The tradition of sending flowers to honour the dead once had the practical use of masking any decomposition of bodies that were not embalmed. In modern funerals, these familiar flowers have become a popular sentiment to support the family of the departed in a way words alone may not adequately express. Flowers add a quiet dignity and poignant beauty to the service. Written messages should give comfort to those who are left behind.
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If you do not know the deceased or his family on an intimate level, you can still send a token of your sympathy in the form of flowers. A simple message conveying your concern or compassion often brings the most solace. Some condolences include "Thinking of you" or "In deepest sympathy."
If you have a more intimate relationship with the family or the departed, use the message to honour that friendship. Messages that indicate your own grief can provide support to others who share your feelings. "Always in our hearts" and "Gone but not forgotten" show the family how much their departed loved one meant to you, which can comfort them in their grief. "Sharing your sorrow" also indicates to the family they are not alone.
When a loved one or family member passes away, the messages can be far more personal. Honour the family and the departed with words of encouragement, sympathy, shared loss and mutual love. Indicate your own sadness, as well as gratitude for the love shared with the departed. "In loving memory" is a simple way to let the family know the individual will forever be in your heart.
Sometimes our own words are insufficient. Proverbs, psalms, songs and passages from literature can often eloquently convey what we cannot. The Hebrew proverb, "Say not in grief he is no more but live in thankfulness that he was" poetically gives hope to the future and honours the past. Scriptures from the Bible can give religious mourners great solace, as can inspirational messages from other faiths and holy scriptures.
What Not to Say
Be mindful that the grieving family members are especially sensitive in their time of sorrow. Avoid clichés that may dismiss their current feelings such as, "Time heals all wounds" or "It's all for the best." These sentiments may be true but aren't especially comforting. Instead, honour the feelings of the recipient by keeping your message short and heartfelt -- something that keeps the focus on the feelings of the mourners and honours the life of the deceased.
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