Affordable alternatives to sending a loved one flowers
We've all been there: you hear about someone having a new baby, being in hospital or losing a loved one, and you go online and buy flowers, balloons, chocolates or even a hamper.
There is nothing wrong with flowers. I love flowers. Local florists need our support, and their work is an art form.
It's just that flowers are expensive and in recent years have become even more so due to increased costs of fertilisers and (especially for imported flowers) freight.
Too much of a good thing
When I've had hospital stays, I've often been surrounded by flowers. But as lovely as they are, they can be problematic. There is rarely enough shelving space to accommodate them and they can get in the way of your care.
And some hospitals and wards (especially intensive care units) prohibit flowers, plants and balloons.
Some patients could be allergic to pollens or items in the soil, and flowers are probably not great for newborn babies.
And then there's the process of being discharged. I remember juggling a new baby, a baby seat, suitcases - and flowers.
Showing support is about demonstrating we care for someone. Rather than send stuff, we can show we care by celebrating or supporting in practical ways.
It's about having empathy. You can do this by writing them a card or letter, calling or messaging them (via a friend if they are especially unwell) or visiting them in person. The key thing is to be ready to listen without judgement or competition and to make it about them rather than you.
When faced with a loss or bad health diagnosis, family and friends often don't know what to say or do - so they do nothing. They might send flowers, but they are emotionally disconnected from the person.
Often people going through difficult times want to get on with their lives. They want to talk about everyday things - to be included just like before. They may want to talk about what they are going through, or they may not. But they will likely appreciate you reaching out.
Give useful things
I spent a long week on bed rest in the hospital before my eldest son was born. I was bored. I remember with gratitude my friend Trish coming to visit me. She turned up with a fruit bowl and some light reading material. Gold!
If visiting a friend in hospital, taking along a few magazines and healthy food (or good coffee) could say more than flowers.
When I came home after birthing my premmie baby, I was greeted by an esky full of food. It was a massive help during my busy schedule of hospital and specialist visits. The local division of my Australian Breastfeeding Association also offered meals. And many cultures cook for new mums as part of tradition.
What a lovely way to support a new mum and send a message of love. Best of all, it doesn't cost a fortune.
And there are other ways to lend support, such as by childminding or helping hang out laundry.
Cooking up a storm
A practical way to support a new mum or someone with health issues or trauma is through home-cooked meals. But how can you avoid several people turning up with baked lasagne on the same day?
MealTrain is a US-based online platform that helps coordinate a roster of people to support someone in need, or you can organise your own roster.
Serina Bird's new Back to Basics column appears in Money magazine each month.
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