The grief of losing a loved one is painful. If someone you care about is grieving, you want to offer your comfort and support. Sending funeral sympathy flowers is one of the most popular ways to express condolences.
A beautiful flower arrangement delivered to the funeral, or a perennial plant sent to the home, lets friends and family know you’re thinking of them, even if finding the right words is difficult. The sympathy flowers you send are your heartfelt and respectful tribute to the deceased, whether or not you’re able to attend the funeral.
It’s common to have questions about sympathy flowers: What type of flowers should I send? Is the flower arrangement I selected enough or too much? Is it inappropriate to send flowers in certain religions? Or if you are planning a funeral for a loved one, you may wonder: What flowers should I choose for my spouse/parent/child? Do certain flowers have special meanings? What happens to the flowers after the funeral?
This guide will help you answer all your funeral flower questions.
What Type of Flower Arrangement Should I Order?
Sending sympathy flowers is a time-honored tradition. Flowers symbolize life and beauty, and convey hope, love, and warmth in times of sorrow. The flowers you send to the funeral or the family honor the deceased and bring comfort to loved ones. When it comes to choosing a funeral flower arrangement, you have several options whether you are sending in sympathy or planning a loved one’s funeral.
Floral Baskets or Vases
Funeral basket or vase arrangements are a lovely way to show sympathy. Available in multiple sizes, they can be delivered to a funeral home, church service, or the family’s home.
Dish Gardens or Plants
A dish garden is an assortment of lush green plants and/or colorful flowering plants arranged in a basket or decorative container. Dish gardens and individual plants are a lasting expression of sympathy that can be sent to a wake, visitation, or the family’s home.
A standing spray is displayed on an easel, typically close to the casket. Standing funeral sprays usually are sent to a funeral but also can be delivered to church memorial service or to a graveside burial service.
Wreaths, Crosses, or Hearts
Wreath, cross, or heart-shaped floral arrangements are appropriately sent by family or close friends. They are larger, usually displayed prominently near the casket, and typically delivered to the funeral home or taken to a gravesite. The funeral wreath, in the shape of a circle, represents eternal life and the reuniting of family in the afterlife. Funeral crosses signify faith and hearts love.
Sprays of fresh flowers to adorn the casket are traditionally selected by the family. These beautiful displays sit on top of the casket and come in full size for closed casket services and half size for open casket. Other casket floral arrangements available for the family to select include garlands or casket inserts.
The Meaning of Flowers
When selecting flowers for a loved one’s funeral or as a sympathy gift, consider the different meanings that flower types and colors have. Flowers hold special significance and can convey different emotions. Choosing flowers that have special meaning for your loved one can add a poignant, personal touch to a funeral or memorial service. Learn more about some of the most common funeral flowers and what they symbolize.
Where and When Should I Send Flowers?
In most cases, funeral flower arrangements are sent to the funeral home. The funeral home will display them at the viewing, visitation, funeral, and/or burial, before leaving them at the grave, giving them to the family, or disposing of them as needed.
After the funeral services are completed, send sympathy flowers to the family’s home. You also can send or bring flowers to the cemetery to be placed at the grave. Sympathy flowers sent either to the home or cemetery are a beautiful way to pay tribute on a birthday or on the anniversary of a death, to let the family know you’re thinking of them.
Here is a complete guide to proper funeral flower etiquette.
When Is Sending Flowers Not Appropriate?
Flowers are a widely accepted way to show sympathy and pay respects after a death, but there are times when flowers are not appropriate. It’s important to understand the etiquette for different religious and cultural groups so that you can express condolences respectfully.
Jewish Funerals. Flowers are not a part of Jewish mourning traditions, so it’s best not to send flowers to a Jewish funeral or to a family sitting shiva. Appropriate expressions of sympathy include gifts of food and charitable donations in memory of the deceased.
Muslim Funerals. Islamic funerals may include flowers selected by the immediate family, but typically do not include flowers sent in sympathy. If you wish to express your condolences with flowers, send a modest arrangement to the family’s home during the days of mourning following the funeral.
Buddhist Funerals. White flowers, specifically, are a symbol of mourning in Buddhism. A simple white floral bouquet is acceptable as a sympathy gift sent to the family. Or you can bring white or yellow flowers to the funeral as an offering.
Hindu Funerals. Flowers selected by the family are an important part of Hindu funerals, but funeral guests should not bring or send flowers. You can send a sympathy arrangement to the family’s home, though it is not expected. A fruit basket or other gift of food is customary.
