Sickness & Surgery: 10 Best Ideas & Gifts for Recovering Friends

My last blog post didn’t go over all that well with you–my beautiful community of amazing women–and you were quick to let me know I had it wrong.  🙂

In hindsight, I probably chose the wrong illustration (a woman recovering from surgery) to make my point: loving acts are loving acts from our friends even if they don’t initially read our minds to proactively give to us what we most need at any given time.  I think we too often take personally someone’s inability to automatically know what we need. But even my husband who lives with me and knows me deeply can’t always guess what I need at different times.  It’s ultimately my responsibility to reflect on what I need, communicate that, and trust that his love is no less sincere as he responds to what I requested.

But to make penance for any implication that someone who’s sick or in pain is at fault (she’s not!) if her friends are disappointing her– let’s make a list of fun ideas and gifts to give to our friends who are in physical recovery mode.  🙂

5 Easy and Affordable Gifts Post Surgery/Health Crisis

Easy because much as I admire those of you who can creatively put together something all thematic and homemade, I’m way more likely to send a gift if all I have to do it order it! Just only click and these gifts will be on their way!

Affordable because while we might want to pull off paying for house cleaning, massages, or meal deliveries for one of our closest friends– most of us are on a budget and will have to suffice with cheaper expressions of care. These are all between $15-35!

  • An infused water bottle “Drink! Drink! Drink!” is what we have to do to recover, but water gets boring after a while! For $14 send her a fun new way to get her fluids down!  And for another $8 you can add a recipe book filled with 80 water & fruit recipes for health!



  • Coloring Book and Pencils!  Prismacolors are by far my favorite colored pencils (and this 24 pack is only $12!)– they are the smoothest and the best! Pick out a fun coloring book to go with it and now they have something fun and creative to do while they heal.  (This one is my personal favorite for only $9 but there are soooo many to choose from!)


  • Tangible Inspiration: This bracelet may not be the most practical of gifts, but I am someone who loves to wear something that reminds me I am loved and that inspires me as I keep on the journey.  This $34 bracelet says “she believed she could, so she did” but there are lots of other styles and quotes to choose from.


  • Gift certificate to Audible.comWhen she just wants to close her eyes but is audibletired of sleeping… an audio book may be the perfect distraction!



  • Dry Shampoo and Other Beauty Care: A can of dry shampoo ($8 for 1 so maybe order 2!) may not heal her faster but it certainly may help her feel more whole! My hair gets so greasy that I’d need a can by my bed!  Here’s my favorite brand. Maybe add a package of bathing wipes to it, some amazing hand lotion, or some tinted lip balm from Burt’s Bee’s so she can feel and look better than she feels!

Are you on Pinterest? I’ve started a board with all these ideas and lots of others if you want to follow along!

5 Thoughtful Ideas of Time and Love

Most of us would probably concur that any gift or expression of love means so much to the recipient, but if you want to go the extra mile and gift your time then these ideas are as beautiful as they come!

  1. Commit to regular check-ins! Reminding our friends that they aren’t forgotten and sending them encouragement is so crucial! Ideas include:  mailing a card every week for the long haul, setting a reminder to text her every Wednesday, or making an extra effort to call her and check in more often (even if it just means leaving loving voice mails!)  @ClinkandChat tweeted me this idea: “text a daily joke or meme for laughs!”
  2. Ask the honest questions and give time for deep conversations.  When we’re present during someone’s pain, commit to being someone who asks the real questions that give them permission to share what’s going on inside of them.  Everyone else is asking about their physical health… be willing to process how that is affecting them:  How has this experience most affected you? What has been the most discouraging aspect of this? What has most surprised you in this experience? How would you describe how you’ve changed from this experience?
  3. Keep giving permission for them to be just as they are. Lots of women said what they most appreciated were the friends who kept normalizing the process and were comfortable with not needing the other to feel cheered or “better.” @GenerousAlix tweeted “Don’t rush the process!”  And one friend said to me “The person I was most excited to have come visit me was the one who texted and said ‘I’m coming over un-showered and I’ll be so disappointed if you dare get out of bed or even brush your hair before I come.’ as it made me let go of any need to prepare for her arrival.
  4. Offer your time in direct service.  In an ideal world, if a friend asked how they could help, we’d name a few things, but most of us don’t want to be inconvenient or assuming.  So if a friend said to me “Here are some options of things I can do… you either pick one or I’ll pick for you, but I am going to do something and I’d rather it be helpful to you… so if you want to vote, please speak up!” then I’d feel that much better picking one!  Two awesome ideas come from a couple members from our women’s friendship community, Kim Montenyohl suggested walking your friends dog which I think is awesome! And Julia Krout talked about how lonely she felt when she was physically limited after a surgery so the friends who would call and say “I want to bring you dinner and eat with you!” meant so much!  Other ideas could be: offering to do some online research for her (follow-up care, treatment reviews, best physical therapists in her area) if there’s anything she’s needing to eventually decide, offering to make her kids lunches if they go to school with your kids, call to ask her what you can pick up for her while you’re out running errands one afternoon, offer to attend an important appointment with her or to drive her home, or insist on doing her laundry no matter how much she objects.  🙂
  5. Organize food drop-off and donations!  Set up a free account on and within 5 minutes you can start inviting all her friends to sign up to cook a meal, have food delivered, or make donations to help cover medical expenses! It’s easy to coordinate and you can help all her friends get involved so she feels loved and cared for in her recovery!

