Reblog from funeralone by Rilee Chastain
It’s a gesture so tried and true that we never even think to question it… When someone loses a loved one, their friends often show love and support by sending flowers. Flowers and funerals have gone hand-in-hand for ages, and the simplest explanation is that it’s tradition—sending sympathy flowers is just a nice thing to do. Flowers add something beautiful to a difficult situation when they decorate the service and casket.
But why do we do this, really? Why flowers instead of, say, warm baked cookies or balloons or nothing at all? What purpose do flowers serve, and do they actually do any good at all when someone is grieving the loss of a loved one?
As it turns out, there’s more to this time-honored tradition than, well… tradition alone. Sharing sympathy and support in the form of flowers actually does go a long way.
The History of Funeral Flowers
It won’t be shocking to hear that gifts and gestures of support are helpful to people in their time of sadness and need. It’s an almost instinctual response to someone else’s grief. As it turns out, this compulsion to send flowers for a funeral dates back longer than the modern calendar. A 1951 cave excavation in Iraq revealed that people have been buried with flowers possibly as long as they’ve been buried at all.
This may very well be because flowers speak a language that the English language can’t always convey. Where words fail us—or we, as humans, fail to find acceptable words—a gesture of giving flowers fills in all the gaps. For example, lilies are most commonly associated with funerals, because of their elegant yet unobtrusive shape and aroma and the symbolism we have come to attach there. White blooms in particular remind us of purity and innocence which we hope for our loved ones after their life is lived.
The Healing Power of Flowers
In more contemporary research, a Rutgers University study found that gifted flowers have an immediate effect on a person’s mood, triggering happiness and feelings of satisfaction. Flowers reduce stress, and help to usher in a period of healing. It’s no wonder they go hand-in-hand with funerals, which are so crucial in the healing process after losing a loved one!
Flowers also represent support, compassion, sympathy and friendship. Sending flowers to a person navigating loss—whether an initial loss or the anniversary of a tragic day—helps them feel supported, know they are cared for by friends or family, and reminds them that their hardship is not theirs to bear alone. Flowers add beauty and elegance to moments of tragedy, and there is little quite as life-affirming as the scent of a fresh bouquet coming into bloom.
But the tradition of sending flowers extends beyond the decoration of the funeral home or memorial site, and beyond the day of the service. Sending flowers to say “I’m thinking of you,” “You’re in my thoughts,” “You are not alone in your grief,” and “I know you’re in need of some support right now” is a gesture that can be made any day of the year, long after burial and healing has begun. Because the truth is, losing a loved one is never forgotten, and support is always helpful in navigating life after loss.
And do you want to hear the most amazing thing? “People who live with flowers report fewer episodes of anxiety and depressed feelings,” according to psychologist Nancy Etcoff, Ph.D. of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. It really is a small, inexpensive gesture that goes so far in aiding the healing process after loss.