When it comes to people and their beliefs, the world is full of diversity. Despite the many cultural differences between us all, death inevitably touches our lives sooner or later. The grief that follows the loss of a loved one can be difficult to overcome. Celebrating the lives of the people we have lost can help us move through the stages of grief and pay our respects to those who will live on in our memories.
Life and Death
Haruki Murakami, a Japanese novelist wrote, “Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it,” and similarly, Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese-American writer, poet and visual artist wrote, “For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.”
There are endless quotes about death, and the most well-known of these quotes express the idea that death is an inevitable part of life. Many artists have placed importance on the quality of one’s life and what one leaves behind when referencing death.
Our cultural beliefs greatly impact our perception of death and directly influence our grieving process. Part of the difficulty associated with the death of a loved one is confronting one’s own beliefs and feelings about death.
Regardless of belief, death is the last rite of passage, the closing transition from one state to another. Beliefs vary throughout cultures from believing that death means the person’s soul moves on to an afterlife, viewing death as a circular pattern where those who are born all die and are ultimately reborn into another life, viewing the dead as remaining present as ancestral spirits after death to still influence the living, and there are also those who believe death is a permanent, complete and final disengagement from life.
All human beings are united by the fact that they experience some form of grief, the emotional reactions that follow the loss of a loved one, when someone they love dies. Mourning is the process of expressing this grief and varies throughout cultures.
Funerals can be regarded as a rite of passage for both the deceased and the living and can provide a societal set of mourning practices to allow those who grieve to work through their grief together within the framework of their funeral customs.
What the Death of a Loved One Means for the Living
There are several stages one must go through after experiencing a loss. First, a person must acknowledge the loss. Sometimes even when we know in our hearts that a loved one has passed away, we momentarily forget and may even search for them or stare longingly when a phone rings, hoping for a call from the deceased.
Before we can begin to deal with the loss on an emotional level, we must get beyond the stage of disbelief and accept that the loss is real. The funeral and all the steps involved can help someone come to terms with the reality of the loss and what it means.
Once the loss has been acknowledged, the pain of the grief must be processed. Many variables affect how a person may handle grief including their own cultural beliefs about death, whether the death was unexpected and the quality and length of life of the deceased before he or she passed.
Lastly, the person must adjust to the world without the deceased and figure out how to keep a connection with their deceased loved one as he or she tries to continue with his or her own life.
Funerals can help people get through these stages together. Being there for someone who is grieving is the best gift you can give. If you find yourself at a loss for words, don’t feel pressured. Be there to listen. If you are going through grief yourself, don’t do it alone. Don’t be afraid to lean on someone.
A Guide to Funeral Florals
Each flower has a meaning. Some flowers are a popular choice for funerals due to their symbolism. Knowing a little about the meaning of flowers helps when it comes to selecting suitable flowers for the somber occasion of a funeral, so read on for tips on how to order funeral flowers and the different types of flowers and arrangements and what they mean.
Funeral Flowers and Their Meanings
Lilies are one of the most popular choice for funerals because they are symbolic of the restored innocence of the soul of the departed. The white star-gazer lily is commonly used for funerals.
Some other options are gladiolus, which convey strength of character and sincerity. Carnations are also a popular choice for their longevity and meaning, which varies depending on the color. White carnations represent pure love, and pink carnations stand for remembrance.
In many European countries, chrysanthemums are only used as funeral flowers. In Asia, they represent grief while in the U.S., they represent truth and are seen more as a cheerful way to remember someone. They are generally viewed as a positive tribute.
Roses are highly popular for the many meanings conveyed by each color. A single rose of any color among a bouquet expresses enduring love.
Pink and white orchid plants are associated with mourning and represent eternal love, which makes them a natural selection for sympathy flowers.
Although hydrangea plants are not necessarily associated with funerals or sympathy, they are a common gift and are easy to maintain. Therefore, they can be appropriate to send to a bereaved family.
How They Are Arranged
The same way each flower has a meaning, different arrangements also have their own meanings. The many types of common funeral arrangements are casket sprays, floral baskets, standing sprays, wreaths and dish gardens or plants.
Casket sprays are beautiful displays of fresh flowers and greens that adorn the casket. Full casket sprays are chosen for closed casket services, while half casket sprays, which only cover a portion of the casket, are used for open casket services.
Casket sprays are selected by the immediate family. The family can also choose to include casket inserts and other types of floral designs as inside pieces in the form of corner clusters, pillows or crosses.
Floral baskets come in several different sizes and are often displayed on tables or on the ground surrounding the casket. Floral baskets can be delivered to the funeral home for a wake, to the place where a religious service will be held or to the family’s home.
Standing sprays are large arrangements that are displayed on an easel near the casket. Their impressive stature makes them very noticeable and many are designed in the shape of a heart or cross. They are often delivered to the funeral home and may be taken to the cemetery for a burial ceremony.
