≡ Menu

Memorial Gifts For Grieving Dad

This situation doesn’t directly involve me, but I’m still curious as to the etiquette.

My boyfriend is a welder and he has recently begun to create and sell customized metal plates with designs welded on. He is marketing them through Instagram. He has gotten orders for all sorts of designs, from Celtic crosses to business logos to butterflies. However, a recent order has me a bit boggled.

A lot of the welders on Instagram all like to talk with each other and know about each other’s lives, even though they are in totally different states or even countries. A welder who has ordered from Boyfriend before placed an order for a custom plate that will serve as a memorial to a baby who tragically passed away a month ago. The strange part is that the man who placed the order is not related to the baby. He is ordering it as a “surprise gift” for the Grieving Dad, who is also a welder and part of the Instagram welding community. He didn’t have a specific design in mind, and pretty much just told Boyfriend the situation and the name of the baby.

So now it is up to Boyfriend to create an appropriate image to memorialize this baby, whom he never met, at the request of someone else who never met the baby either (to my knowledge).

I think that this is a rather inappropriate situation. Grieving Dad is likely to want to memorialize his baby in his own way. There may be certain motifs, symbols, or details that would ideally be placed on a memorial plaque to remind the parents of their baby but will now be left out, because Boyfriend doesn’t know anything else about the baby besides her name. Not to mention that it sounds like Grieving Dad shared the information about his baby to a few close Instagram welder friends, and spreading it around the community seems a bit uncouth to me.

Boyfriend has already committed to making the plate, but I would just like to know what etiquette rules have to say about ordering personalized memorial gifts for people without them asking or giving indication that they want one. Am I overthinking it? 0916-16

Yes, you are overthinking it.    This is a business transaction between your boyfriend and a buyer.   While the buyer may be wrong in his choice of gift,  it isn’t within the seller’s sphere of responsibility to examine the motivations and relationships of the people buying his products.   Hopefully Grieving Dad will recognize the thought behind the gift.    Your boyfriend needs to create the plate as requested, receive payment, send it to the buyer and think more of it since the plate is not his gift to give.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • NostalgicGal September 22, 2016, 5:43 am

    I have been a contract artist for years. What that means is customer comes to me and orders something. We finalize design, materials, price, and delivery date; then they pay as arranged and I would make whatever and deliver it by date.

    The boyfriend is being contracted to make something in the same way by a client. So, since he accepted the work, his duty is to produce the item and deliver it on date to the customer, and after that, it’s up to the customer what happens to the item. Boyfriend may know the intended recipient but. He is merely doing a piece of custom work. Should be no conflict, the issue will happen AFTER he delivers the item, and it’s not his problem.

    It may be tacky and presumptuous but it is not the boyfriend’s problem. It may become the customer’s problem but that is not the boyfriend’s problem.

  • o_gal September 22, 2016, 6:02 am

    Admin is right – you are overthinking it. It also sounds like you think there is only One True Memorial, and that is not the case. I am sure that the grieving Dad will receive lots of things, and will probably be very touched that a fellow welder did a memorial this way.

  • lkb September 22, 2016, 6:24 am

    I wonder if it would be possible for Boyfriend or Buyer to approach Grieving Dad privately and say something on the order of:

    “We are so sorry for your loss. As a gesture of sympathy, we’ve arranged with (Boyfriend) to create a (appropriate term for plate). However, as this a very personal situation, we thought it be more appropriate for you to choose the design, adding the symbols etc. most meaningful to you. Please contact (Boyfriend) to make arrangements.
    Please know that you are in our thoughts and prayers at this difficult time.” Signed (Buyer, Instagram Welder Site member)

    • clairedelune September 22, 2016, 1:20 pm

      I don’t think it’s really up to her boyfriend to stage-manage someone else’s gift. If this were the infant’s actual headstone or something of that sort, then of course the most immediate mourners would determine the design, but this is just a gift someone else is giving in memory of the baby, for the parents to do with as they wish. They’re not obligated to display it.

