Talking Points: Sympathy Flowers

If a Reporter Contacts You about Sympathy Flowers

If a reporter contacts you and wants to talk about sympathy flowers, avoid the topic of profits. Focus on the benefits of flowers in the grieving process. Otherwise, it could look like the floral industry is trying to profit from people’s grief. Before the interview, review SAF’s Working with the Media section.

Print the following pages from SAF’s consumer website and have them handy for your interview:

Talking Points

  • It is never easy comforting a relative, friend or associate who has lost a loved one.
  • Many people want to express their sympathy and show respect for the deceased in a variety of ways, including charitable contributions, food donations, a helping hand, and cards and flowers sent to the family’s home or to the funeral service.
  • Sympathy flowers have been a part of funeral and memorial traditions in nearly every culture throughout history. In ancient cultures, floral and herb essences were used to anoint the bodies of the deceased and aromatic flowers and greens were displayed.
  • Flowers add warmth to the service and provide the visible emotional support the bereaved need during this time.
  • If you’ve ever been to a funeral that is void of flowers, it is a cold and somber environment. A funeral without flowers is a sad, lonely, cold place.
  • Flowers honor the deceased’s life, express sympathy is a heartfelt way (providing a way to be there even if you physically can’t be), and provide a warm, pleasant diversion — something to talk about during the visitation and the service.
  • Flowers are something that can be there when you can’t be, and we all know how they can express our feelings in so many ways.
  • Flowers can be a great source of comfort to those grieving the loss of a loved one, and should be regarded as an important gesture.
  • Recent research indicates that sympathy flowers may not only brighten and warm a funeral or memorial service setting, but also have a positive impact on the emotional well-being of the bereaved.
  • A behavioral research study conducted at Harvard by Nancy Etcoff, Ph.D., reveals some of the calming, fortifying feelings flowers create. The study reveals that flowers feed compassion and chase away anxiety and worries. Research participants lived with fresh flowers for just a few days and reported increases in feelings of compassion and kindness for others. Overall, people simply felt less negative after being around flowers.
  • Previous behavioral research by Rutgers University also found that flowers improve our emotional health, according to The Journal of Evolutionary Psychology. Research participants reported feeling less depressed, anxious and agitated after receiving flowers, and demonstrated a higher sense of enjoyment and life satisfaction.
  • The bereavement process is a pivotal time when worry, anxiety and many sad emotions are present. With such compelling research that shows how flowers impact emotional well-being, flowers should be regarded as an essential part of the bereavement process.
  • In light of the emotional benefits of flowers, it is hard to imagine a funeral or memorial service without them.
  • For information on the behavioral research and flowers in general, please visit

If Asked about the “In Lieu of Flowers ” Issue

  • The “In Lieu of Flowers” phrase can often be found in death notices and obituaries.
  • In most instances, we have found that the phrase is used as a convenient, polite way to meet requests for memorial contributions and that many people just don’t understand how important flowers are to the bereavement process.
  • Eliminating the “in lieu of” phrase when designating a charitable donation in an obituary or death notice leaves the expression of sympathy to the giver, rather than dictating what they should or shouldn’t do.

Suggested Alternative Phrases to “In Lieu of Flowers…”

  • The family suggests memorial contributions be sent to…
  • Should friends desire, contributions may be sent to…
  • Memorials may be made to the charity of your choice.
  • The… Memorial has been established for those wishing to make a contribution.
  • As an expression of sympathy, memorial contributions may be sent to…
  • The family has designated the… for memorial contributions.
  • Remembrances may be made in the form desired by friends.
  • Memorial contributions may be made to…
  • Flowers are welcome; Contributions may be sent to…

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