Funeral flowers and what they symbolise

Sending flowers to a funeral or wake is second nature to us, but what do our floral choices really mean? We take a look at what each flower symbolises so that you won’t make any floral taboos. A quick disclaimer: never send red flowers, no matter how meaningful, to a Chinese funeral. Red is the colour of prosperity and considered utterly inappropriate for mourning. White would be the most suitable.



avasflowers-white-lily-sympathy-bouquet_maxWhen deciding on a selection of flowers to send for a funeral, you cannot go wrong with graceful white lilies. lily-2


This flower, especially the Calla lily, symbolizes the innocence that has been restored to the soul of the departed. That explains why it is one of the most popular choices for funeral arrangements.



White stargazer lilies represent sympathy and any type of white lily conveys majesty and purity, making them a safe choice.





Chrysanthemums, also known as mums, are traditional funeral flowers in many countries around the world.

In some European countries, chrysanthemums are symbolic of death and only found at funerals or on gravesites.

Classic-Pink-Rose-and-Chrysanthemum-WreathIn China, Japan, and Korea, white chrysanthemums carry a symbolic meaning of lamentation and grief.

In the United States, chrysanthemums symbolize truth and help to promote a cheerful atmosphere.




Although they are most commonly associated with romantic love, roses can be a great funeral flower too.

White roses evoke purity, reverence, humility and innocence. They are perfect for expressing condolences, no matter the relationship.
Pink roses stand for love, psqadsvfudb-S6-4215.jpg-detailappreciation, and grace. They are usually chosen for women.

Red roses convey respect, love, and courage. It is important to note, though, that they are usually given by people who had an intimate relationship with the deceased.

TF209_4_EHDark crimson roses denote grief and sorrow, making them common in sympathy arrangements.

Yellow roses are given by friends of the deceased as a symbol of their friendship and loyalty.

A single rose in a bouquet symbolizes enduring love for the departed.




Carnations are a favourite in sympathy arrangements because of their fragrance and longevity.

Red carnations evoke admiration, while white carnations symbolize pure love and innocence.

carnation-heart-750Pink carnations stand for gratitude and remembrance. They also represent a mother’s enduring love, are and commonly used for arrangements at a mother’s or grandmother’s funeral.




Orchids are sent during times of grief to convey everlasting love because they will continue to bloom long after other bouquets have wilted.Orchid-Heart-Wreath1

When giving an orchid plant as a gesture of sympathy, it is important to give consideration to color. Pink and white are traditional colors of sympathy.




Gladioli have a tall flower stem composed of multiple flowers that can measure up to 4 feet tall. They are typically used in fan sprays for traditional funeral services. The gladiolus embodies strength of character, sincerity, and moral integrity.


Tulips and daffodils


Bright yellow tulips and daffodils are a symbol of renewal and fresh starts. They are sent to bring encouragement and hope to a person who is grieving or unhappy. Sending them to the bereaved’s home to brighten their day might be a good idea.

Yellow tulips represent cheerfulness, white tulips represent forgiveness, and purple tulips represent royalty. The red tulip is said to represent perfect love.


He tells people they only have minutes to live. Their responses will surprise you.

DeathBedMatthew O’Reilly is an emergency medical technician in New York. He deals with horrific cases of trauma and emergencies on a daily basis, and knows what it’s like to be asked by a patient, “Am I dying?” – the problem is what to say when the answer is “yes”.


In his first two years on the job, Matthew was afraid to tell patients on the brink of death the truth, even when it was clear to him that there was little he could do. Instead, he would reassure them and tell them they were going to make it.


One day, when attending to the critically injured victim of a motorcycle accident, he decided to tell the truth. How his patient reacted changed the way Matthew handled patients facing imminent death from that point on.


