In this video, Dr. Wolfelt talks about the value of symbols during a time of loss.

Symbols Convey Love

When words are inadequate, we often use symbols that express our love. For example, people will often send flowers or food to a family after hearing about the passing of a loved one. These symbols help us to support each other when words fail. Kind words are important, but it is often beneficial to accompany these with a representation of love and support.

Symbols Facilitate Expression

In addition to showing support, symbols also facilitate natural expression. The ultimate symbol at a funeral is the precious body of a loved one that animated life. Another example is the headstone, a symbol that we can return to again and again, even generations after a loss to honor those who have gone before us.

Symbols Aren’t About Logic

Symbols shouldn’t be tied down to literal or logical interpretation. We all know that flowers die. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t a powerful symbol of life. It may not seem like the family needs another tuna casserole when they already have a mountain of food…but that isn’t the point. It’s not about giving a logical gift, it’s about what the gift represents. Symbols provide meaning and communicate emotions that words fail to capture.


Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt is an author, educator, and grief counselor with over 30 years of experience working with bereaved families. He has written many best-selling books on grief and loss, including Healing Your Grieving Heart and The Journey Through Grief. Dr. Wolfelt serves as the Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition. Visit him online at www.centerforloss.com.

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