20 Thoughtful Gift Ideas for Someone Terminally Ill or Dying

What gift do you give a terminally ill cancer patient, a family member who is dying, or someone coping with end of life issues? These gifts and ideas are comforting and practical. They’ll ease the pain and anxiety that many terminally ill patients feel.

These gifts will also help ease your own pain. It’s sad and difficult to see or even just know a friend or family member is dying, isn’t it? Give gifts that express your heart, love, and compassion. I also invite you to read Peter’s message below, in the comments section. He’s a reader with a terminal illness; his partner moved in to take care of him. Peter is comfortable talking about dying and how he wants to spend the remainder of his life. His partner is more fearful and anxious about death than Peter himself is. You may find it helpful to read a letter from someone terminally ill or dying – not just from the gift-giving perspective, but to help you understand the thoughts and feelings of a person with a terminal illness.

gifts for people who are dying at end of life

A Reversible Sherpa/RoyalMink Heated Throw Blanket is an example of an end-of-life gift that is both practical and comforting. Perhaps it’s even one of the best gifts for people at the end of life; it’s a tangible embrace. Death is cold, both literally and metaphorically! A heated throw blanket offers warmth that is both low and consistent, and can easily be adjusted by the flick of a finger. There’s even a pre-heat feature so the blanket has time to warm up before bed. Whether your loved one is in hospice or at home, she can never have too many blankets.

Of course gift won’t save or even prolong your someone’s life, but it can make the last days or weeks less painful. When you want to give a terminally ill cancer patient a gift, remember that she doesn’t want to gather unnecessary stuff. The best gift you can give someone who is dying is hope, faith, love, acceptance and freedom. How do you give the gift of hope, fait, love and acceptance? By being there.

Spending time together is a good gift for terminal cancer patients – and it’s even better if you can deal with your own discomfort and fear of death. Many of my ideas (starting with the first gift on this list!) are for both the patient and the gift giver. This means you and she have something to do or talk about together. It’s important to give her a physical symbol of your love and support…but it may be more important to be emotionally present if she needs to talk or has end of life issues to deal with.

Comforting Gifts for Someone Who is Dying

Remember that the best gift for loved ones at any stage of life is time with you. This isn’t easy, for practical and emotional reasons. Practically, you may not have the time or energy to spend at a dying person’s bedside. Emotionally, you may feel uncomfortable, scared, anxious, depressed and angry that someone you love is dying. Try not to burden your loved one by bringing your own fears and anxieties about death into her life. Instead, learn what she feels like. Be curious about death and end of life issues. She may want to talk about what she’s experiencing.

The gift of understanding

Final Gifts Holistic Approach to Palliative and Hospice Care

In Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying, hospice nurses Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley reveal how people who are dying communicate their needs, reveal their feelings, and even choreograph their own final moments. This book will change how you think about dying — especially the surprising gifts that end of life perspective can bring.

This book is filled with practical advice on how to respond to the requests of a person at the end of her life, as well as how to support her as she prepares emotionally and spiritually for death. Whether it’s a natural death due to old age or a tragic death because of terminal cancer diagnosis, Final Gifts shows how you can help dying people live fully to the very end.

According to some books on death and dying, the best gift for someone at the end of life is to put aside your emotions and just be there for her. I encourage you to take it a step further: be curious about what it’s like to deal with end of life issues! Follow your patient’s lead when it comes to discussing terminal cancer, treatments, suffering, and dying. Does she want to talk about what it feels like to know she’s dying, or does she want to avoid the whole idea?

The gift of memories

On a more serious note, I shared the Nixplay Original 15 inch WiFi Cloud Digital Photo Frame on my article for older parents and grandparents (30 Delightful Gifts for Elderly Parents Who Have Everything). This digital photo frame is awesome because you can send pictures direct to the frame from your iPhone or Android phone, which means you can share what you and other loved ones are doing, quickly and easily. The frame receives photos directly from email, iPhones, Android and phones. It can also access photos from various social media sites. What do you give someone who is dying? Time with family and friends. Feeling more closely connected to loved ones will help her through dark nights.

