Yesterday, my daughter who is attending graduate school for social work in Denver, called to tell me that she thinks it is best for her to cancel her planned trip home for Thanksgiving thanks to the new COVID warnings and restrictions in Oregon where I live. My first instinct was to say “No, you’ll be fine. Just come home” — because I miss her terribly and it is so hard to have one-third my heart so far away during all of this uncertainty. The likelihood is that that she probably will be fine — but her elderly grandparents, her dad and I may not be. And likelihood doesn’t mean guarantee.

So my daughter told me, “I would rather skip one holiday with you this year and have 20 more years to celebrate together.”

Without actually crying right then, I told her how proud I was of her.

Then, I immediately started thinking of what I could send her so she wouldn’t feel quite so alone — and I wouldn’t feel quite so heartbroken.

So I’ve come up with a few ideas to fill her apartment — and belly — with love, even though I can’t physically be with her.

I know I’m not the only one facing this kind of disappointment this holiday season — I know so many of us are missing elderly parents and grandparents, some of whom will be alone for the first holiday ever, it’s hard, and nothing changes that, even if we know that making the right choice, as echoed by doctors, scientists, and frontline healthcare workers who are begging us to take this seriously.

Even so, I do hope some of these ideas will help you spread holiday love to everyone in your life who you’re missing.

Of course it’s none of these are any substitute for you. But hopefully we’ll get there. Soon enough.

Top image: tabitha turner 

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What to send someone sending a holiday alone this year: Our favorite easy ideas


Send plants and flowers

Quarantine Sucs succulent gift box on Etsy: A lovely gift for someone who can't be with you this holiday

The first thing I did after my daughter called was to reach out to my favorite local florist and order her a bouquet of flowers — shout out to Secret Garden in Denver. Flowers are such a lovely way to remind someone that you are thinking of them every day. I try to support a local business first, but of course you can order through smaller services like The Bouqs, Urban Stems, or new find, Matilda’s Boombox, which lets the recipient build their own bouquet from the elements in the box. (Liz says it’s really fun.)

If you want to send something that lasts longer than fresh flowers, try plants! This quarantine succulent gift box from the GiftBoxLoveCo on Etsy is super cute — and might give a smile that someone could use.

It not only makes a nice centerpiece on their own Thanksgiving table, but they’ll think of you whenever they look at it, every day after.

Send pampering gifts

Self-care gifts for moms: A beauty set from Aloisia Marie Beauty

One way to think of time alone, is more time for face masks, homemade facials, long luxurious baths, slow tea rituals…you name it. Whatever would make them feel pampered, love, and surrounded by an embarrassment of me-time riches is a really thoughtful gift. A favorite small business offering some wonderful beauty gift boxes is Aloisia Beauty, and you’ll find more ideas like that in our list of pampering self-care gift guide for moms… many of which are perfect for grandmas, daughters, and of course, even men.

(Hey, if you’re a guy who loves bubble baths, this is a great opportunity to take a long one!)

Send something to keep them busy

This Winter Woods Paint by Number kit is a nice holiday gift for someone who can't be with you | Cate Paper Co

Back in March when all classes went remote, my daughter bought herself a few paint-by-numbers sets to keep herself busy. Those have all been finished and are hanging on the walls of her new apartment, so I am going to send her some new ones to help pass the time during the holiday break. I think she will love these Winter Woods Paint By Number from CatePaperCo on Etsy. Another fun idea would be a custom photo paint by number — of me! Ha.

But really, any kind of craft activity that they love would be a nice surprise to help pass the time.

Ideas for things to send loved ones who are alone this holiday | cool mom picks

Photo Dollar Gill on Unsplash

If they’re into music, send a ukulele. or some new sheet music. (Then make a plan for a FaceTime concert.) If they’re into gaming, freshen up their PS4 stash or board game collection. If they’re into jigsaw puzzles, that’s an easy one. If they’re into baking…well there’s no shortage of wonderful cooking gifts of all kinds on Cool Mom Eats.

Speaking of which…

Send food. And drinks.

What to send loved ones who are alone this thanksgiving: Food, like the Thanksgiving items from Whole Foods or your local grocer

Thanksgiving food is not really my daughter’s favorite type of meal, but hey, I’m a mom, and I can’t fathom the idea of her heating up some frozen pizza on Thanksgiving.

So I am going to send her a gift card to one of her favorite local restaurant so she can order whatever she likes and not have to worry about staying on budget. Liz put together a list of creative gifts that support local restaurants if you need some more inspiration that also helps out the community.

If your loved ones get  more excited about Thanksgiving food than my daughter, there are some terrific options out there. Grocers like Whole Foods allow you to order a full Thanksgiving meal ahead of time and just pick it up, or even have it delivered. (Their cornbread and sausage stuffing above, mmmm.)

I also found several meal kit delivery companies such as Sun Basket and Blue Apron that are offering Thanksgiving Meal Kits. You can even send a pre-cooked meal like this Gourmet Turkey Feast from Stockyards. or find local favorites like Blue Smoke (mmmm) via  Goldbelly.

Just hurry because most orders have to be placed this week!

MOUTH indie online liquor store: Bourbon Every Month subscription | Cool Mom Picks

And psst… a liquor, champagne, or cocktail delivery is a nice idea, provided you’re not sending it to your underage loved ones.  Check Drizly, which delivers from local liquor stores, or an online service like Mouth (above), which offers some wonderful options from well-curated small brands.

Also, don’t underestimate the power of a good hot chocolate.


Send desserts. Looots of desserts.

Gifts to send to family who can't be with you this Thanksgiving: Key Lime Pie from LittlePieShop

I would say that dessert is probably the most important part of Thanksgiving for my daughter and of course there are some really amazing options for sending desserts to your friends and family — but like most of these ideas you will want to order soon so it arrives in time.

Since my daughter won’t be missing any specific dessert that I make for thanksgiving, I’m spending a little time searching for a local bakery that may deliver. If my search doesn’t result in any good options, I am sending her this Key Lime Pie from Little Pie Company through Goldbelly. Because yum.

If you want to be a little less traditional, Liz highly recommends the cake truffles from Milk Bar — if not their cakes —  and I adore this small box of one dozen. It’s perfect for someone spending the holiday alone.

Ice cream is always a great dessert and eCreamery is one of my favorite sites to order ice cream gifts from and they have great holiday collections.


Send the gift of yourself, virtually

What to send loved ones who are spending this holiday alone, without you. These ideas really help.

I plan to FaceTime my daughter A LOT during the day on Thanksgiving. All-caps necessary. And yes, I realize that this is probably more for me than for her, but tough. I’m the mom and that’s how it is.

If you plan to virtually connect on Thanksgiving with your loved ones throughout the day, we’ve shared lots of option for connecting — just practice a day or two before to make sure everyone knows how to use the camera and microphone.

And uh, the mute button.

And of course, we have tons of ideas for games you can play together over Zoom, which is an extra fun way to be together apart with lots of loved ones, no matter where you are or how spread out.


2020 has been a year of all kinds of ups and downs for all of us. I am grateful that I have such an amazing kid who thinks about the health and wellbeing of others before herself. But I remind myself that it’s also okay to feel disappointment and the heartache that comes from missing those we love especially during the holiday season.

So feel all the feels, and then throw yourself into those things you can control — like sending food, gifts and supporting local businesses.

And of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t end with a big public service announcement to WEAR A MASK so we can get this pandemic under control. We’d really really like to get back to our regularly scheduled celebrations in 2021, right?