  • LeeLee88 September 22, 2016, 6:32 am

    I don’t think it’s an inappropriate gift at all, myself. I worked in a metal shop for years, and we were often asked to create memorial plaques, including many for babies/children who had passed. When in doubt, go with a simple pattern like flowers (dogwood is always popular), or a teddy bear, etc. The customer isn’t “spreading it around the community” if he’s just asking your BG for a simple business transaction, but you are spreading it around the internet because you can’t believe someone might want to do something special and sweet for a baby they never met. Honestly, that part made you sound cold.

    • clairedelune September 22, 2016, 1:22 pm

      I also think that “spreading it around the community” isn’t inherently awful in this case. It’s not a shameful secret–the baby is a person, who died. There’s no reason to go out of one’s way to hide that.

      • Aletheia September 29, 2016, 2:14 am

        @clairedelune: I can see where you’re coming from with OP thinking it’s a shameful secret, but the way it appeared to me the first time around was that the OP didn’t want to cause the dad to have any more pain during this time. He only told a few, presumably close, friends, so he didn’t want it to be going around the community as a whole, and if it got out (as a rumor, not as him telling more people), that would mean people would constantly be asking him about something he would probably much rather be processing on his own. When/if he was ready to talk about it with more people he would, but until then it would stay with the people he decided to tell, you know?

  • Angela September 22, 2016, 6:44 am

    Although not at the same level of grief, my stepmom lost one of her dogs last year and she was devastated. She had been very active in a Facebook group dedicated to this dog’s breed and one of the other members had a print sent to her that had a picture and some kind words on it. Stepmom was extremely touched and displayed it prominently.
    My guess is that the grieving dad would receive this in much the same spirit.

    • DanaJ September 22, 2016, 1:32 pm

      …And on the opposite side of the spectrum, a friend of mine send a very similar gift to a close friend who had lost a pet. The recipient was so upset by the reminder that they are no longer on speaking terms.

      You can’t assume that all people will accept such a gift the same way. People deal differently with grief and it’s not always rational.

      But as for the OP — that’s just a business transaction between Boyfriend and the person commissioning the piece. Whether or not Boyfriend thinks the gift is ill-advised is immaterial. It’s not his call, unless he is also good friends with the recipient and already knows — quite definitely — that it’s a faux pas.

      • BellyJean September 23, 2016, 8:12 am

        And then on the flip side, other friends may be offended that nobody acknowledged their pain in a big way. Humans are weird and interesting. You’re right DanaJ – “People deal differently with grief and it’s not always rational.”

      • Becca September 23, 2016, 11:14 am

        There will always be a few that have a bad reaction like that, it’s the risk you take when you roll the dice with any gift you decide to give I’ve learned.

  • Patti Brant September 22, 2016, 8:12 am

    I don’t find this at all inappropriate. I am friends with a large number of artists and they are always creating special memorial gifts for people they do not know. Very recently, I had a memorial pendant commissioned for a friend whose special bunny passed away. The pendant was some fur and a poop from said bunny encased in acrylic. Not weird at all.

  • stacey September 22, 2016, 10:41 am

    Your husband can generalize his design. It might help lessen the impact if the gift is not wanted.

  • LadyV September 22, 2016, 10:51 am

    Multiple creep-out factor here. First, it just doesn’t seem appropriate for anyone but a family member – and a close one at that – to purchase a memorial plaque, especially for a child, and more especially for one the purchaser has no familiarity with. Second, as the LW said, it doesn’t seem right that the person ordering the plaque spread around news of the child’s death, which Grieving Dad might have only wanted a few people to know about. To me, it would have been much more appropriate for the purchaser to say to Grieving Dad, “I don’t know if you’re planning on any kind of headstone or memorial, but if you are, I would like to contribute towards it.”

    • Dee September 22, 2016, 12:52 pm

      LadyV – I agree about the creep-out feel. The buyer is certainly doing it out of a good place in his heart but the OP is listening to her instincts and there is something there. I don’t think grieving dad should have this dilemma put upon him at this time. He will feel forced to at least consider using this plaque as the memorial. That’s way too much intrusion. This is a very private matter that should not be entered into without request by the grieving parents.