These gift ideas for a dying person range from practical and useful to encouraging and heartfelt. The gift you give depends on your loved one’s personality, beliefs, lifestyle, level of awareness, and illness. But remember that the best gift you could give someone terminally ill or in the final stages of life is your presence.

The gift of faith

gifts for terminal cancer patients

I discovered the Clinging Cross when I was researching gift ideas for terminally ill cancer patients. This Clinging Cross is made of soft, smooth wood. It’s designed to be held on to, to be clung to in times of fear, anxiety, hopelessness, and pain. A gift like this is probably most suitable for Christians — but it’s important to remember that everyone who is facing death or dealing with end of life issues is wondering about God, Heaven, the afterlife.

Even faithful Christians feel scared at the end of their lives. Facing death is scary, even terrifying. Allow your loved one – whether she’s a young terminally ill cancer patient or an elderly grandparent at the end of her life – to talk about her fears and anxiety. Try not to let your own grief, fear, and anxiety get in the way of simply listening and hugging her. The best gift you could give someone dying is your presence and the freedom to say what she wants and needs.

The gift of the past and comfort in the present

gift idea for someone dying of cancer

A big, beautiful, easily handled family or friendship scrapbook album – and filling it together – can be a beautiful gift for someone who is dying of cancer or another terminal illness. What legacy does she want to leave behind? This is her chance to fill the book with her most important thoughts, photos, momentos, keepsakes.

If your friend or loved one enjoys arts and crafts, you might consider creating a scrapbook together. On one of my other sympathy gift articles a reader said that working on a scrapbook was one of the most healing things she did after losing her dog to cancer. Of course a dog’s death isn’t the same as someone dying from cancer or another terminal illness, but the idea is the same: doing something together can offer a gentle transition from this life to the next.

Talking about memories and life experiences could be a lovely gift for a terminal cancer patient. Sit together, talk about the things she most wanted to experience in life, and see if you can find a way to give that gift. Be creative; for instance, instead of visiting an ashram in India, you might invite a yogi over for a home yoga lesson.

The gift of a soft pillow

gifts for people who are dying

It may not look comfortable but the  Zyllion Shiatsu Pillow Massager With Heat is a practical end of life gift that brings comfort and warmth. People who are dying can be uncomfortable and sometimes in pain.

At the end of life, a patient may feel aches and pains she never felt before. This deep-kneading shiatsu massager has nodes to help relax and relieve muscle tightness. The heating function soothes aching muscles, and the ergonomic design is perfect to use on lower- and upper-back, neck, abdomen, calf, and thigh areas. The adjustable strap secures the cushion to a favorite chair, and the massager is equipped with an Overheat Protection Device and programmed with 20-minute Auto Shut-Off to ensure safety.

The gift of fuzzy warmth

personal gifts for dying people

A Personalized Talking Teddy Bear is a sentimental and sweet gift for both young and old people. It may seem childish, but many patients dying of cancer or another terminal illness find themselves living in their childhood. Why not meet them there?

Dying is a lonely journey; a talking teddy bear with your voice and personal messages of comfort and love may be exactly what your loved one needs. The fur on this bear is super soft, and the eye and nose buttons are embroidered (not hard plastic). This is a comforting item to have and hold when they’re alone, or when they just need a hug. You can record an uplifting message or even a Scripture verse to help her get through the dark nights.

The gift of soft light

gifts for terminally ill patients

The Tall Flameless Decorative Pillar Candles – Batteries Included are a soothing way to warm any room (even one in a hospital or hospice). These flameless candles are a wonderful gift for someone at the end of life; they include a remote control as well as dimmable and timer options.

If you think candles with real flames are better gifts, purchase ones that don’t have a scent. A dying person’s sense of smell may be more acute, and she may find scented candles overwhelming. Natural soy candles are your best bet. You might pair a candle gift set with a warm, comforting fleece blanket. Bring a book to her bedside, and spend an hour or two reading out loud. Your presence will bring comfort and peace.

