White flowers often carry symbolic meanings related to their color. White is commonly associated with purity, innocence, and new beginnings. However, some white flowers also have meanings related to sadness and grief. One of the most well-known white flowers that symbolizes sadness is the white lily.
The White Lily
The white lily, particularly the Easter lily, is often associated with funerals and carrying condolences to grieving loved ones. There are a few reasons why the white lily has come to symbolize grief and sympathy:
|Purity and Innocence||White lilies represent the purity and innocence of the soul of the departed|
|Mourning||Victorians used white lilies to represent mourning. They would lay white lilies on the graves of loved ones.|
|Funeral Flowers||White lilies are frequently used in funeral wreaths and standing sprays. They are common funeral home flowers.|
The white lily’s association with funerals has roots in Christianity as well. The Virgin Mary is often portrayed holding white lilies in paintings and sculptures. The white lily came to symbolize her purity and chastity. After Jesus Christ’s death, white lilies were said to have sprouted where his sweat dropped to the ground in the Garden of Gethsemane.
In floriography, or the language of flowers, the white lily symbolizes majesty and honor, two things often epitomized in death. The lily’s white color represents the peace and tranquility of the soul’s ascension to heaven. Thus, the white lily is an appropriate funeral flower to convey sympathies for the loss of someone close.
Lily of the Valley
Another lesser known white flower associated with grief is lily of the valley. Despite its delicate appearance and sweet fragrance, the lily of the valley represents tears, humility, and a “return to happiness.”
There are a few explanations for this flower’s sad symbolism:
|Weeping Lily||One myth says that the lily of the valley sprang from Eve’s tears when she was exiled from the Garden of Eden.|
|Ladder to Heaven||The lily of the valley was thought to represent the ladder that souls climbed to reach heaven.|
|May Lily||This flower blooms in May, considered a month of renewal and remembrance for the dead.|
Much like the white lily, the lily of the valley’s nodding bell shape evokes sadness and mourning. But its fragrance and association with spring represent happiness to come after a time of grief.
The gladiolus is a popular funeral flower with an equally complex set of meanings. In general, the gladiolus symbolizes strength of character, infatuation, and moral integrity. But the white gladiolus specifically conveys sympathy and is frequently used in funeral wreaths and arrangements.
There are a few proposed origins for why white gladiolus flowers represent condolences:
|Sword Lily||Gladiolus plants have sword-shaped leaves that may represent the sword of sorrow piercing one’s heart in times of grief.|
|Infatuation||The unrequited infatuation meaning gladiolus flowers carry may relate to longing for the deceased.|
|Funeral Tradition||Their tall, spiky shape and availability in summer associates gladiolus with funerals.|
While the white gladiolus flower mainly conveys sympathy, the variety of meanings ascribed to it makes it an interesting funeral flower. It honors the deceased in their passing while acknowledging the grief of those left behind.
Roses are common funeral flowers across most cultures. While the more universal meaning of white roses is purity and devotion, they also carry a specific meaning related to death. White roses symbolize reverence and humility, making them appropriate flowers for funerals.
Some more reasons white roses are associated with grief and condolences are:
|Youth and Innocence||White roses nuzzle their heads downward, evoking the image of bowed heads at a funeral mourning the untimely death of youth.|
|Heavenly Afterlife||As white roses wilt, their petals fall to the ground, representing the soul’s ascent to heaven.|
|Eternal Love||White roses convey everlasting love for the deceased.|
At funerals, white rose arrangements demonstrate quietly understated honor and respect for someone who has passed away. The beauty and gentleness of the white rose expresses sympathy while providing comfort.
Chrysanthemums are one of the most common funeral flowers. While typical chrysanthemums represent joy and positivity, the white variety specifically symbolizes grief, loss, and lamentation.
Some possible connections between white chrysanthemums and sadness include:
|Victorian Floriography||In Victorian floriography, white chrysanthemums represented truth and grief.|
|East Asian Cultures||In China, Japan, and Korea, white chrysanthemums denote grief and are used to decorate graves.|
|November Birth Flower||Since chrysanthemums bloom in autumn, they are associated with the solemn mood of November.|
When used in funerary wreaths and sprays, the white chrysanthemum’s poignant symbolism honors the dead and expresses empathy for the bereaved. Their stark white color evokes the bleakness of losing a loved one.
With their trumpet-shaped flowers and graceful stems, calla lilies convey elegance and beauty. But the white calla lily also carries a meaning connected to the afterlife.
Some symbolic meanings of white calla lilies include:
|Transition||The calla lily’s shape represents the transition between life and death.|
|Holiness||Early Christian legends associated calla lilies with the Virgin Mary’s purity and holiness.|
|Rebirth||Since calla lilies grow from rhizomes, they represent the cycle of rebirth.|
At funerals, the white calla lily’s respectful symbolism acknowledges the end of life’s journey while offering hope for the renewal of the spirit. Its stately presence adds a quiet dignity to memorial services.
Typically, carnations symbolize admiration, love, and gratitude. But white carnations specifically express remembrance and convey sympathy to the grieving.
Some possible roots of the white carnation’s funeral meaning include:
|Sweetness and Innocence||Their clove-like scent represents the sweet innocence of the soul.|
|Pure Love||In floriography, white carnations represent the purest love reserved for the dead.|
|Farewell Flower||In French culture, white carnations were traditionally used to say goodbye at funeral ceremonies.|
The simple beauty of white carnations belies the deep meaning of commemoration they carry. Their pure white color symbolizes the light of the spirit preserved after death.
Flowers play an integral role in funeral ceremonies across cultures. While flowers typically represent positive emotions like love and joy, some white flowers like the lily, lily of the valley, gladiolus, rose, chrysanthemum, calla lily, and carnation specifically symbolize grief and convey sympathy. Their shades of white represent purity and innocence, while their delicate appearance evokes the fragility of life. These flowers speak quietly to honor those passed on and comfort those left behind. Their sad meanings remind us that death is part of a cycle that makes appreciation for life and loved ones all the more precious.