Comfort and warmth are the best gifts you can give someone who is dying of cancer or a life-threatening disease. Literal comfort and warmth, because death is a cold process. These gift ideas are both comforting and inspiring. I included a range of practical items that make life easier at the end, and heartfelt messages of love and support.
A Reversible Sherpa/RoyalMink Heated Throw Blanket might be one of the best gifts for people at the end of their lives. The heat is low and consistent, and can easily be adjusted by the flick of a finger. There is a pre-heat feature so the blanket has time to warm up before she climbs into bed.
A gift won’t save your loved one’s life, but it will make the last days or weeks less painful. Spending time together is the best gift you could give someone who is. It’s also important – and comforting – to give them a physical symbol of your love and support, because you can’t be there (or awake!) all the time. Your loved one may feel afraid or anxious at the thought of death. Even strong Christians or faithful believers are scared at the end of their lives, because of the unknown finality of death. Allow your loved one to talk about fears and other strong emotions – and try not to let your own grief, fear, or anxiety overcome you. It’s natural to feel intense and conflicting feelings in the face of death, for both you and the person who is dying. Find quiet, private moments to express your emotions. Allow your loved one to say what needs to be said and feel what needs to be felt.
These gift ideas for someone who is dying range from practical and useful, to encouraging and heartfelt. The gift you give depends on your friend’s personality, beliefs, lifestyle, level of awareness, and illness. My prayer is that you find an idea here that brings your loved one comfort and support in the final stages of life.
Comforting Gifts for Someone Who is Dying of Cancer
This list of ideas is wide and varied, to help you find what you’re looking for. Remember, though, that the best gift for someone at the end of life is your presence. You may feel uncomfortable, scared, anxious, depressed or angry at the thought of death, but it’s important to work through your painful emotions before you sit with her.
According to the books on dying I’ve read, the best gift for someone at the end of life is to put aside your emotions and just be there for her.
The love of an animal
If your loved one is a fan of dogs or cats – or even has one of her own – consider pet therapy. It can be informal, as simple as easy as a quick visit before bedtime.
Hugs, warmth and comfort are the most important gifts you can give someone who is dying. It’s important to overlook your own feelings about death, and put yourself in your loved one’s shoes. Since this is difficult to do – unless you’ve experienced the end of life process yourself – your best option may be to ask your loved one what you can offer her.
Prayers, warm hugs, positive thoughts, strength, healing, energy, harmony, peace, love, hope, compassion, serenity, joy, comfort, rejuvenating spirit, positive energy, and resilience are always good gifts.
The gift of sharing memories together
If your friend or loved one enjoys arts and crafts, you might consider creating a scrapbook together. On my pet loss sympathy gifts article, a reader said working on a scrapbook was one of the most healing things she did while her dog was dying of cancer. I know a dog’s death isn’t the same as someone who is dying from cancer or another terminal illness, but the thought is the same: Doing something together can offer a gentle transition from this life to the next.
Giving a beautiful 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.
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Talking about memories and life experiences is a wonderful idea for someone who is dying of cancer. 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. You might have to be super creative; for instance, instead of visiting an ashram in India, you might invite a yogi over for a home yoga lesson.
Bestselling gift idea for someone dying: a soft pillow massager
The Zyllion Shiatsu Pillow Massager With Heat is a useful gift that brings comfort and warmth At the end of life, she may feel aches and pains that she never felt before…and 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.
You may find yourself searching endlessly for “the perfect gift” for a dying person – but that is a lot to expect. Don’t pressure yourself to try to find a gift that exactly represents what you want to say or how you want her to feel. Instead, take a deep breath. Allow your feelings of fear and discomfort to rise up in you, and then out. Feeling afraid of death and scared to die is normal. Know that the gift you give someone at the end of life is less important than the time you spend with her and the thoughts you share. Scroll through these gift ideas, and see if any resonate with you…
The gift of understanding the feeling of being at the end of life
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 also show you the gifts of wisdom, faith, and love that someone who is dying of cancer will leave for you.
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. Final Gifts shows how we can help dying people live fully to the very end.
Personalized teddy bear for comfort and warmth
A Personalized Talking Teddy Bear is a sentimental and sweet gift for young and old people. Dying can be 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). You can personalize your loved one’s name, or the names of her family members on the t-shirt. 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 hours.
Pet therapy – kitten or puppy love
If your loved one loves animals, maybe you could bring a puppy dog or kitten for a brief visit. A baby is another source of comfort and cheer for sad souls…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 you bring your pet to visit a loved one in a hospice or hospital, make sure he or she is open to the experience. I would love to be surrounded by animals when I die, but not everyone feels the same way.
Soft, warming candles to warm the room
The Flameless Candles with Bright White Warm LED Lights are a soothing way to warm any room. 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, make sure you 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.
Comforting fleece blanket
I love this Super Soft Warm Micro Plush Blanket with Sleeves – it’s 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.
A beautiful cremation urn for after she has passed on
An 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 you may be surprised by her response. If you and she have talked about cremation or burial, funeral or “celebration of life”, memorial service or her ashes sprinkled in the ocean… you might want to talk about cremation urns or caskets.
Many artisans and artists make beautiful, creative cremation urns. If your loved one is open to talking about death, think about discussing end-of-life arrangements with her. You might even talk about decorating the coffin together. I recently wrote about different types of cremation urns for a loved one’s ashes. Just allow yourself to consider various ideas about memorial urns for your loved one.
A Willow Tree figurine
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.
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.
A journey through her photo albums
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.
A book about life after death
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 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.
Live music to cheer and comfort
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?
A lighthearted movie or internet video
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.
An interesting way to record her memoirs – or session with a life history writing service
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 story of her life – a digital voice recorder
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.
I recently discovered the Lumio 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.
If none of these gifts for someone dying appeals to you, consider asking your loved one what gift she would like most. Maybe she just wants to go to the park, or take a drive out in the country. Maybe she wants to sit and watch you bake cookies, or swim in a lake.
You’ve reached the end of my gift guide for people who are dying; it’s time to scroll back up and click on the gift that resonates with you. If you have any gift ideas, please share below. I welcome your thoughts and comments.
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.
Laurie's "She Blossoms" Books
Growing Forward When You Can't Go Back offers hope, encouragement, and strength for women walking through loss. My Blossom Tips are fresh and practical - they stem from my own experiences with a schizophrenic mother, foster homes, a devastating family estrangement, and infertility.
How to Let Go of Someone You Love: Powerful Secrets (and Practical Tips!) for Healing Your Heart is filled with comforting and healthy breakup advice. The Blossom Tips will help you loosen unhealthy attachments to the past, seal your heart with peace, and move forward with joy.
When You Miss Him Like Crazy: 25 Lessons to Move You From Broken to Blossoming After a Breakup will help you refocus your life, re-create yourself, and start living fully again! Your spirit will rise and you'll blossom into who you were created to be.
May you find the right gift for someone who is dying. May you be blessed with peace, serenity and joy – even now, at the end of life.