The gift of cremation (!)

terminally ill cancer patient gift ideas

The Cloud Blue and Silver Cremation Urn urn for your loved one’s ashes may seem like the worst gift idea for someone who is dying of cancer or another terminal illness, but it can be a beautiful gift. She may want to see where she’ll “go” after she dies. If you and she have talked about cremation and burial, this might be a natural gift to give a dying person.

My grandmother chose her coffin and planned her funeral – and I did not know this until after her death. I wish I had talked to her about cremation or burial, a funeral or “celebration of life”, a memorial service or her ashes sprinkled in the ocean. Many dying people are thinking about cremation urns or caskets, and would love to help plan their final resting place.

The gift of peace

gifts for someone who is dying

The Willow Tree “Soar” Figurine pictured is one of my favorite works of art. It’s a picture of a girl holding a dove, getting read to let it go. Artist Susan Lordi hand carves the original of each willow tree figurine from her art studio in Kansas City, Missouri.

The Willow Tree figurines is an intimate line of figurative wood symbols that speak in quiet ways to heal, comfort, protect and inspire. They arrive in a gift box, ready for gift giving with an enclosure card. This “Soar” figurine is a gentle reminder of letting go, of acceptance and surrender.

The gift of time, tea, and talking

How much time have you spent talking with your loved one? This is an important and valuable gift to give someone at the end of life. When my aunt was dying, my sister refused to visit her. “I want to remember her how she was when we were young,” she said. “I don’t want to see her now that she’s dying.” I felt this way too! It’s terrible and painful to see someone waste away from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), but I would’ve felt worse if I hadn’t visited my aunt before she died. As painful as it is, spending time with someone at the end of her life is the best gift you could give.

The gift of coziness

comfort gifts for dying friend

This Super Soft Warm Micro Plush Blanket with Sleeves is a mink fleece sherpa cozy wrap (also known as a warm wearable throw rug). A lot of names for a soft blanket you can wear and put your head and arms through. This fleece blanket with sleeves leaves your arms and hands free to read, eat and drink, or hold a kitten or puppy during pet therapy sessions. The blanket is a soft and comforting gift for the end of life, and will

keep your loved one warm and happy. Some dying people feel cold all the time and can never have too many blankets.

The gift of memory lane

Looking through photo albums can be a comforting way to connect with someone who is dying. This gift is bittersweet, and it does take courage and strength to talk about the past and prepare for the future. But the simple act of sitting down with your loved one and talking about the photos in the album or on the screen can be a healthy and beautiful gift for someone who is dying of cancer. And for you, too.

Sit down with her, and tell each other what you remember about the photos taken. Reminisce. Talk about what you loved best about your memories, and what you wish happened differently.

The gift of Heaven

gift for somebody who is dying

The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom might be inspirational and comforting. Remember, though, that the most thoughtful gift for someone who is dying of cancer or another terminal illness is one that meets her where she’s at. Don’t push her, or over-protect her.

Some people want to talk about their own death, while others prefer to avoid it. If your loved one is able to read and open to reading about the end, then a book about dying might be a good gift.

The gift of music

Almost everyone enjoys listening to music, right? A wonderful, thoughtful gift idea for someone who is dying might be music from the beginning of her life, or the happiest time of her life. Or, maybe she’d prefer music that doesn’t remind her of the past…maybe she’d like to listen to music from the 20s. Can you hire a jazz trio or an a capella  group to play and/or sing for a few hours?

The gift of laughter

Death is serious business, but it doesn’t have to be morbid or depressing. You’re grieving, your family is grieving, and your loved one is grieving the end of her life. It’s very sad, and life is too short. But, just because life is short doesn’t mean we have to spend it being grim. Try to find ways to lighten the mood and laugh. My plan is to write more articles with ideas on how to bring lightness and laughter to the end of life, because I believe that’s one of the best gifts you can give someone dying.