      All these people are on the same instagram community so Boyfriend cannot separate himself from this that much; it will look as if he is part of the decision to do this, not just the contracted welder. He will get some of the blame, I’m sure, even if it isn’t delivered outright. I think, for the sake of the “friendship” with grieving dad and his business, he should back away or ask the buyer to contact grieving dad to find out if he’s okay with this. Boyfriend is too closely associated with everyone involved to call himself completely neutral.

      I just think this is going to cause unnecessary pain for the grieving parents (no one is even mentioning grieving mom – surely she deserves consideration, too?). This is such a private matter that entering into it unasked is like walking a mine field. I can’t see how this memorial could do anything to ease the pain but the potential for bad feelings is great. I wouldn’t touch this with a ten foot pole.

      • Ulla September 23, 2016, 1:35 am

        Nothing will ease the pain, that very unrealistic requirement for a gift to grieving parents. However, there is quite many people who get comfort from knowing that other people are thinking of them with good thoughts and that they feel compelled to do something for them.

        Now, I do agree that as with any action there is always possibility that it’s wrong for the specific person, so obviously there are risks, as always. But I for example don’t think that the grieving dad would feel special need to use the plaque as memorial. Now if it was given by some close friend, well, then I could see a grieving parent to be torn about if they should use it to avoid hurting the gift giver’s feelings when they’d really rather use something else. But gift from member of internet community would be more like “oh, how lovely he thought of me when I wouldn’t expect them really care. But we already have memorial, so I just back this up to attic and think no further about this item.”

        • Dee September 24, 2016, 12:25 am

          Ulla – If the buyer is not a close friend of grieving dad then why is he buying what would seem to be such an expensive gift? I do think there is a close relationship there, or else this is just weirder than I even originally thought. For myself, I would absolutely not want to be given a memorial thing for my child or my husband; it is a private matter for close family to choose, no one else, and I would have to throw the item away (obviously it couldn’t be given away). The conundrum of what to do with the item would be just another burden to place on those grieving. Personally, I think it is a bit selfish to impose on the family like this when it would be so easy to do something for the family that does not require anything further of them.

  • DGS September 22, 2016, 11:20 am

    While personally (I have buried two infants before having our two healthy children), I would be quite emotionally overwrought at receiving such a gift without notice (both grateful and overwhelmed and grief-stricken and all manner of emotions), I think I would have understood the spirit in which it was given and the kind, generous intentions behind it rather than dwelling on the macabre aspects of it. I am not sure if I would choose to display it, but I would certainly be thankful for the kindness behind it.

    That being said, I agree with the Admin that this is purely a business transaction. It may be a very sensitive one, but as far OP and her partner are concerned, their job is to make the order to the customer’s request and make sure it is delivered. The recipient in this case, is not likely to shoot the messenger, so to speak.

  • padua September 22, 2016, 11:30 am

    i agree with admin. this is a gesture from one artisan to another. it doesn’t mean that the grieving family has to use it in any way that would lessen their grieving.

  • BagLady September 22, 2016, 2:54 pm

    Dad’s Instagram buddy isn’t picking out a headstone for the child. This is more like a sympathy card — only larger and more durable. Its existence certainly doesn’t preclude Dad from designing his own in the child’s memory.

    • Anon September 23, 2016, 7:37 am

      That’s exactly what I was thinking. No one is saying the guy has to use this plaque, he may have already made one himself or asked for it from someone else. He could just put it with the other memorial items if he chooses.

  • Becca September 22, 2016, 3:29 pm

    I just saw a wonderful gesture of kindness after a doggy that I follow on IG passed away. Someone who also followed the account sent a illustration of dear doggy to the owners, they appreciated it very much.

    Just because it’s not something that you would do for someone you didn’t know personally, doesn’t mean others are the same way. The buyer knows more than you do and whereas it may or may not be received poorly, that’s none of your business. It comes across as meddlesome to worry so much about a stranger being kind to what you see as another stranger.