Over time, Matthew discovered that all the dying patients he cared for reacted the same way – regardless of age, gender, or background. Upon realizing their imminent demise, they all expressed


  1. A need for forgiveness
  2. A need to be remembered, by anyone
  3. A yearning to know their life had meaning


The foremost concerns of the dying are universal. Now that you know what they are, you can make sure that on your deathbed, you’ll be able to find peace. You can also help to fulfill the departed’s last request by honoring their memory.


Watch the video here:

What Cemeteries Look Like in the Future

Chris McGrath/ Getty Images

Chris McGrath/ Getty Images


A high-tech, futuristic final resting place has been built – guess where?

Japan, of course.



This is the Ruriden columbarium at the Koukoku-ji Temple in Tokyo.

It doesn’t look like much, does it?

Chris McGrath/ Getty Images

Chris McGrath/ Getty Images

Wait for it …

This is what it looks like on the inside.

Chris McGrath/ Getty Images

Chris McGrath/ Getty Images

The columbarium houses 2,046 small altars, each with a glass, LED-lit Buddha statue.

ruriden-lighted up

Chris McGrath/ Getty Images

 Behind each Buddha statue is a drawer containing the deceased’s ashes.

Chris McGrath/ Getty Images

Chris McGrath/ Getty Images

And people can visit their departed loved ones with a smart card that grants access to the columbarium and lights up the Buddha statue at their altar.

Chris McGrath/ Getty Images

Chris McGrath/ Getty Images

The ashes are to be stored for 33 years before being buried underneath the Ruriden. 600 of the altars are currently in use; another 300 have already been reserved.

I guess you could say they have a very bright afterlife.

Funeral Homes Now Come with Dogs


A therapy dog named Oliver

Oliver the Portuguese Water dog was adopted in 2001 as a pet, but ended up spending most of his time helping out at the funeral home owned by his family in Milwaukee. He comforted grieving people by leaning on them, sitting on their feet and sometimes simply providing a distraction from their sorrow.

Seeing his picture hanging on the wall of the funeral home office, many bereaved families would request his presence at the funeral gatherings. He quickly developed a following of sorts – local TV stations did stories on him and he was featured in commercials for the funeral home.

Image is copyright of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. The original caption reads: Oliver, a 5-year-old Portugese water dog, works in 2006 at Krause Funeral Home in Milwaukee with owner Joan Krause and a girl, 6.

Image is copyright of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. The original caption reads: Oliver, a 5-year-old Portugese water dog, works in 2006 at Krause Funeral Home in Milwaukee with owner Joan Krause and a girl, 6.

“He made the place feel warm and inviting,” said his owner, Mark Krause. ”Funerals can tend to be the opposite.”

When Oliver died in 2011 at the age of 10, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published a touching obituary for him. A funeral service was held and about 150 people mourned him with their dogs or the ashes of their pets.


Man’s best friend in times of need

Canines like Oliver are becoming more widely used as part of grief support at funeral homes. Pet therapy is not a new idea, and it seems only natural that the animals that brighten the days of nursing home residents and the disabled can also give therapeutic aid to the grieving.

brown dog boxerDogs are excellent listeners who do not judge, which is why many people find it easier to open up to them. Faced with someone who has just experienced a loss, people often feel a need to give advice or say something soothing, when what the grieving really need is to express themselves. Dogs are perfect for this because they are content to simply sit by you as you talk. They don’t have other places to be or things to do, so you don’t feel bad taking up their time. Their simple, reassuring presence is enough.

Scientific research has shown that petting dogs is beneficial in many ways: stress hormone levels go down, blood pressure is lowered, and the hormone oxytocin, which correlates to increased affection, is released. The relaxation you feel at petting a dog isn’t just psychological, it’s physiological.


Can dogs feel our sadness? 

sad dogHave you ever noticed how dogs respond to people? My own dog approaches me, nudges my hand and places her paw on my lap when she senses that I am agitated or upset. It’s a touching and reassuring gesture. A psychologist at Goldsmiths College, University of London, devised a study to find out whether dogs demonstrated empathy. Volunteers were asked to either act like they were crying or “hum in a weird way” in the presence of dogs.

