship while working on a new skill.

Bottom Line:

Gifts aren’t just for the happiest moments in our lives. We should also send gifts as tokens of our love and support in difficult times.