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   What To Send The Bereaved

"No Flowers, Please": What to Send to the Bereaved

Death notices and obituaries often have instructions for how mourners can best support the deceased's family during and after a funeral. It is always important to follow the bereaved's wishes, but it isn't always easy to know what that means. While "no flowers" is very straight-forward, "donations in lieu of flowers" needs more parsing.

  1. Donations. Sometimes an obituary will direct mourners to donate to a charity as a way of honoring the dead. Traditionally, the donation should be made within a week or two at most. Many charities have an option to donate in the honor or memory of someone, but some do not. In either case, it is appropriate to send a condolence card to the family and mention that you donated in the memory of the deceased. Do not state how much you gave, only that you donated.

  2. Flowers. If the bereaved is open to flowers (or have not explicitly stated otherwise), a wreath or bouquet of flowers is traditional. Avoid sprays and one-sided arrangements that are meant to go on or in the casket; the family will select those themselves. When selecting the type of flower, keep in mind religious and cultural significances. For instance, Jewish and Muslim funerals rarely involve or accept flowers. Buddhist services value white flowers and eschew red. In general, white or yellow flowers are usually a good bet.

  3. No Flowers. If the family declines flowers but doesn't give another option, there are other ways to show your support. However, it's important to be discreet and give the family space. An offer to provide a meal or household service may be made, but only ask once and be respectful of the answer you're given. You may wish to make a monetary contribution to the family, but if there is no explicit way to do so, you should first check with a trusted religious/community member or friend of the family.

  4. A Card. If all else fails, a heartfelt card or letter of condolence is often welcome and appreciated by the bereaved. The loss of a loved one causes not only grief but often loneliness and isolation. Don't be afraid that you'll accidentally bring up painful memories or thoughts. Those thoughts are already there, and the bereaved may feel gratitude for having your support through a difficult time.

Index of obituary templates