The Modern Loss Holiday Gift Guide — 2018

From scalp whisks to s’mores to soups that arrive at your doorstep, these gifts for the grieving say ‘the holidays are rough, but I love you.’

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Clockwise from left, socks that make a statement, a sequined RBG throw pillow, Jerrelle Guy’s fab new cookbook, and a unicorn-covered hot water bottle

We can’t tell you how many times people ask us what to get for someone who is living with loss — regardless of how recent that loss was. Ergo, our inaugural Modern Loss Holiday Gift Guide. Items here range from free (really!) to schmancy. Most fall somewhere in between, and would also work perfectly in gift baskets. So treat someone who needs it this season —  be it a relative, friend or coworker. And if you’re the one who needs some self-care this holiday season, by all means, treat yourself.


Adult coloring book

Try “You Are Here” by Jenny Lawson, which is edgier than your average grown-up coloring book, and funnier, too.

Scalp whisk

It sounds strange, we know. But a whisk like this one feels like a brain massage and requires the least possible activity humanly possible.

Noise-canceling headphones

Tune out the world with a splurge, like the Bose QuietComfort 35, or a (relative) steal, like a set of the Sony WH-CH700N Wireless headphones.


The word “love” cannot fully describe how we feel about the Kikkerland Solar-Powered Rainbow Maker. Watching your room fill up with small, dancing rainbows is simple pleasure that we nearly guarantee will infuse you with at least a small dose of delight. Especially great for families with little kids who need a dose, too.


Cooking can be enormously therapeutic. Jerrelle Guy explores the many connections between baking and memory in her sumptuous new cookbook, “Black Girl Baking.” Guy’s Strawberry Butter Rose Buns are sweet therapy. The risottos in this book by Norma Wasserman are, perhaps, the savory analog; all you have to do is slowly stir a pot while drinking a glass of wine. We also love Carla Hall’s cookbook composed of comfort foods from around the world, and, of course, Smitten Kitchen and the Barefoot Contessa always have your back with easy-yet-insanely-delicious meals.


Hand wash

Scents can take you back, or take you away. When it comes to suds, here’s a splurge, and here’s a steal.

Scented Candles

Sometimes, all the light you need can appear with a mere strike of a match.

Jo Malone’s Basil & Neroli Home Candle is surely a splurge, and Illume Luxury Soy Candle in Tonka Noir is delightful at a lower price point.

Essential Oils

An easy way to calm down, be invigorated or gain some mental clarity. The doTerra Essential Oils Introductory Kit is a great place to start.


Eye mask

Grief can make sleep elusive (or the only thing you want to do). Either way, we recommend this a comfortable eye mask, like this one.

Pillow spray

Try this one, because lavender.

Weighted blanket

Sometimes you need to feel gently hugged in order to drift off. Try the lightweight Brookstone weighted nap blanket


Bread of the Month

Amazingly Zingerman’s baked goods will arrive at your door at regular intervals. The eatery is famous for its chocolate sourdough. Need we say more?


Food52 has DIY smores kits in peppermint, dulce de leche, dark chocolate and classic. They’re the right amount of messy.

Trail Mix offers these single-serving, energy-boosting variety packs . Because sadly, one can’t survive on chocolate sourdough and s’mores alone.


If there’s anything that signifies comfort and love, it’s this. A Spoonful of Comfort sends customized soup packages (with bacci rolls and cookies) right to your doorstep.


YETI Rambler

We won’t tell anyone if you fill this bad boy with bourbon.

S’well Bottle

There’s a reason these things are ubiquitous.

Dandelion Tea

This Dandelion Root Tea Detox Tea is beyond relaxing.

Drink Kits

Make yourself a “Spiced Old Fashioned” in no time with this set from Twist Your Spirits.

Clockwise from left, a Monte & Jardin blanket, Kaike’s Marshmallow face mask, s’mores kits from Food52, and soup packages from Spoonful of Comfort.



We love these “put them on as soon as your eyes open and take them off at bedtime” slippers from Glerups. If you see us out of the house in these, don’t judge.

Hot Water Bottles

Not just for Laura Ingalls Wilder characters. Here’s a faux fur one, and here’s a fleece one with a flipping unicorn on it.


Snuggle up with this splurge, from Parachute, or this steal, from Monté & Jardin.


Face Mask

Dark under eye circles can be an unfortunate byproduct of grief. This Joanna Vargas face mask is a definite splurge — as is this “instant-glow” one from Tata Harper.  Meanwhile, this Marshmallow Mask & Scrub by Kaike is a wonderful, less expensive option.

Makeup remover

In grief, just washing your face can like a chore. The resulting breakouts are an insult to injury you don’t deserve. The Jane Iredale Magic Mitt can do the job in seconds. So, too, can Marla Rene’s Cucumber Aloe Cleansing Water + Makeup Remover.  


Need we explain? Drybar has gift cards.


Silly putty

You mock, but it helps with anxiety and restless hands. Get a few packs here.


Because sometimes you just really want to throw a sharp object. Repeatedly.

MELT Hand & Foot Treatment

A few easy exercises with these balls and bands can help relieve common aches and pains. MELT — it stands for Myofascial Energetic Length Technique — offers group classes, too. Find one near you here.


Speaking of group classes, gift cards are available from Barry’s Boot Camp, Soul Cycle, Yoga Works, and probably at your local gym, too. It may sound counterintuitive to some, but with regular exercise, you’re likely to feel more invigorated — and sleep better, too.


Non-cheesy inspirational apparel

Don the genius “I’m a Delicate Fucking Flower” socks under your pants on those days when you’d rather be anywhere in the world than lifting your chin up at the office.

One Badass Notepad

You may be grieving, but you’re still a capable human who knows how to get shit done. Even if it’s one thing at a time right now. Jot the “to dos” down on this notepad from Knock Knock.


You draw strength from her (heck, even the sun draws strength from her). Get RBG in throw pillow (and reversible sequined!?) format and you can hug her to boot, or keep the Notorious RBG book front and center at home.


Photo Album

We love the Pinhole Press mini book of names and faces. Because trust us, you’re not “reminding” anyone they lost someone they love by giving such a thing.

Memorial Jewelry

There are lots of great ideas for honoring a loss with something beautiful and tangible in this Modern Loss article.


Of course, some of the best gifts are free, or free-ish. We’ll leave some of the creative thinking up to you, but suggest a good podcast listen such as Kind World (WBUR’s show on compassion), a homemade “gift certificate” for babysitting/house cleaning/dog walking, or a crafting or cooking class. And if you’re gifting yourself, we encourage you to consider a social media break for a period of time that feels right for you. That last one can do wonders that most of the above cannot.


Have you read this far? Then consider participating in our Modern Loss Winter Holiday Gift Swap. Sign-ups are open through December 6 and currently limited to readers in the United States.

Please note: A small portion of the proceeds of purchases made via the above Amazon links support Modern Loss.

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