The gift of memories

gift ideas for people who are dying

Letters to My Grandchild: Write Now. Read Later. Treasure Forever  is a creative gift idea for someone who is dying. It’s different than a traditional book about writing your memoirs, and less intimidating than hiring a professional life history writer. At the end of life, most people don’t want to sit down and talk about everything with a stranger.

Many people don’t realize how much history is lost when someone dies, and they regret not writing down their family’s life history. This “Oprah’s Pick” gift consists of 12 prompted letters. They offer an immediate way for grandparents to give the gift of a lifetime to a grandchild of any age. When favorite memories and words of wisdom are sealed with the included stickers and postdated for future opening, this paper “time capsule” becomes a priceless heirloom for generations to cherish.

If your loved one has recently had surgery, you may find Post Surgery Gift Ideas to Help With Recovery and Healing helpful.

The gift of her life

gift for someone dying

A Digital Voice Recorder is a perfect gift for someone who wants to tell the story of her life before it ends. If your loved one is talkative and has lots of last words to share, simply encourage her to start talking. She can speak into a digital voice recorder, and share You might also help them write their memoirs with a book about how to write your life story. This gift for someone who is dying is positive, because it focuses on life after she’s gone.

At the beginning of this list of gift ideas for someone who is dying, I mentioned a bucket list. If you don’t know if your loved one has one, ask about it. She may feel sad that she didn’t do everything on her bucket list, but she will be grateful that you’re willing to talk about it.

The gift of beauty

17 Comforting Gift Ideas for a Loved One at the End of Life

I recently discovered the Nightlight Booklight — a book-shaped lamp that you don’t plug in — and I had to include it in this list of gifts for elderly people. When you open the book, it turns on; when you close the book, it turns off. The LED lamp’s usage is flexible and creative; it can be used as nightlight, droplight, desk lamp, unique decoration, outdoor light, etc. This is a great gift for older parents and grandparents.

The gift of kitten or puppy love

If your loved one loves animals, maybe you could bring a puppy dog or kitten for a brief visit. A real human baby can be a source of comfort and cheer for people who are dying…but there really is something about furry little creatures that warm the heart and soul. Even people who don’t really like dogs or cats find themselves smiling while watching a puppy or kitten play. If your loved one is dying in a hospice or care facility, ask the staff if pet therapy is already part of their routine. Will they let you bring your own dog or cat?

If you haven’t found the right gift, read Thoughtful Sympathy Gifts for the Loss of a Mother. You might find a comforting gift idea in there, especially if you know someone who is losing a mom.

In peace and passion,



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

6 thoughts on “20 Thoughtful Gift Ideas for Someone Terminally Ill or Dying”

  1. The best gift you can give someone dying is help coping with fear, anxiety and panic. My sister Sherri was suffering from severe panic attacks after she was diagnosed with ALS. That was a year and a half ago, and she has rapidly progressed downhill. We expect her life to end within another month, maybe two. But what helped her cope with end of life stress was getting the facts.

    Sherri was terrified of never waking up, losing control of her mind and body, and feeling trapped in pain without being able to communicate. I consulted with a palliative care counselor who helped her address each fear separately. As her disease progressed and the end of her life drew near, Sherri learned to divide and conquer.

    She and the palliative counselor planned three ways for her to take control and cope with the stress of death. Sherri educated herself about ALS, requested additional help for her family and dogs, and even met with a a woman Anglican priest to talk about the afterlife and purgatory. I wasn’t privy to those conversations but Sherri wasn’t as anxious or fearful about being terminally ill after talking to her.

    By obtaining factual information, Sherri’s fears – which were very real but distorted emotions about reality – were corrected. If I have to journey though the end of life of somebody dying again, my most valuable gift would be helping him or her reduce the fear and anxiety of death.


