Recently we posted a two-part series on funeral flowers, the first part on the history and meaning behind funeral flowers and the second part on what families can do with the flowers after the funeral.
Flowers are sent to express sympathy, love, and support to families grieving the loss of a loved one but flowers can also serve another purpose. Flowers can help bring healing, in varied forms, not only to their recipients but also to the givers, other grievers, and growers.
Tribute Flowers — Healing for Givers and Other Grievers
In the wake of the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris, the healing power of flowers was uniquely but beautifully expressed by a French father and son during a television interview. The pair was visiting the site of one of the attacks where mourners were leaving flowers, candles, and other mementos in tribute to the deceased, something that is often done at the site of an accident or tragic death. The conversation captured by the interviewer between the father and son was, in part, as follows:
Boy: They’ve got guns. They can shoot us because they’re very, very bad, Daddy.
Father: They’ve got guns but we have flowers.
Boy: But flowers don’t do anything. They’re for… they’re for… they’re for…
Father: Look, everyone is laying flowers here.
Father: It’s to fight against the guns.
Boy: Is it for protection?
Father: That’s right.
Boy: And the candles too?
Father: They’re so we don’t forget the people who have gone.
Boy: Oh. The flowers and candles are there to protect us?
Journalist: Do you feel better now?
Boy: Yes, I feel better.
This interview has gone viral, with millions of shares on Facebook, due to both its heart-wrenching innocence and its powerful message in the wake of worldwide grief. The father’s explanation to his son speaks to the importance of flowers, both as a healing force for those who give them in tribute to the deceased as well as for other grievers who garner strength and unity from seeing the floral tributes.
The boy’s understanding of the meaning behind the flowers may seem simplistic but it is actually quite profound: flowers do in fact protect (on a symbolic level) and help us heal in times of grief, for they remind us that love ultimately conquers all.
Memorial Gardens — Healing for Growers and Other Grievers
Following the loss of a loved one, some grievers choose to memorialize their loved one by planting a tree, perennial plant, or even a flower garden. Again, they may find healing in both the act of creating the garden as well as in caring for and visiting the special spot in tribute to their lost loved one.
A memorial garden can be as simple or as elaborate as one desires. The most important thing is that it pays tribute to the deceased in whatever way is meaningful to the grower. This may mean personalizing it with specific types of flowers, mementos, plaques, stepping stones, a bench, or anything that helps the grower honor his or her loved one.
For ideas on creating a memorial garden of your own, please visit these sites:
One woman took the idea of a memorial garden a step further, creating a half-acre flower farm that is open to the public for picking. Devastated by the loss of her husband, Joanne Alt of Portage, Wisconsin, decided to plant her “Garden of Angels” (see photos below) to help other people cope with and heal from grief.
Joanne’s message is “to spread love to other people and to pass it on to somebody in need of love.” She says “Just by giving a simple flower to somebody, you can change their world forever and give them hope.” She encourages others to visit the garden and brighten someone’s day with a bouquet of flowers.
You can learn more about the Garden of Angels on its Facebook page where Joanne writes: “There is something special about this garden. Everyone has a story to share. Precious gifts. Angels all around. Special people I get to meet everyday. Memories, tears and healing. I never expected such a beautiful gift. Thank you for being apart of my healing.”
Of course, flowers will never take the pain of one’s loss away completely. They will, however, remind those who are grieving that they are loved and supported, that their pain is acknowledged, and, most importantly, that they are not alone in their grief. Flowers really can help us heal.
How have flowers helped you grieve the loss of a loved one? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!
Joanne Alt is an inspiration to everyone. The loss of her baby girl Nikki and her husband Scott is enough grief to destroy some. Not Joanne! I truly admire her strength.
I have had the good fortunate of making Joanne’s acquaintance most recently. The first thing one notices upon meeting her, is that her bubbly personality and pleasant disposition are certainly not indicative of the experiences in her life. Only someone who truly thrives on bringing joy to other people could carry on the way she has. I would highly recommend that anyone who has the opportunity to meet her, stop by her gardens. It is truly worth it to meet a unique individual who, though she has seen so much tragedy in her own life, will bring a smile to your face simply by showing hers.