  • Denise September 22, 2016, 9:44 pm

    Tokens, gifts, memorial jewelry and cards that come from a place of love, compassion and empathy are always received with appreciation and gratitude. It’s not so much what will be on the item, but the thought and time behind it.

    From a mother forever grieving her baby.

  • Semperviren September 23, 2016, 12:15 am

    Admin is spot-on. This is a business transaction between the LW’s BF and the buyer. It may or may not be in questionable taste but it’s not the BF’s place to evaluate or manage that for the buyer.

  • Just4Kicks September 23, 2016, 1:43 am

    I’m so sorry and extend my sympathy and prayers to all the fine commenters here who have lost children.

    When I was in my early twenties, I became pregnant, and my swell (not!) boyfriend of over a year dumped me immediately when I told him I was pregnant.
    I decided to have the baby and give him up for a adoption.
    I was not in a place to care for a child as much as I would have liked to.
    My dad and I had many tearful conversations, trying to figure out a way for me to keep the baby.
    My dad and I sat down one day and he said though it would blow through much of his and my mom’s savings, we could “squeak by” money wise and I was so grateful, with a plan in place for my paying them back when possible.
    Until….One morning I was woken up (I was living at home and putting myself through college at the time) by a VERY heated argument between my parents.
    One of the many hurtful things my mom said was “WHY should we spend OUR SAVINGS to help out our daughter who was stupid enough to get herself knocked up?!?”
    My birth control had failed me, I didn’t plan this at all.
    My dad sided with my mom, and plans for adoption was put into motion.
    May I say that I didn’t expect one dime from my folks, they didn’t have to give me anything, but their reaction hurt a lot.
    I chose a semi open adoption, which meant I would receive letters, calls and updates from the adoptive couple.
    Every year on my son’s birthday, my folks would go to their grandsons birthday party, and my mom was always VERY angry with me that I wouldn’t go with them.
    It was just too painful, I couldn’t bring myself to go.
    My mom would bring pictures from the party and regale me with stories about how “humiliated” she was explaining to all the guests that I couldn’t “be bothered” to attend.
    That wasn’t it at ALL, and all these years later is still a large source of anger and resentment between the two of us.
    I couldn’t be in the presence of my beautiful little boy and his loving family, just too painful a reminder of what I’d lost, still hurts today all these years later, and my kids know that every year on his birthday it’s a sad day for me.
    Best of luck to all going through the loss of a child.

    • Just4Kicks September 23, 2016, 9:29 am

      May I add (to a very long post …. Sorry!) that I’m in no way comparing to giving a child up for adoption to those folks that have deceased children.
      That is a horrible thing to have to go through, I meant no disrespect to anyone.

  • Ashley September 23, 2016, 11:46 am

    I see it kind of like a giant metal sympathy card.

    The OP is Hallmark, and is only tasked with making the card which someone else is going to buy and give.

    The OP is not responsible for any feelings associated with the card.

    That may be oversimplifying it a bit but it’s the best metaphor I could think of.

    • Mustard September 24, 2016, 6:27 am

      Exactly what I was thinking.

  • Angela September 24, 2016, 3:07 pm

    You can identify with someone else’s grief even when it’s not the same as your own.

  • NostalgicGal September 24, 2016, 8:03 pm

    MANY years ago I did a stint as an art major (already was a pro artist in one medium) and we had some fellow keep calling the department because he wanted a design for a candle stand for a memorial for an infant (to be given to their church). Finally I said I’d do it, took the dimensions given and drew up a celtic tree of life intertwined design that could be cut in with a router, on rollsheet vellum (so to scale). He showed up and had a cow because that wasn’t what he wanted (angels and cherubs, flowers, hand carved and he didn’t mention any of that), and he expected a FINISHED 4 sided stand for his $20. I informed him I was told he wanted a design, there it was, to scale. He decided to pay the money to get the design I was holding and I never found out if he ever got anyone to manufacture it. I wasn’t going to put $200 worth of wood and a couple weeks of work into producing the stand for $20…. but the department head thanked me for getting rid of the guy. No it didn’t sound like it was his child either… sigh.

