When Words Fall Short
You might expect that, given my profession as a writer, I’d think nothing trumps language in terms of expressing thoughts and ideas. Far from it. Sure, I think novels almost always surpass the films they inspire. But when it comes to responding to someone experiencing heartbreak — be it from the death of a loved one, a bad diagnosis, a divorce, a job loss or a big rejection — I struggle to find appropriate words. I’ve consulted numerous etiquette blogs for advice, which inevitably suggest something succinct, like “my deepest sympathy” or “I’m sorry for your loss.”
The sentiments are true, but when offered to someone who’s in pain, they sound awfully hollow.
Thank goodness for flowers! A motto I’ve often heard in the industry goes something like this: Flowers say what words cannot. This is never truer than when the occasion is sympathy. It’s been nearly a decade since my grandmother died, but I still recall the immediate aftermath. While my grandfather, mother, aunts and uncles ran about town running errands for the wake and funeral, I stayed home to accept flower and food deliveries and greet guests. I’ve definitely lost track of the number of arrangements that arrived (A LOT), but I distinctly remember how much they touched me. The roses, lilies, gerberas, and snapdragons literally filled our home with cheery hues and a feeling of lightness my family desperately needed. Furthermore, the gesture itself spoke volumes.
Each vase represented someone who knew and loved my grandmother. Seeing our family room transform into a garden showed me the impact her life had.
Your flowers help tongue-tied friends and business associates express their feelings. You, however, must navigate the difficult bereavement communications when a customer contacts you for funeral work. These situations require utmost sensitivity and professionalism. In this issue, Jamie BirdwellBranson reached out to a pair of florists experienced in this category who offered their best practices for talking to grieving families and putting them at ease.
You’ll also find a heartwarming story about how a community came together in the face of heartbreaking news. Mackenzie Nichols spoke with representatives from Humboldt Florist and Wascana Flower Shoppe about how residents used flowers to comfort the families affected by the tragic bus accident that claimed the lives of 13 youth hockey players, their head coach, and two play-by-play announcers. “We sent arrangements to schools, families, banks, head offices, City Hall,” said Ruth Brinkman, a designer at Humboldt Florist. “People were asking to send flowers to anyone and everyone that was connected. We sent every form of flower you could imagine. This will impact us for the rest of our lives.”
We hope these stories empower you with a reminder of the profound meaning behind your work.