Prominent floral arrangements in the shape of a wreath, which represents eternal life and a cross, which represents faith, are appropriate for family and close friends. These are often delivered to a funeral home and displayed near the casket or placed on the doors of the funeral home. They may also be taken to a grave site.
Some smaller options are dish gardens, vases and/or colorful, flowering plants. These are typically arranged in a basket or decorative container and look like flower baskets but much smaller. These can be used as table arrangements for post-funeral events or as sympathy gifts. These smaller arrangements can be sent directly to a wake or the family’s home.
Funeral Flower Etiquette
Giving flowers as a gesture of sympathy is a common practice for many cultures. With any funeral flowers, attached messages should be concise and thoughtful. If you are sending flowers to a close friend or relative, include a separate sympathy card, also.
When you are sending flowers that will be part of the funeral, the message should be addressed to the deceased rather than the family. Suitable messages could be something like, “With love and fond memories,” “Always in our thoughts,” “May you rest in peace,” and “In loving memory of a dear friend.”
These final words written to the departed can be helpful in the process of grieving as it allows for a last goodbye, so special care should be given to the message you write.
A floral arrangement or plant can express your sympathy when the right words will not materialize. Flowers serve the purpose of honoring the life of the deceased and bringing comfort and conveying sympathy to those closest to the departed who grieve.
It can be difficult to know what to say or do to comfort those close to you who grieve when a close friend or loved one has passed. Being there for people is the best thing you can do. Sometimes just listening is the best comfort you can give.
If you have difficulty finding the right words, a simple expression of sympathy is perfectly acceptable. Saying something like, “I am truly sorry for your loss,” or “I am here for you,” is a good way to let someone know you care without making the mistake of saying the wrong thing.
Some statements are best avoided. Refrain from saying things like, “Things happen for a reason,” “I know how you feel,” or “He or she is in a better place,” as these statements might offend the person who is already in a delicate place emotionally. Also, avoid making any negative remarks about the deceased.
If you are worried about saying the wrong thing, keep whatever you say brief and stick with a very concise expression of sympathy. If you long to say more, spend some time pondering what you wish to say and attach that message to a flower arrangement. You can even send flowers days or a couple of weeks after the service to let those who grieve know you are still thinking of them.
Funeral flowers should match the personality and tastes of the departed. In some cases, such as when a military member passes or in the unfortunate case of the death of a child, arrangements will be more personal and focus on the interests or occupation of the deceased.
The Importance of Culture
Funeral flower etiquette varies between different cultures and religions. Before you choose flowers or attend a funeral, make sure you know the customs and what is and is not appropriate. Not every religion or culture will appreciate flowers. When in doubt, ask. It is better to ask for advice beforehand than to do something that will offend someone.
The natural beauty of flowers can help bring calm and comfort to mourners both at a funeral and the home if flowers are acceptable to the family. Sometimes the family requests donations in the place of flowers, and that request should be honored.
For many Christian religions, flowers are a traditional gesture of sympathy and are appreciated. For Mormons, giving flowers is appropriate, but arrangements made in the shape of a cross or crucifix are not appropriate.
When the deceased is Jewish, donations are encouraged, and flowers are not typically part of the tradition. Burials take place quickly, and afterward the family sits in mourning (Shiva) for seven days. During that time, it is customary to bring the family desserts, food and fruit baskets.
Asian cultures can vary depending on religion or culture, but for most, white flowers are a safe choice. Yellow chrysanthemums are a traditional funeral flower for Chinese, Japanese and Korean services. Some of these cultures prefer a small donation to help offset funeral costs.
When it comes to the Muslim faith, opinions vary and whether you should or should not give flowers depends on the wishes of the family. Buddhist families may or may not want flowers but giving red flowers or bringing red food is always inappropriate because it is a representation of joy. Giving white flowers both before and after is what is typically suggested.
Hindu funerals typically do not involve sending flowers to the family, but there is a post-funeral ceremony where fruit is an appropriate gift.
If you have lost someone and wish to express your sorrow and pay your respects, our florists at Flowerama Des Moines in Des Moines, IA can help you decide which flowers, plants or fruit baskets should play a role in bidding farewell to the person you hold dear.
Celebrating the Lives of Those We Have Lost
Some cultures maintain a relationship with those they have lost. These groups believe that their dearly departed loved ones continue to exist and can influence the lives of the living.
No matter what one believes, there are many ways to celebrate the lives of those we have lost. Some cultures like to hold onto a cherished belonging of the deceased, some visit and decorate graves and some have altars where the deceased is venerated.
The best way to celebrate the lives of our departed loved ones is to keep their memories alive through stories and recollections. You may even find yourself saying a phrase that your deceased loved one might have used or wearing something that reminds you of them. Cherish and appreciate the influence they had in your life. Every person is unique, and the individual quirks and likes and dislikes linger long after he a loved one passed.