It was starting to snow when I stepped into my parents’ house, but I was numb to everything, including the chill. After surviving a series of traumatic events, I was in a constant fog and didn’t quite know how to move forward.
There, by the door, was a wire basket. An envelope on top read, “To Lainey.” I dropped my purse on the hallway table and slid my thumb under the envelope flap. Inside was a card from a trio of friends whose words warmed and encouraged me. The basket was a care package they had put together for me. It included several things I never knew I needed, such as a weighted blanket, a coloring book, and a hefty supply of chocolate.
In the days, months, and years since, that care package is one of the things I remember the most. And on the tough days, when they still happen, some of those items are still my go-to’s.
Trauma and grief can impact people in awful ways, and sometimes the survivor doesn’t know right side up from upside down, much less what will help. A simple act of caring from someone can make all the difference. We must notice the people walking this difficult journey and come alongside them. But sometimes, knowing how to help or what to do isn’t easy.
One of the best ways to show your love and support to a trauma survivor or grieving person is to give them a care package. Need some ideas? Here are 35 things to put in a care package. Pick your favorites and be creative!
35 Things to Put in A Care Package
When putting together a care package, the first thing you may want to consider is getting a basket or bin to carry the items you’ll be giving. Be sure to get a reusable one. It’s an added treat for the person you provide it to that they can use around the house.
A general rule of thumb when creating a care package is to keep them from giving them anything they have to take care of or that will add stress to their routine. Even a beautiful houseplant can feel overwhelming when a survivor is trying to juggle the day’s emotions and to-do list. Please keep it simple.
I asked several people who have survived trauma and grief what their favorite things to receive in a care package would be. Here are 35 things to put in a care package, broken down by category.
1. Gift Cards to Restaurants or Coffee Shops
These are great for days they need a little extra boost or nights when they can’t cope with cooking and dishes.
2. Instacart, DoorDash, or GrubHub Gift Cards
Some evenings, cooking is off the menu, but so is going out to find sustenance. There’s just no energy left. The gift of having food delivered by Instacart, DoorDash, or Grubhub can be a great help and relief
3. Chocolate and Other Treats
The taste of a favorite treat on the tongue can lift the spirits and increase dopamine to the brain.
4. Healthy Snacks or Non-Perishable Meals
Tuck some healthy snacks or easy non-perishable meals (mac and cheese, anyone?) into their basket. These are great when they have a small appetite and want something to graze on.
5. Grocery Store Gift Cards
Going to the grocery store can feel both overwhelming and overstimulating. The gift of groceries, especially if you can get them delivered, can be a great help.
6. Tea, Coffee, or Hot Chocolate
The power of a hot drink can’t be overstated. Holding a hot mug of a favorite drink between your hands and sipping it helps restore and relax your mind and spirit. You can even throw in a cute coffee mug or travel mug to complete the experience.
7. Honey Sticks
Not only is honey a delicious treat, but studies have shown that it can help calm anxiety.
8. Water Bottle
The gift of a new, fun water bottle will help to remind them to drink water and stay hydrated, which is crucial for brain function and healing.
Lotion can be soothing and keep their skin refreshed throughout the day.
Someone going through trauma may bite their lips a lot, so chapstick or other lip balms can be one of the most comforting yet overlooked gifts a person can receive.
11. Bubble Bath or Shower Steamers
Help them to relax and refresh with bubble bath, shower steamers, or Epsom salts.
12. Body Scrubs or Soaps
Running water can be highly therapeutic and can feel like it is washing away the stress and emotions of the day. Adding a favorite scented soap or body scrub can stimulate the body’s healing responses, help ground them in the present, and leave them feeling refreshed.
Basic toiletries such as toothpaste, a new toothbrush, shampoo, and conditioner can help them get back into a routine and practice self-care.
Let’s Get Cozy
14. Fuzzy Socks
Things with an interesting tactile sensation are fantastic for creating comfort and reducing anxiety. Fuzzy socks keep them warm and create that soothing sensation on their feet.
15. A Weighted Blanket
A weighted blanket is the best invention ever. The weight of a blanket covering the body can help create a feeling of security, reduce anxiety, and keep the body warm.
16. Lavender Anything
Lavender is a plant that has natural calming properties. Whether it’s a sachet filled with fragrant violet petals, lavender ice cream, or lavender tea, lavender can help them relax and sleep better at night. Be sure that you get real lavender to ensure maximum relaxation.