The result was remarkable. Nearly all the dogs went over to the crying person, regardless if it was their owner or a stranger, and nuzzled or licked them. In comparison, they barely noticed when people hummed. Although the experiment may not conclusively prove that dogs can empathise, it does show why people think they do. It is this perception that helps people who are emotionally distraught feel better.


Dogs in service

Professional therapy dogs were brought to Newtown after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. They were nine specially trained golden retrievers from the Lutheran Church Charities K9 Comfort Dogs team, who had previously been used to reassure the victims of traumatic events like Superstorm Sandy and a 2008 school shooting in Illinois.

puppies-in-training-1_33881_2009-09-02_w450The canines created a comfortable environment for the children to open up and talk about what they had gone through as they sat together, petting the same animal. Children who had withdrawn into themselves after witnessing the shootings began to communicate again.

“Our experience has shown that people can let go totally when they interact with a dog. The dogs are just there, to pet, to hug and to cry on,” said Ursula Kempe, president of Therapy Dogs International. “Their calming, loving presence can help during times of extreme grief. There is no need to talk, just to feel. The dogs can give what humans cannot.”


Grief companions

Most funeral directors who work with dogs agree that the dogs intuitively know whom to comfort, and will station themselves next to them. Besides being a shoulder to cry on, the dogs sometimes amuse the bereaved and guests with tricks. Simply put, they make people smile even when they don’t want to.

Debra Fry, who owns Fry Funeral Home, recalls a family whose grandmother had passed away. Her grandchildren had been very close to her and they refused to go to the funeral. They were eventually persuaded to go by their mother when she told them “there’s a puppy at the funeral home.” They spent the entire evening sitting on the floor playing with Gurt, the funeral home’s Bernese Mountain Dog – which also gave their parents the peace of mind to cope with their own loss.

Gurt, the therapy dog at Fry Funeral Home.

Gurt, the therapy dog at Fry Funeral Home.


What does it take to be a therapy dog?

HHD-Pups-on-bench1Debra started a programme called Compassionate Paws Grief Therapy, which trains puppies for funeral homes as “employees”. All students have to undergo basic obedience training and have the right temperament. The puppies are even put through the military biosensor program so they can handle stressful situations and sudden, loud noises. They are trained to use an “indoor bark” and tolerate being petted –and even tugged on – by several people at the same time. Handlers have to know when to let the dogs take a break from all the attention (usually about two hours) and let them go outside for a walk or take a nap, but for most of the time, it’s the dogs that run the show.

9 Things You Should Never Say at Funerals

Avoid putting your foot in your mouth at the worst time possible.

%22oh no%22 by Tom Woodward

Telling the bereaved how the death of their loved one makes you feel can be difficult, even awkward. At times like this, you want to offer words of comfort, but at the same time, berespectfuland tactful because the family is going through a rough time. Many of us struggle to say the right thing, but end up resorting to something generic, like “I’m sorry for your loss”, which sounds hollow and impersonal.


What should you say then? The most important thing to remember is to be sincere. Remember why the departed mattered to you and wish the family peace; they aren’t expecting you to understand exactly what they are going through and know that you are there to grieve too. With that in mind, here are some guidelines of what you should stay away from.


