In this age of eternal hurry, the world around us seems to be in a state of never-ending change. Every few months, a new must-have gadget wows the technorati, a new irresistible pop star steps into the limelight, and a new diet fad becomes all the rage. But despite our constant cultural shifts, certain traditions live on. We still celebrate milestones with family and friends. We still rely on loved ones during difficult times. And flowers are still a beautiful, graceful way to express your sympathy for a friend who has experienced loss.
A recent Virginia Polytechnic study revealed that most people consider flowers one of the most meaningful aspects of memorial services—after only family, friends, and the eulogy. The same study found that the bereaved find condolence flowers and sympathy cards the most meaningful gifts.
Similar results would likely have been found if the study could be expanded across chronological and cultural boundaries. Beautiful yet delicate, flowers have long represented the cycle of life and death. As they also symbolize hope, flowers serve to encourage the bereaved. Their lovely petals gently remind those who suffer loss that their lives will continue, and that they will survive their current emotional fragility.
As symbols of hope, happiness, and sorrow, flowers are an ideal medium of communication for times when you can’t put your feelings into words. For all of these reasons, flowers are an excellent way to show your support and sympathy. Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing which flowers to send for a specific occasion.
Consider sending a potted plant or flowers already in a vase to homes or offices. This will remove any additional work for the bereaved, who doubtless have dozens of difficult tasks to complete. Additionally, a glossy houseplant can last for years, acting as a living memorial to the deceased.
Christians and followers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) typically appreciate flowers at the ceremony and in private settings; to avoid duplicate sprays, confirm the floral arrangements with the parish. Eastern Orthodox Christians often display the body of the deceased for three days before funeral, so consider sending your flowers to the funeral home during this period. Muslim ceremonies are simple and performed shortly after death; flowers are considered inappropriate, so show your support with gifts of food instead. In the Jewish faith, mourners suspend daily activity as they sit Shiva, allowing themselves to fully experience grief as they are supported by family and friends. Since flowers are usually considered a distraction during this time, check with the family before sending flowers; they may prefer that you contribute to a charity in the name of the deceased. Red represents happiness in Asian cultures, so avoid sending red flowers to Buddhists. Hindis often see fruit as the best way to express condolences.
Humans have long been fascinated with flowers, and have attributed meanings to certain flowers. In addition to beautifying any space, your choice of flowers can send a message about the life of the deceased. Honeysuckle, for instance, indicates sweetness of disposition. Aloe represents wisdom and integrity, and the coreopsis stands for cheerfulness. If you’d like your arrangement to send a specific meaning, get creative and do a little research to find the flowers that best symbolize your feelings and/or the life of the deceased.
Color is another way to communicate through flowers. White lilies and roses are often selected for condolence flower arrangements for their delicate, especially beautiful blossoms, which symbolize peace. Yellow roses indicate friendship, joy, and caring. Elegance, femininity, and grace are the messages of pink roses.
Aside from their traditional meanings, you may be able to send a message about the life of the deceased with your color choice. A collection of red, white, and blue flowers would be a way to honor the life of a veteran, for instance. The family of an Italian immigrant would appreciate a flower arrangement including the colors of the Italian flag. The family is sure to appreciate the extra thought and imagination you put into choosing an appropriate arrangement.
Regardless of your choice of blossoms or plants, or whether you send them to a home or funeral parlor, sympathy flowers are a wonderful way to send your love and support to those who have suffered loss.