When the Family Requests No Flowers. Sometimes families prefer not to receive flowers after a loved one’s death. In these cases, the obituary might include a request to donate to charity “in lieu of flowers.” (“In lieu” is a formal phrase that simply means “instead.”)
If you are unsure of the etiquette, it’s a good idea to contact the funeral home. The funeral director can provide guidance on what is expected so that you can respectfully honor the deceased and support the family.
What Is the Best Way to Show Sympathy and Support the Grieving?
People who are grieving need our support, but it’s hard to know the best ways to help a bereaved colleague, friend, or family member. Often people wonder: What can I do to help someone who is grieving? What should I say? What should I not say? Here are some simple but important ways you can show sympathy.
Be There. Being supportive doesn’t have to include a big gesture. You can show your support simply by showing up and being present. Attend the funeral. Give a hug. Write a sympathy note. Share a story or favorite memory about the deceased.
Listen. Mourners need listeners. When we are coping with grief, we begin to make sense of it by telling our story to anyone who will listen. Listening supportively isn’t always easy, but it’s the best thing you can do for someone coping with the loss of a loved one, says sympathy expert Robbie Miller Kaplan.
What to Say to the Bereaved: When someone you care about is grieving, it’s hard to find the right words. Many of us hesitate to say anything to the bereaved, worrying that we’ll say the wrong thing. You don’t have to say much. But whether in person at the funeral, or in a condolence note sent with flowers, it’s important to acknowledge the loss and express your sympathy. The best advice for what to say after a death — keep it simple and speak from the heart. Grief expert Helen Fitzgerald offers these suggestions for what you can say to someone grieving:
• “I’m so sorry to hear that John has died.”
• “You are in my thoughts and prayers.”
• “We will all miss Sally; she touched so many of our lives.”
• “What I am feeling right now is hard to put into words.”
• “He was such a creative person, and I am so sorry he died.”
• “I too have lost a son, and I am so sorry.”
What Not to Say: We want to be helpful and supportive, but even with the best intentions, we might say something inappropriate or hurtful. It’s when we try to interpret the loss or explain the meaning of death that we get into trouble. So, what should you never say to the bereaved? Sympathy expert Robbie Miller Kaplan offers this advice:
• Avoid any comment that minimizes the loss. (“You must be relieved that this is over” or “It’s for the best that she didn’t linger”)
• Refrain from suggesting there is anything good in the experience. (“Look on the bright side,” “Every cloud has a silver lining,” “This is a blessing in disguise”)
• Do not compare your pain or experience to theirs (“You must feel as dreadful as I did when I got my divorce”) or imply that you know how they feel. It’s impossible to know how another person is feeling, even if you have experienced a similar loss.
Additional expressions to avoid, according to grief expert Helen Fitzgerald:
• “She’s in a better place” or “He’s at peace now.” While they are meant to be reassuring, statements like this come across as hollow. They neither comfort the bereaved nor convey genuine feeling, says Fitzgerald.
• “Be strong,” “Put this behind you” and “Get on with your life.” Though we may wish we could power through grief, strength has little to do with healthy mourning. Life moves on, of course, whether we like it or not. But coping with the loss of a loved one doesn’t mean we put that person behind us, willing ourselves not to think about them. Our loved ones live on in our hearts as we adapt to life without them.
• “It’s part of God’s plan” or “There’s a reason for everything.” While you may believe this to be true, it’s not necessarily helpful for the bereaved. Words like these are particularly hard to hear, says Fitzgerald, if the person grieving is already feeling some anger and disappointment toward God.
• “Call if you need anything” or “Let me know if there’s anything I can do.” You want to be helpful, but this sort of statement unfairly puts the burden on the bereaved to reach out and ask for help. Instead, offer specific assistance (“I will handle carpool next week” or “I am going to the grocery store; can I pick up anything for you?”). Let them know that you will be there for them (“I will call you next week” or “I will check in with you on Saturday”).
• “You should” or “you will.” For many of us, it’s harder to listen to advice when we feel like we’re being told what to do. If you want your advice to be heard and considered, don’t issue a command. Instead, start a conversation: “Here is something for you to think about…”
Convey Your Condolences with Flowers. Sometimes there are no words to express what you are feeling. Sending an elegant flower arrangement to the funeral or memorial service can help you say what’s in your heart and show them how much you care. In the weeks and months after the funeral, you can let them know you’re thinking of them and brighten their day with a beautiful bouquet sent to the family’s home.