  1. “This is a blessing in disguise” or anything along the lines that suggests that the bereaved are better off now. Even after a long and trying illness, it’s not tactful to imply that they should somehow be relieved by the death.giphy copy
  2. “There’s a silver lining”, or “look on the bright side”. Of course you want to cheer the bereaved up, but pointing out that something good could come from the passing isn’t the best way to do that. Instead, you could share funny stories or happy memories about the departed.
  3. “I know how you feel, I still haven’t gotten over my dog’s death”. That would obviously have been quite offensive. Even if you are comparing their loss to when you lost someone (not a pet), we all experience loss differently and you shouldn’t make this about you. Let them know that you are there for them, and listen if they want you to.giphy
  4. “Did ________ mention anything about his/her will?” Maybe the deceased had promised to leave you something; maybe you are concerned on behalf of the bereaved. Nevertheless, it’s not appropriate to ask questions about the will immediately after the death.giphy-2
  5. “Did you know that …?” The departed may have shared information with you that he or she has never told the family. Whether it’s membership in an organisation like AA or an event in their past, it’s privileged information that should be respected as such. Your condolences are the last place to reveal such secrets.
  6. “You’re still young, and you can always try again” is the last thing that parents who have just lost a child want to hear. The loss of a child is devastating and should not be trivialised, no matter how young the child is. The same goes for “you have plenty of time to find someone else” if the bereaved has lost his/her spouse.tumblr_m883jvyCvG1ryvn58o1_500_large
  7. “He/ she’s in a better place now” suggests that the grieving should somehow feel positive about their loss and that their tears and anguish are out of place. The bereaved also may or may not believe about life after death, and the funeral is no place to question such beliefs.giphy copy 2
  8. “God won’t give you more than you can handle”. Your friend is probably feeling overwhelmed and uttering such platitudes won’t help much. Acknowledge that his or her life has changed significantly with the loss and offer to help with errands or babysitting instead.
  9. “Everything happens for a reason” makes the tragedy that the bereaved have just experienced sound inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. If you’re religious, you can try saying “I don’t understand God’s reasons behind this, but if you need to talk about how you’re feeling, I’m here.”

Processing the death of someone who meant something to you is never easy.

Although it may feel like there is nothing you can say that may comfort the bereaved, your condolences will still be appreciated. Make sure you do so with sensitivity.

13 Epitaphs That Will Make You Laugh

Death doesn’t always have to be sombre and gloomy. Yes, we should be respectful and sensitive; but that doesn’t mean we can’t laugh at ourselves even in death – just like these people who managed to have the last laugh.


Oh no, indeed.



McKinley seems to have found the Stairway to Heaven…


Both poetic and informative.


Maybe curiosity killed the cat?


Harv seems like a pretty cool guy!


What a polite gentleman.


He had a very honest family, too.






So punny!



What a pity.


I wonder what his favourite game was?


He or she seems pretty positive.

And one last, unintentionally funny one:


The Art of Dying

Today while reading an article in the New Yorker about letting go, I discovered that in medieval times, there were books called Ars moriendi or The Art of Dying in English, which were immensely popular and served as the definitive guide of how to go about the business of dying.

 ars moriendi 2

The very idea fascinated me; the fact that the Ars moriendi was popular and widely read meant that people were much more comfortable with the idea of death and not at all bothered about being insensitive or tainted by bad luck, unlike the tiptoeing around death that we do today.

Beyond the initial fascination, I wondered how people in medieval times went about getting their affairs in order before their deaths. What was their perspective on death? Is there anything we can learn from them? It’s common today for people to feel that thinking about death is depressing, or morbid even, and that such contemplation should be avoided. The very idea that people bought guides to dying literally ages ago seems remarkable to me.

So who wrote these guides, and what’s in them?

The Ars moriendi come in two original texts: one long and one short. The original, “long” version of the Ars moriendi originated in Germany in 1415. It was written by an unnamed Dominican friar, and subsequently translated, and became very popular in England, up to the 1600s.

The “short” version is essentially an adaptation of the “long” version’s second chapter, and includes woodcut pictures (maybe it was a kind of Dying for Dummies?). Below is a simplified and updated version according to my interpretation. Remember, the Ars moriendi is a Christian text, which is why there is so much mention of religion.

The six chapters of The Art of Dying (adapted for the 21st century)

CHAPTER I: Dying has a good side and it need not be feared.

CHAPTER II: The Five Temptations that beset a dying man, and their corresponding inspirations, or remedies if you will. They are:

 ars moriendi1

A lack of faith – The dying may lose faith in their religion or beliefs, especially those who have been religious. They may feel angry that their prayers have not been answered or feel like they have been forsaken.

