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Bereavement Cookies – A Sad Name for the Best Sugar Cookies I’ve Ever Eaten

In Jewish tradition, after someone dies, the mourning family has a stream of visitors for meals and prayers for a full week – it’s called sitting shiva.  I didn’t fully comprehend the value of the tradition until six years ago when my husband lost his father.  Although hosting guests every day can get old and you just want some quiet time to think, being surrounded by people helps you to see that you aren’t dealing with your loss alone and it gets you through a very difficult period.  There’s always plenty of time to be alone and reflect when the week is over.

Guests at a shiva home are expected to arrive with food – which brings me to the bereavement cookies.

For a few years, there was a run of deaths of family and friends on my husband’s side of the family (why do deaths always seem to come in waves?).  For each shiva, a family friend, Christie, would bake what became dubbed “bereavement cookies.”  I was always touched by the fact that she took the time to bake them (providing an extra much-needed loving touch among the sea of store-bought platters) and how perfect a choice they were for the occasion.  Bereavement cookies – simple sugar cookies – add a splash of sweetness to a sad time without the festive joy of, say, a colorful cupcake with a big happy swirl of frosting.

Christie’s bereavement cookies, however, are too good to only appear when someone dies.  They happen to be the best sugar cookies I’ve ever had.  These sugar cookies have just the right amount of butter, they’re rich but not oily, they’re sweet (but only slightly so), they have a nice crunch, and they are easy to roll out and cut with cookie cutters.  I needed some sugar cookies to decorate an upcoming cupcake (you’ll see it soon), and I went straight to Christie for her bereavement cookie recipe.

If you choose to make these simple and sensational sugar cookies, while you eat them take a moment and remember someone you loved and the sweetness that they brought to your life.

Bereavement Cookie Recipe

When I asked Christie for her bereavement cookie recipe, she told me that it came with a cookie cutter she had purchased from Ann Clark, Ltd.  Ann Clark has the sugar cookie recipe and all kinds of adorable cookie cutters on their website.  I am reprinting the recipe here in my own words.

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5 from 1 vote

Bereavement Cookies

Bereavement cookies - simple sugar cookies - add a splash of sweetness to a sad time without the festive joy of, say, a colorful cupcake with a big happy swirl of frosting.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword bereavement cookies, simple sugar cookie recipe, sugar cookies
Prep Time 4 hours
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 10 minutes
Servings 24 cookies
Calories 139kcal
Author Stef


  • 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour


  • In a medium-sized bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Mix in the egg.
  • Mix in the vanilla, salt, and flour until well-combined.
  • Cover and chill the dough for about four hours.
  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Roll out the cold dough on a lightly floured counter to about 1/4" thick (no need to break out your ruler) and cut with cookie cutters or the rim of a glass.
  • Transfer cookies to cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or Silpats.
  • Bake 8-10 minutes or until the edges just start to brown.
  • Cool and eat!


Nutrition Facts
Bereavement Cookies
Amount Per Serving
Calories 139 Calories from Fat 63
% Daily Value*
Fat 7g11%
Saturated Fat 4g20%
Cholesterol 27mg9%
Sodium 52mg2%
Potassium 18mg1%
Carbohydrates 15g5%
Sugar 5g6%
Protein 1g2%
Vitamin A 245IU5%
Calcium 5mg1%
Iron 0.6mg3%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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When I posted on Facebook about thinking that cupcakes were too celebratory for a mourner, several of you shared a different perspective.  Lorien Leonard suggested that it would be a nice memory of the deceased to bring a cupcake flavor that they had loved. What a wonderful idea!  Sarah Irene also brought up that, “Cupcakes help change the tone to celebrating the life of the one that has passed.”  Thanks to these comments, I may reconsider my no bereavement cupcakes stance.

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8 comments on “Bereavement Cookies – A Sad Name for the Best Sugar Cookies I’ve Ever Eaten”

  1. Eileensays:

    Reminds me of funeral potatoes…a Mormon staple but also called various other names. America’s test kitchen did an upgrade which I used recently for the family dinner after a funeral service recently. I love the sitting shiva concept. So sweet to do to comfort those in need. My husband was on a mission in north Dakota among native Americans and they held wakes where chairs lined the walls of every room. People would pass around food and it was impolite to turn anything down but ok to have a paper sack to take extras home in…love that story!

  2. I can’t wait to try these. And what a great idea. I just recently had a couple of friends who’s parents had passed and I too considered cupcakes, and then thought twice. I thought,”would they think I was just trying to be too happy, or that I was just trying to promote my business?” I convinced myself that they’d take it the wrong way so instead I just attended the viewings empty handed. Too bad this recipe didn’t come a week sooner, I would have definitly made these. I may just make a batch of them and suprise them just to let them know I’m still thinking of them. Thank you so much for sharing!

  3. Priyasays:

    They looks super scrumptious..

  4. Cassysays:

    This was a very timely post. My dad just passed away last week and we had his funeral on Tuesday. I haven’t felt like doing anything in the kitchen since…but I am slowly trying to ease my way back into it. I think I will give these a try, and hope he is up there watching.

  5. Im so sorry for your husband’s loss. We didnt sit shiva when my parents passed away but I found lighting the candle to mark 7 days after they died so helpful.
    Lots of people gave me food which was a lovely thought, esp as I couldnt cook, or really eat much. Unfortunately the food I was given was stuff I dont like. I ended up with a freezer full of pumpkin soup!!!!

  6. Anonymoussays:

    These cookies were great! I made them for my family and friends and they couldn’t believe I baked them! They asked if they were store bought as well. I managed to make them small, a teaspoon for each cookie, and they came out nice and circular. I did however reduced the amount of all purpose flour after tasting the dough before baking. For some strange reason the flour I use to bake with has a strong flour flavor causing the cookies and cakes I bake to taste like flour. If not for this, I would have gladly followed the recipe perfectly. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  7. gigisays:

    I made these cookies this week and I LOVE THEM!!! They are SO simple to make and the result is a good, honest sugar cookie! I don’t feel like the spread much either, so that is a bonus! I made some rolled to 1/4 inch and some to 1/2 inch, and I prefer the thicker cookies. They baked up just as described. They were browning on the edges at 10 minutes. Super, super recipe that will now be my “go-to” sugar cookie recipe!!! Thanks so much!

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