What Your Struggling Friend Really Wants

Do you have someone in your life who is in the midst of hard times? Want to brighten their day, fill their mailbox with happiness, let them know you love them from afar? Here are a few gifts ideas from this gal, who has lived through a hard time or two, times made just a bit easier thanks to the items below.


  1. Click on the images for direct access to the retailers, because even if you’re not the one with hard times, you deserve something in your day to be easy!

  2. None of these retailers or authors are paying me to promote their items. Although if they’d like to….

  3. Please think carefully about the specific situation your friend is in before purchasing any of these items. Though these were comforting to me, every situation and person is unique.

  4. Let’s begin!

Cozy Blankets:

Virginia Satir once said “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.” I’m no hugtologist, but I would venture to guess that people going through hard times need even more than that. When you can’t be there to hug your person in person, send them a cozy blanket.

Last Christmas, my very best friend gave me the softest blanket in all the land (seen below) and it is currently tied with my Keurig as my favorite earthly possession. I carry it with me from room to room and often have to pry one or both cats off of it to do so.

When buying a blanket, think soft and practical. Your person is in the midst of hard times, she does not have the bandwidth to bring a blanket to the dry cleaner or hand wash that thing when the coffee spills. Don’t get a blanket that ends up being needy. She’s got enough of that already. Repeat after me: soft and practical.

I also just found this one (on the right) by an artist I love that is just perfect for sending long distance love.

Blanket Scarves:

Anyone who reads my blog, follows me on Instagram, or has ever seen me in person between the months of October and March, knows that blanket scarves are a constant part of my wardrobe. For an actual list of the reasons blanket scarves are the best thing around, check out this post. I love the comfort, security, warmth, and “it doesn’t matter what shirt you’re actually wearing or how clean it is(n’t) because the blanket scarf makes everything look cute”ness about them so much, that I’m starting to worry that generations from now, my great-great grandchildren will look back at photos and whisper to each other, “Did great-great grandma even have a neck?” It’s winter and life is hard and it’s likely your person wants to be warm, cozy, and stylish without trying. Don’t just sit there! Buy her a blanket scarf!

My favorite spot to buy these sweet rectangles of goodness is the Dollar Spot at Target. They have them for $7 and they are lovely and soft and magical and every time I go, there are new patterns available. Did I mention that they are only $7?!?! Go!

Well, first read the rest of this post…then go!

Awesome Socks:

I went through a phase last year where people were sending me socks with messages on them and it was amazing. Suiting up for a long day of caregiving, working, parenting, living felt better when I had, under my boots, adorable socks with irreverent and/or inspirational messages. Note: the socks should not say something that would be said as part of the positive space, such as #blessed, but instead a message saved for the negative space, a phrase the sock wearer perhaps could not wear on a t-shirt at work, but can rock on her feet, hidden from view.

I also love socks from Darn Tough (pair on right) because not only do they say “Darn Tough” on them, which is an inspirational message in itself, but they have a lifetime guarantee and guess what? Your friend deserves to have one thing in her life that promises to not fall apart.


Not sure what to say to your friend because you’ve never experienced anything close to what she’s dealing with? First let me say this: don’t ever let that stop you. Tell her you love her and you’re here for her and you’re sending her a blanket scarf.

Once you’ve said that, let these authors who have been there take over. These are just a few books that have spoken to me during hard times. Please read the descriptions carefully and make sure that the book you choose is a good fit for the person and the situation at hand.

Not sure? Feel free to send me a message and I’ll do my best to be your literary matchmaker.

Empathy Cards:

Have you stood in front of a rack of greeting cards before, realizing that the platitudes within them were just not going to cut it for the person in your life having hard times? Let me introduce you to the amazing studio of Emily McDowell. She created a line of Empathy Cards and they say the words your person longs to hear. Stock up because there will always be someone in your life who needs one or more of these cards.