    • Just4Kicks September 25, 2016, 11:08 am

      That sounds like a really beautiful piece of art, I wish you could show a photo of it. 🙂

      My sister went to art school and got fairly good at doing portraits.
      The people who would ask her to do one of their friend/mom/gerbil and then throw her a five dollar bill and a “Thanks! Wow!” was astonishing.
      She actually lost a very good friend who asked her to do an oil portrait of herself and her husband (from a photo on their wedding day) for an anniversary present….And was just absolutely PISSED when my sister presented her with a beautiful, very large painting and a bill, mostly for materials, she could’ve charged her for her time but didn’t.
      This “friend” was beyond angry that my sister DARED to have the NERVE to charge her!

      • NostalgicGal September 26, 2016, 4:10 am

        I learned very early on to discuss price right up front. If I’m doing it free or cheap I’ll mention it right away. If I’m expecting to be paid I will start out evenly and businesswoman professionally about that topic, I do not embarrass or can be intimidated when it comes to payment any more. I’d rather have the client walk away at the front than be ticked off at the end.

        Yes on people thinking your art should be free or very cheap, is legion. I have many stories about that. I learned to develop the thick hide and ability to stand up for making a living wage, IN the USA, for my work. We can thank mass produced prepackaged cheap art at a lot of places for the reason most people don’t want to pay anything for real art. (no matter what the medium). I sold the rights to the design and I didn’t follow up on whether or not the item was made, as I wasn’t paid to. So I have nothing to share on what it looked like.

  • Lex September 26, 2016, 5:33 am

    As admin states: Your Boyfriend operates a business; a customer has placed an order for a gift; his obligation is to fulfil the order to the specifications agreed upon with the client. If the client isn’t giving appropriate information and your Boyfriend doesn’t have a contract in place that specifies the minimum level of specification required from a client, then that is his affair. The context of the gift, nor the eventual recipient are relevant to him providing this service – regardless of whether he belongs to a particular community of people familiar to you or not. The only way in which this should or could become an etiquette issue is if $CLIENT asked $BOYFRIEND to contribute financially in some way as a fellow member of the community. Since the Client is paying for the item, this is a business transaction. Nothing more.

  • Pat September 26, 2016, 9:28 am

    I think the worst thing a person can do is ignore someone else’s bereavement. Often, people don’t say or do anything because they just don’t know what to say or do. Nothing said or done will to fix the situation or bring the loved one back – so often it just seems futile. But, something is better than nothing and showing you care in one way or another is all you can do. I worry that all the second guessing and “evaluation” when people don’t come up with exactly the right words or exactly the right gesture is just going to discourage people from saying or doing anything at all.

  • Rachel September 26, 2016, 11:47 pm

    Good advice from admin.

  • MrsSML September 27, 2016, 10:17 am

    As someone who works in the funeral industry and with grieving families on a daily basis, I think this gesture is lovely. The customer is not asking your boyfriend to make a grave marker nor is he pushing an unwanted gift at a family. He’s simply asking for something to give to grieving parents in memoriam of their child. People do this. And these gifts tend to be cherished as a token of love and friendship.
    And as the admin said, this is a business transaction between your boyfriend and his customer.

  • Elisabeth September 27, 2016, 3:01 pm

    OP here. I wasn’t really asking whether or not my boyfriend should do the plate – I understand that he has an obligation to fulfill orders. I was more wondering whether the other person’s decision was sound, in case that sort of thing happens in my life in the future. My assumption was that it was inappropriate to make a memorial for an acquaintance’s lost baby.
    As it turns out, Grieving Dad contacted my boyfriend after he had already made the plate, to ask for a plate. At that point Boyfriend had to reveal that the other person had already ordered a plate as a gift, and Grieving Dad was speechless and extremely touched. So chalk me up to being wrong!
    Thank you Admin and kind commenters.

    • Pat September 28, 2016, 9:54 am

      Your boyfriend must be very talented and do beautiful work!

      • Elisabeth September 29, 2016, 10:57 am

        He is, and he does! Thank you!