17. Essential Oils
Lavender essential oils can also be dropped onto a pillow, put into a diffuser, or rubbed onto one’s temples to increase the calming effect. Other essential oils, such as peppermint, can help with headaches and anxiety or restore some energy. There is a wide variety of essential oils out there to choose from!
Note: If they have pets, ensure the oils you give them are safe to have around their animals.
18. Heating Pad
Sometimes trauma brings the chills, and it can be hard to warm up. Living in a constant state of tension can cause the muscles to tighten up. A heating pad can help warm and relax those tight muscles, preventing injury and headaches.
Share a Little Light
Candles can be beautiful ways to create a calm, cozy atmosphere. Scents from the candles can help them focus on the present rather than the past.
20. A Nightlight
When experiencing trauma or grief, a fear of the dark may be present. Sometimes this fear is so intense that a person will not sleep without some light on. A nightlight can be a great way to let them sleep and feel more comfortable doing so with the lights out.
21. Salt Lamp
Lights warm in temperature (red, orange, gold) tend to have calming and rejuvenating effects. A salt lamp is a stylish way to introduce warm-toned light and warmth into their home. Some claim that the lamps also clean the air and boost mood, and while there is little research to substantiate those claims, it may work for your loved one.
22. Coloring Book with Colored Pencils or Markers
Sometimes when going through trauma, words and numbers jumble together, and it’s hard to think, much less write down those thoughts and feelings. A coloring book can keep their hands and minds busy while expressing themselves. Coloring is a great way to help process the thoughts and emotions they are experiencing.
Trauma and grief can turn a person’s memory into Swiss cheese, and it can be challenging to remember everything they need to do that day. Sometimes even basic hygiene, such as brushing the teeth and taking a shower, can be forgotten. A fun notepad gives them a place to write down their daily to-do list.
24. A Dot Journal
If they do feel like writing or drawing, a dot journal (not a lined one) can be a great gift. Dot journals can be beautiful ways to express their thoughts and emotions privately as they make this journey.
Something to Read
25. Bible Study or Devotional
A short Bible study, devotional, or other encouraging books can brighten their day and give them something else to focus on. Bible studies and devotionals can offer peace and encouragement during difficult times, and many are focused on specific circumstances that your loved one may face.
Magazines are easy to read and use a variety of visual cues to communicate their stories. Since reading and focusing may be difficult, these short pieces can be just the thing.
27. Heartfelt Notes
It’s easy to feel alone and discouraged when facing situations like this. Write heartfelt notes to your loved one that they can read, which will encourage them and help them overcome negative thoughts.
28. Puzzles and Games
A favorite puzzle or game can be a fun way to pass the time. Whether it’s a jigsaw puzzle, crossword, word search, or sudoku, these can help keep the brain moving.
Acts of Service
29. Massage Gift Card
The body holds on to trauma in myriad ways, and a massage can not only help them to relax but can help the body let go of some of the trauma it is storing in its muscles and cells.
IOU coupons for yard work, babysitting, dog walking, or house cleaning can be a lifesaver.
Keep Their Fingers Busy
31. Items to Fidget With
Trauma, anxiety, and stress often manifest in our hands and motions. Stress balls, kinetic sand, Play-Doh, or a fidget spinner can help them keep their hands busy.
32. Worry Stone
Worry stones are typically polished stones or glass that your loved one can carry in their pocket and rub any time they feel worried, stressed, or anxious. Some come in the shape of hearts, and others have encouraging quotes or Bible verses printed on them.
Drown Out The Noise
Give them the gift of soothing music or classical music, or create your own mixtape. Music can help a person focus, relax, and heal, and the sound can help root them in the present.
34. Noise-Canceling Headphones
A person dealing with trauma and grief can get overstimulated and overwhelmed in the blink of an eye. Noise-canceling headphones can be a great way to help them step away for a moment and recharge, even in the busiest environment.
35. White Noise Machine
A white noise machine, or other sound machines, can help drown out unwanted noise and help them get some sleep.
These 35 things to put in a care package can brighten the day of someone you care about and give them hope. What other ideas can you think of? Tell me in the comments or send me an email!
© 2022 Lainey La Shay