  2. Hi Laurie, I met the nicest woman a few years ago….she moved in to take care of me as I have a terminal illness. A lot of the time when we disagree, she’ll just scream at me and I feel like whatever I have to say is invalidated. She says I don’t help out enough with day to day things. I have offered several times to help but she knocks me back, so I don’t keep asking. We fight over what I consider to be trivial issues.

    All I wanted to do was die with some dignity and spend whatever time I have left doing fun things with the woman I love. I don’t know how long I have left to live with the illness, but it wears me out physically and I find myself not coping because I’m so stressed out. It also feels that I am in a situation where I am the one who has to do all the work on the relationship and change the person I am so that she is pleased with me. I end up spending a lot of time in bed as I stay awake at night worrying about how I am going to fail her the next day. I try to rekindle the romance that we used to have together. I’ve offered to take her and the children on a family holiday, even a cruise to a tropical island like Hawaii or Fiji. It seriously breaks my heart to know this may never come to pass, it was one of my dreams for us to do this together before I didn’t have the physical strength any longer. She still won’t come with me though.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear about your terminal illness. When I was 29, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness that I thought would end my life. I made peace with my death, but I know my loved ones had a hard time with the idea that I may soon be gone. Maybe you and your partner need to separate your love from your day-to-day life. Maybe she can’t be the person to take care of you with regard to your illness. Maybe the strain on your relationship is coming from the stress and anxiety she feels about your illness and possible death.

      It’s very possible that she’s scared about losing you, and isn’t coping well with the thought of your death. You seem very accepting about your terminal illness and the end of your life. You clearly see how you want to spend your remaining days. I wonder if maybe she’s taking it much harder than you are? She may be mourning your life and struggling with the day-to-day routine, knowing that you’ll be gone soon. I don’t know what’s going on with your partner, but it’s possible that she can’t do fun things with you and take care of you at this point in your life. Maybe she feels guilty and ashamed of herself, and she’s taking it out on you.

      Maybe the idea of a beautiful vacation is too painful for her, or too physically or emotionally demanding. Have you and she talked about what’s going on, underneath the arguments about seemingly trivial things? You mentioned that she said she needs help with the day-to-day things…do you think that’s the issue, or is something deeper is going on? The answer is there; you may need to dig a little to find it. It may be uncomfortable, but worth it in the long run.

      A few ideas for helping a loved one cope with a dying loved one:

      – Accept that even though you may be at peace with your diagnosis and future, she may not be. She may be mourning her loss, and unable to untangle her grief from her love for you.
      – Talk about death. If she’s reluctant, send her Are You Scared to Die? 5 Reasons to Accept Your Death (https://www.theadventurouswriter.com/blog/are-you-scared-to-die-how-to-accept-your-death/). Talk about your and her feelings about your death and her future.
      – Discuss how your illness and future are affecting her and your relationship. Be as open and honest as you can, and encourage her to do the same.
      – Go to a session or two of couples counseling, with a therapist experienced in chronic disease and death. Some hospitals offer this for free.
      – Encourage her to look into grief support groups, or groups for caregivers. The more support she has, the better she’ll be able to handle her emotions.
      – Think about making changes in your lives that will help both of you cope with the rest of your life. If your partner can’t cope with caring for you at home in the final stages of your illness, release her from that obligation.

      I hope this helps, and will keep you and your partner in my prayers.


  3. Several years ago my brothers wife died of pancreatic cancer. My wife spent the last several months with her and said that one of the best gifts she used was a journal. She entered information on a daily basis. Some of the information was good and some was not so good, however, she had the opportunity to document how she felt and viewed those who were part of her life.

  4. Thank you for your thoughts, John! AmericasFootprints.com sounds like a wonderful gift for someone who is dying. I’ll look into it.

  5. Love the idea of the digital recorder. What better way to pass the time then to talk about your life story. One place I would also add to the list is AmericasFootprints.com. I joined about a year ago and it’s a pretty cool way to preserve your story for the next generations. Definitely a gift I would consider for someone who may not have much time left. Great article!