We asked eight women to share the gifts that were most meaningful to them during a tough time.
When someone in your life is going through a health crisis, you want to do everything you can to help make things better. But sometimes it's difficult to know exactly what you can do for someone who is dealing with a high-stress situation. When in doubt, fresh flowers, a homemade meal, or a thoughtful card are all wonderful ideas. For more gift-giving inspiration, we spoke to women who have experienced their own health crisis or were a caregiver during a family member’s to find out what gifts or gestures they appreciated most during a challenging time. Here, their suggestions for how to brighten someone’s day and show you’re thinking of them when times are hard.
Adult coloring books
"I had a brain tumor removed and was forced on bed rest for a couple of weeks in the hospital. People brought me so many things, but the best were homemade cards from my teacher friends’ students, adult coloring books (which were great when I was bored and helped me relax), homemade food (the hospital stuff gets old), and flowers because they really brightened up my room." —Sarah R.
Our pick: Adult Coloring Book Designs Stress-Relief Coloring Book ($5; amazon.com)
Gas gift cards
"When my dad had a stroke and emergency open-heart surgery, the best gifts we were given were someone taking care of the family dog and gas gift cards. The family we had in town picked up our dog and took her to their place without us even having to ask, and someone sent us the gas cards via email, since we were making tons of trips to the hospital and back home. These were simple, helpful things that made it easier for the family to just be there for my dad." —Casaundra G.
Our pick: Gas Pump Gift Card (available in $10 - $1,000; walmart.com)
A fun night out
"My fiancé went through a years-long health crisis, and one of the most important things for him was someone just being there to listen. Everyone’s first instinct was to give advice, but what he needed was someone to just listen, take him seriously, be patient with him and know that he wasn't exaggerating or asking them to fix it. As for supporting the caregiver, it’s super helpful as their friend to ask them about what’s going on. I would have said if I didn't want to talk about it, but I almost never had the opportunity to, since my friends mostly avoided bringing up the situation, and sometimes I needed to talk it out. It also means a lot when friends offer to get you out of your routine for a night, saying 'This Friday, we’re going out and we’re paying for you—you deserve this!’" —Natalie B.
Our pick: Restaurant gift cards from Amazon (available in $10 - $1,000; amazon.com)
"During my mom’s recovery from open-heart surgery, my dad brought my polar bear stuffed animal that I’d had as a baby to her at the hospital. It was something she could hug and that comforted her, kind of like a substitute for a pet. It was really important to have that emotional support from family." —Kate S.
A nice bath set
"When my dad was really sick, a group of my friends pooled their money to get my family a GrubHub certificate. It was incredibly helpful because we were so slammed with caregiving tasks that we weren't really taking the time to eat real meals. It felt good to chow down on hot food. I was also gifted a bath body set; it was a small way to take care of myself during a difficult time, and it meant the world to me." —April C.
Our pick: Rahua Rainforest Shower Gift Set ($90; sephora.com)
Offer to help take care of their children
"I've had a chronic illness for over forty years and over that time, I've been fortunate to be on the receiving end of many wonderful gifts. But one gift truly stands out in my mind. In 2006, I became very ill when I had a relapse of Crohn's disease. It meant many trips to the local ER, meds, and doctor appointments. But when my doctor made the decision that my disease had advanced to the point of needing more intensive care, I was sent—with just an hour's notice!—to the hospital. At the time, my son was still in high school and as a single mother, I had to do some serious thinking quickly, and luckily my dear friend Brenda said he could come stay with them for as long as he needed. She'd get him to school and any place he needed to be. Of course, that meant meals, laundry, and one more boy in the house in addition to their own two! I was in the hospital for just over two weeks and although I missed my son fiercely, I never once had to be concerned about whether he was alright. As a single mom, I got a gift that day of someone opening their heart and their home." —Blair W.
Help out with household chores
"After a major surgery, there were a lot of things I couldn’t do physically, like mow the lawn, go grocery shopping, or make a meal for the family. Everyday tasks were difficult, so having someone do those things for me or offer to help was huge. Getting cards and phone calls was also nice—it helped me stay positive, and words mean a lot. I also really appreciated someone taking the time to go with me for a treatment or follow-up appointment. We all need extra support sometimes, especially with medical concerns." —Melissa C.
"After I had my preemie baby, we were in the hospital together for about a month, and it was a really stressful time. One of my friends brought me a gift bag with goodies for the baby and me. The best thing in it was hand lotion, because I had to wash my hands or use sanitizing foam all the time and my skin was so dry and cracked. She also let me borrow her laptop, which was really helpful when I had to do things like apply for insurance for my baby. My boyfriend took my clothes home and washed them and brought me fresh ones, as I had no way to do laundry. Another awesome gesture was when a friend sent me links to hilarious and bizarre YouTube videos—it killed time and lifted my spirits." —Allison C.
Our pick: Fresh Seaberry Moisturizing Hand Cream ($23; sephora.com)