Please add your ideas in the comments and let’s crowd source an amazing list that we can all use as an inspirational resource!




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11 Responses to Sickness & Surgery: 10 Best Ideas & Gifts for Recovering Friends

  1. I actually appreciated your last blog post. I had a “friend” who broke off with me because I did not meet her expectations for how to behave when she was not well. It really hurt because I did not know what she wanted and she didn’t really give me a chance.

    • ShastaGFC says:

      Thank you for sharing that… there are so many friendships that end over unmet expectations and the stories we tell about those events, assuming our friends are bad or selfish; when really we might just too busy, not intuitive enough, or simply giving in a way that doesn’t matter as much as something else might. I’m so sorry that your friend took that personally without giving you the chance to show up in a meaningful way!

  2. wendy Colgan says:

    Take her car to be cleaned or hire somebody to wash all the windows in the house. Can be such a gift when you are stuck inside and can’t do for yourself.

  3. Daneen Akers says:

    A grocery run or Target run, especially after a new baby. I had such amazing support with my last baby from the community who made us meals for a month (organized via MealTrain), but we lived 40 miles from a good grocery store or Target, and it was so helpful when a friend would text that she was going to Trader Joe’s and Target (they were in the same shopping complex) and would happily pick things up for me. And I appreciated her giving me the receipt to reimburse her because if she hadn’t, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable continuing to say yes to this super tangible form of help and support.

    • ShastaGFC says:

      Running errands seems like such a great one because it doesn’t take that much more for the person who is out and about to get a few more things but it saves the person at home a tremendous amount of work and energy trying to get out of the house! You’re someone who loves people so thoughtfully and well (and actually asks for help really well, too!)– your friends are lucky! 😉

  4. Shasta, I want to tell you that I loved your last post and thought it was great — because you got all of us thinking and talking, even if some of us disagreed. You presented some ideas that got us thinking. I believe the willingness to share opposing views in a peaceful, healthy way is another great friendship topic!

    When my friends are ill, I make a pot of soup or chili and deliver it in disposable containers (no return necessary) so that they don’t have to cook.

    I just endured a painful round of surgery myself, and was touched when a few of my neighbor-friends dropped off simple dinners for my husband and me. They didn’t ask what we needed, but simply responded with something basic and wonderful. My husband and I didn’t have to cook or get carry-out for three nights.

    When my mother died a couple of years ago, we were also on the receiving end of thoughtful gestures like that. Our neighbor made a complete dinner for us after we returned from the first night at the funeral home. As a funeral director told me recently, when someone loses a loved one, the worst thing you can do is “ask” if you can help. People who are grieving (or ill) sometimes don’t always know what they need — nor do they know how to respond when you ask what you can do to help. Instead, the kindest thing is to DO something for them; show up.

    • ShastaGFC says:

      Cindy– that’s a beautiful way to frame the differing ideas. 🙂 Thank you for your graciousness and for being willing to push back and share your view. Different viewpoints do add so much and they definitely got me to thinking, too! And thanks for your contribution here in this comment, too! xo

  5. Ktmatt21 says:

    I had a friend who ran a Great Clips near a hospital I was at once… so she sent one of her stylists to come and wash my hair and style it any way I wanted. It was amazing, because honestly… when you break a hip you can’t take a normal shower, and the hair wash caps are pretty bad still… and my head hurt from no washing… so not only did it help me feel more whole, but helped in physical recovery….

    and I think your list is very spot on… I’ve been in recovery mode several times, and loved thoughtful things like this.

    Also… I had a friend go out of her way to get me a portable CD Player 2 CDs, and batteries, because she knew it would be hard to deal with charging devices in the hospital, but I loved music….

  6. Jennifer C. says:

    I have a chronic illness and just lost my Mom suddenly. My husband’s grown kids approach difficult situations in life by saying we should let them know what we need. I asked my husband to ask them for condolence cards as I am learning that sending condolence cards or any cards acknowledging life events is a lost art. They both did and I am grateful.