December 24, 2018  — Categorized in: ,

Gift ideas for people in your life who have been impacted by a disaster

While gift-giving can be fun, it can also be challenging to find the ‘right’ gift for some of our loved ones, especially for those who have recently experienced a disaster or other traumatic event. Loved ones who have experienced disaster may still be grappling with their losses, painful memories, or other difficult emotions as they move forward on the path of recovery.

During holidays, birthdays, or other special occasions, you might feel concerned that gifting your typical material item to a disaster survivor or responder may fall short of its intended purpose. You may wonder what good is giving or getting things in the aftermath of experiencing or witnessing personal tragedy?

The following are gift ideas for such scenarios that can easily be adapted for individuals and families, ages of the recipients, and budgets of the gift-givers, and can all go far in making someone feel cared for or thought about after a disaster.

Gift of Time
A gift certificate for 2 hours of housekeeping from a local cleaning service, a 10-ticket pack of a super-duper deluxe car wash, or even organizing with other family/friends a ‘meal train’ (https://www.mealtrain.com/) week of dinners, all can not only help disaster survivors or responders feel valued, but can also give them the gift of time — time they can use to regain steam from having to fill out complex and multiple disaster assistance applications or recover after long deployments or shifts responding to a local or faraway emergency.

Gift of an Experience
From gift cards for a night out at the movies or a favorite restaurant, to tickets to a concert or play, from a walking tour to a seasonal pass for a state or national park, relaxing, experience-based gifts disaster survivors or responders a reason to go out and take their mind off of things. An experience gift can help them engage in doing something fun, while adding to the emotional reserves they need to keep coping with the stress of ongoing recovery. Bonus: Promise that you’ll do these experiences with your loved one, so that you’re also giving the gift of companionship!

Gift of Doing Something New
Has the survivor or responder always talked about wanting to learn a new language, play a musical instrument, paint, knit, or some other art or craft? Gift them a lesson. It always helps disaster survivors and responders to draw on their usual coping strategies to get through tough times, but during their long term recovery it can also be beneficial to try new ways of relieving stress. If they stick with it, this new tool or strategy can become a regular part of their coping and self-care rituals.

Gift of Wellness
While it may seem indulgent after a disaster, a gift certificate to a spa, a massage, a yoga class or other fitness class can give your loved one not only the gift of an experience or possibly trying something new, but can also give them a real mental and physical benefit as well. Other gifts for wellness might be a guided journal, book of meditations/prayers, or aromatherapy (candles, incense, essential oils/diffuser).

Gift of Resources
If your loved one suffered financial loss after the disaster or is a responder that has a hard time making ends meet, don’t underestimate the value of simply giving cash or gift cards for practical, everyday expenses like gas or groceries. With permission from your loved one, , you can even offer to launch a crowdfunding campaign as a gift. The website/magazine Inc. has a blog that offers a breakdown of some of the most trusted, common crowdfunding platforms at https://www.inc.com/larry-kim/op-10-crowdfunding-platforms-of-2018.html

Gift of a Non-Profit Donation in their Honor
Another way you can help your loved one feel valued is to acknowledge and honor their own concern for others impacted by the disaster by making a donation (or, again, organizing a crowdfunding campaign) in their honor. Vibrant Emotional Health provides services to support people emotionally affected by disasters and crises. National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (National VOAD) is an organization that brings together non-governmental and faith-based not-for-profit disaster relief organizations in the spirit of ‘communication, coordination, collaboration, and cooperation’- find a breakdown of their member organizations and how you can donate to each @ https://www.nvoad.org/voad-members/national-members/ Vibrant Emotional Health is included in the list, as we are National Associate Members of NVOAD.


Christian Burgess, MSW, is Director of the Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH), a program of the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration administered by Vibrant Emotional Health. If you or someone you know is experiencing distress or other mental health concerns after a natural or human-caused disaster, reach out to the DDH for 24/7 emotional support: call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746.

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