The remedy: Have your faith reaffirmed. Go to your place of worship, spend time talking to those who believe, take time to remember why you found this faith and believed in the first place.

Despair – Instead of despairing because you are nearing the end of your life, you can hope for forgiveness from those you feel you have treated unfairly. Use this time to make amends for what you have done and put your mind at peace.

Impatience – The dying know that their time is limited and are often inclined to be impatient because many things seem like a waste of this precious time. Remember to be charitable towards others – they do not mean to annoy you. Be magnanimous. Also remember to stop and smell the roses; it’s not how much you get done in your time left, but appreciating all the blessings and little things that you have.

Spiritual pride – You may feel a sense of superiority, be it in terms of religiosity or because you feel you are so near the end that nothing and nobody can daunt you. Instead, be humble and recollect your sins.

Avarice or attachment to family – As the end nears, it is inevitable that you feel anxious about leaving behind your loved ones and your life’s work. The Ars Moriendi advises that you prepare for your death by slowly detaching yourself and coming to terms with letting them go.

CHAPTER III – Seven Questions to Ask the Dying

3970404672_467ab7518d_o“Venetia Stanley, Lady Digby, on her deathbed” by Flickr user Lisby.

  1. Do you believe fully in your chosen religion, or lack thereof? Are you at peace with your choice?
  2. Do you acknowledge all the sins you have committed? Be honest with yourself.
  3. Are you sorry for them? Try to understand why they were wrong and find a way to forgive yourself for them.
  4. How would you live differently if you were to live longer?
  5. Can you forgive all the people who have hurt you, in words or actions? Reflect on what they have done or said and find strength in your heart to let your pain and anger go.
  6. Have you done your best to fulfil your responsibilities? If you have, you have nothing further to worry about – you have tried your best. If you haven’t, you can still make arrangements so that they will be taken care of. You have to accept that you cannot personally fulfil these tasks and that’s okay. You are doing everything you can by finding the right people to take care of them for you, and that is all that’s required of you.
  7. Are you ready to let go of all your worldly and material possessions?

CHAPTER IV – Why you should strive to be like Christ

CHAPTER V – To your friends and family: How to behave at the deathbed


“Katherine Elliot in Mourning, Circa 1687”

Katherine Elliot (d. 1688) was James II nurse who became dresser to both his wives. She is shown seated in a red upholstered chair, wearing black widow’s clothes and hood; a white kerchief in her left hand resting on lap.

Photo by Flickr user Lisby.


 CHAPTER VI – Prayers to say for the dying

I didn’t go into detail for the last three chapters because a) I could not find a summary of it and b) I would have to read the old English version of it and translate it into modern day English. That being said, if you would really like to know what those three chapters hold, leave a comment and I will see what I can do! I hope this overview of the Ars moriendi was helpful to you.

The start of something new


Hi there!

My name is Cheryl and this, as you can see, is Memorial Haven’s blog. I’ll be maintaining this blog and writing most of the content here (fingers crossed, I hope you’ll like it). If you don’t already know, we created Memorial Haven, our website, for remembering those who have passed away. It’s a place where you can write in your own words about someone you’ve lost and let their memory live on. You can post photos and videos, and others can post their condolences on the memorial you’ve created. Unlike flowers or wreaths, these condolences won’t wilt away.

But I’ll let the site speak for itself. Here’s the link:

What’s this blog for, then? Unlike the site, I won’t be posting eulogies here. This blog is a space for open conversation about grieving and coming to terms with death. It’s such a taboo to speak about or be associated with death in Singapore (more on this later) and what I really want to do is change this opinion. Expect to find articles celebrating life, making the most of life and even joking about what the practical things we need to get done so we can kick the bucket with peace of mind. After all, death is an eventuality – to not speak about it out of superstition sounds a lot like mere denial, doesn’t it?