QUESTION: A friend's child was very ill. As a gesture of kindness, I gathered some sports gear of his favorite team and sent it his hospital room. I also included some items for his older brother.
The situation was grim and, unfortunately, the little boy passed. My gift was returned in the mail because the patient was no longer there. Should I give my friend the items for the big brother as a “thinking-of-you gift” and keep the other things? Or just forget the entire thing during her time of grief since my intent is not to cause further pain?
CALLIE'S ANSWER: I can't imagine the heartbreak for your friend and their family. It is very sweet of you to give the older brother a gift as well as a nice note for the family. Be mindful of your friend's privacy at this time. I would drop the gift off at their house, but not stay to chat. Ring and run, as my mom says. Your friend is in my thoughts and prayers.
LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: What your friend is going through is heartbreaking, and you are doing your best to offer some comfort in a really difficult time. I don't know the “best” way to handle it, and this is tough to discern, but your sensitivity is already guiding you and can continue to do so. I don't think the answer is to forget the entire thing in her grief, since she will continue to need to feel the love and support of people who care. However, if the family sent the gift back, it may be painful to receive the same ones again. Perhaps you could give the older brother his gifts, with a new note expressing your sadness and concern. You aren't going to be wrong in showing you care.
HELEN'S ANSWER: How very sad. There is no correct way to handle this. Probably, just take a gift to the brother, when you go to visit. The family will appreciate the gesture. It does not have to be what you were sending to the child who died. Bless their hearts for their loss, and yours, for your generosity.
GUEST'S ANSWER: Devonne Carter, licensed clinical social worker who has taught etiquette classes at Oklahoma Christian University: This is a tough situation. You want the family to know you love them and are thinking about them during this time. There is nothing that is more appropriate than another, but it is your preference. If it were I in the situation, I would box it all up with a note telling them that I am thinking about them and praying for them.
It is the thought that counts more than the exact way it is presented. My opinion is, you are never going to cause someone further pain when letting them know you care about them. They lost a child, and that pain is so great that a gift from you that isn't sent in the exact manner isn't going to hurt compared to what they have endured.
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