Knowing what to say to others is one of the hardest parts of being a human. No one wants to say the wrong thing and hurt someone, especially if they are already grieving the loss of someone they loved. After a death, more than ever, the pressure to get it right can feel overwhelming to the point that sometimes, we opt to say nothing at all.
The amazing (though scary) truth is that our words are far more important than most of us realize. Most of us are taught that it’s the sticks and stones that really hurt. Words will never break us. However, researchers found that after reading a personal letter, humans experienced sensations of warmth that were neurologically the same as experiencing physical warmth. The temperature achieved in the body from the letter likens the warmth the human body feels from an actual hug, meaning we feel the same type of connection from words as we do from the positive physical connection.
This is powerful information: it means that even from a distance, even in this COVID-limited world, we can use our words to create the sense of our presence in another person by how we write our words down.
Writing a message is then critically important, and we offer a step by step way to do so in our downloadable How to Write a Letter Guide. I also am sharing the steps as they relate to sympathy flowers specifically below, and specifically in a way that includes florals.
Sending your message in flower is so much more than just “a thing to do” after a loss. Including florals in your message means you actually are sending something known to help people heal faster and improve depression. Loneliness, depression, and a sense of poor wellbeing are normal after a loss. The florals provide a valuable way to help navigate this state without in any way disrespecting it. By connecting your florals with your message, you’ve gifted an experience to the person in mourning that allows them to remember and mourn while also healing.
The weeks after a funeral are especially hard because the rest of the world goes back to normal, but the person who experienced the loss has no normal to which he or she can return. The world is new, and it’s lonelier and scarier than before. This can create walls of fear, loneliness, anxiety, depression, and great sorrow.
By beginning with context, you are letting the recipient meet you in your world from their world. You’re letting them know just how important they are as well by acknowledging how you are taking the time.
Example: I’m sitting here at my kitchen table thinking about you and George.
Example: I know it’s been two weeks since the funeral, but I find myself stopping at least once a day thinking about you and how painful right now must be. I wanted to take a minute here at my desk to write you this note.
Thinking about this context will also help you begin to imagine the meaning you wish to convey. This is important while walking through our software. In our sympathy flower track, it will ask you to select a meaning that best represents the thoughts you wish to convey in your arrangement. This ties with the next step in the letter-writing process.
Share a Story
The next step is to share a specific memory of the person who is deceased. Or, if you didn’t know the deceased well, then a memory your friend may have shared.
The powerful way to pick a story is to be intentional with its point. Picasso believed that great art was great because it revealed a primary truth, something that spoke to a universal element of human existence. This idea was further popularized by Cristopher Booker in his 2004 book The Seven Basic Plots, which suggested that all stories are retelling one of 7 plots that define the human experience.
Regardless of whether you agree with this or not, the point remains that great stories generally don’t introduce something new as much as they capture something very significant.
Something about the person’s character.
Something about how loved or missed the person is.
Something about how valued they are.
Something about how significant they’ve been in their efforts.
Remember, it has to be positive to create a positive emotional impact. A great way to help you trigger an idea (and to share it authentically) is to ask yourself how you would end a sentence that started with “remember that time” or “remember when.”
Story: I’ll never forget how Joel drove the girls home from dance every week that year when Carl was traveling for work and April was newly born.
What it means: I couldn’t have made it without his kindness. He was one of the most decent and generous men I’ve ever met.
Story: I don’t know if I ever told you this, but Dad once told me that he married you because you were the most interesting woman he’d ever met.
What it means: He loved you, Mom, in a way I hope I am loved someday. He set the example for me of what it means to find true love. I’m so lucky I had him as an example.
You can use this same formula even if you didn’t know the deceased very well. In this case, try to capture a moment that you remember where the recipient was talking about the deceased. What this does is show that you were listening, you care, and you remember the impact of the deceased’s life.
Story (an example where you didn’t know the person): I remember how you always talked about your mother as the kind of person who would make food for people.
What it means: I always hoped I would meet her, as she sounded like the kind of person who could make you feel okay even when things weren’t going well. What a superpower.
Share Why These Stories Matter to You
The last step is to communicate why this story matters to you. What does represent? How does it exemplify the deceased’s life (or your friend’s relationship with the deceased)? Bringing in this emotional connection creates an empathetic connection.
Did this person represent joy in your life? Were they always being talked about as people of faith, courage, or love?
How this gets shared in flowers
This connection is the emotion we most want to convey through the flowers. Our software will ask you the most important meaning you want to include. If you select joy or motherhood, then we’ll show you flowers that best capture that emotion. You can then add our recommendations for other emotions that capture the person or the sympathy you wish to share.
After you select the meaning and flowers, you will be able to select which meanings you specifically want to share and your letter. You can enter the stories and message there (or simply share the ideas and we can help write the letter for you). Our team is fully available to support your letter-writing process.
To get started sending a sympathy letter through flowers, you can click here. Our concierge team is always available as well to answer questions (or hop on a call) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To download our complete guide to writing a letter, you can do so here.