Favorite Beverages or Snacks:

It’s possible that during these hard times, drinking a cup of coffee or a glass of wine may be the most comforting time of your friend’s day. Sending her a supply of her favorite coffee, tea, wine, etc. is never a bad idea. She will love that you recognized that sipping on that drink is a source of loveliness in her life and will be grateful to know she is well-stocked.

Not sure what her favorites are? Comfort and Joy Tea is my go-to for obvious reasons and because it’s delicious. Think about it: you’d be sending her actual comfort and joy. Yes, please.

You could also be clever like my friend, Jackie, who brought not only my favorite kind of wine, but found one with my husband’s name on it. #weshouldallbelikejackie!

Delivery Services:

Life is hard for your friend right now, but unfortunately her empty fridge and dinner-demanding children haven’t gotten that memo. You likely can’t make the hard thing in her life go away, but you can take grocery shopping and making dinner off her list by buying her subscriptions or gift cards to places like Shipt or BiteSquad.

A friend bought me a yearlong subscription to Shipt and I thank both her and Jesus for that subscription every single time I use it. Both of these services are game changers when time and energy are short and/or when it’s challenging to leave the house. There are many versions of both of these services out there, but these are the two that I use and love.

Your friend’s town doesn’t have services like these? Consider getting her a gift card to a local gas station, so that at least if she has to go to the store, she can do so on a free tank of gas.


If your friend is dealing with medically-related hard things for themselves or a loved one, a few items to consider may be:

  • mini hand sanitizer bottles to ward off germs

  • mini lotion bottles to repair hands from all of the hand sanitizer

  • small notebook with attached pencil for writing notes at medical appointments

  • gift card to the hospital/clinic coffee shop or cafeteria

  • parking pass for the hospital/clinic

Still not sure what to get?

Come close, I have to tell you a secret: I know what your friend really wants.

Your friend wants to know that she’s not alone.

She wants to know that you are not going to disappear when things in her life are hard.
She wants to know that you see her, you hear her, you love her, you are there for her, and most importantly that you’re not going anywhere, no matter how long these hard times may last.

She may love receiving any of the items above, but not just because they will make her days a bit more simple, sweet, or cozy.
She will love them because they are signs that you recognize that times are tough, that you see what’s going on in her negative space, and that you are not about to be frightened away.

You, my friend, are the gift she really wants.

You…and a blanket scarf.

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8 Responses

  1. I was the lucky recipient of two of those books listed and I read them cover to cover and they were fantastic. As are you, Miss Allison. Thanks for this and all the things you do! Lynne

  2. Per your literary matchmaker comment, have you listened to the podcast whatshouldireadnext? If not, something tells me that you should. 🙂

  3. I just bought some of those awesome cards from Emily McDowell – buy 6 get 25% off. Those are really good gift ideas. Sorry Allison, for the "bleep" that you are going through right now. Nothing to say to make it better. You are loved by the larger community, but no one wants to say anything directly because you may not know us. (UMN H&N Cancer team).

    1. Of course I remember you, Joey! We are always in need of more love so tell your team never to be afraid to reach out to us in support. (BTW I have Negative Space business cards now! Let me know if you want some to hand out!)

  4. Via your You Tube via, via Facebook, I found your Negative Space blog. And as Thanksgiving approaches, just wanted to thank you. Everything…every.damn.thing…I read on your blog so far I can not only relate to, but am comforted by, inspired by, and love, love, love. The love of my life suffered full aortic dissection (condition which killed John Ritter) and although partially repaired, his life is tenuous, his condition(s) constantly changing, so I am his caretaker, and grateful to be able to be that every day. This blog is timely and I intend to order several items you recommend, and could only wish someone would order me 1! lol. Hugs to you and your hubby. Much love – Charlotte

    1. Charlotte, I am so glad you found me, so glad my words bring comfort, inspiration, and love to you. I am now on your team, my friend. Email me through "Contact" above and send me your mailing address so I can send a little love your way. Love to you and your husband, Allison <3

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