In lieu of flowers?
November 23, 2012 6:43 AM   Subscribe

Wrongful death in the family. In lieu of flowers / Memorial donations? Help me, hive mind.

I'm handling the aftermath of my mother's tragic death, overwhelmed with details, and looking for some specific ideas and suggestions. My cognition is still impaired from trauma and lack of sleep; I'm having problems with memory, focus, decisions, and attention deficit so please bear with me. Just up front: I'm already in counseling and doing what I can to take care of me.

I'm setting up a domain with a word press engine that will have information about services and a way for people to comment and let us know if they are coming, etc.

My initial thought was "In lieu of flowers" and I should set up a list of charities that my mother actively supported or would approve up, possibly through a memorial fund that people could contribute to, that we could disburse from, some of which could help fund a memorial marker. We will be very clear about what the money is for and where it is going. I haven't worked out yet what the appropriate charities are.

Reading the wikipedia article on "in lieu of flowers" is interesting. We'd love lots of flowers at the service, but I don't want it to feel like too much is wasted on them. I will speak to the Pastor about how to handle some of this - she has plenty of experience.

What I'm wondering about specifically:

* Is this simply a bad idea? Any better ideas?
* How do I handle "some" versus "no" flowers?
* What are the best online mechanisms for setting up a donation fund?
It looks like could work. Good? Bad? Better?
* What charities might I consider?
* Are there legal issues I should be aware of?
I would assume money received that we pass on to a charity we could theoretically ignore
(it would wash out anyway), but money used for a memorial marker would technically be income.
Should these efforts be separated?
* Any other obvious questions I'm missing?

Anything you can offer would be much appreciated.

posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm so, so sorry.

To my ears, any kind of "in lieu of flowers, a donation to [charity x, y, or z] is appreciated" message would be just fine. Speaking to your pastor about how to handle this is just fine too, though - that's what they're there for.

Because - you are grieving, and people expect for you to have trouble focusing clearly and making decisions right now. Everyone does that when they're grieving, even when the one who passed did so from natural causes. Please don't apologize for having a little trouble figuring out what to do right now - everyone understands, especially under your particular circumstances.

If and when ColdChef comes to this thread, he will also have a lot of advice you may find very helpful. You are in my thoughts.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:50 AM on November 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

You mentioned you wanted to use charities your mother actively supported or would approve of - do you know what causes she was interested in? This would help to suggest charities to consider. BTW, I do think ChipIn is the best option I'm aware of for collecting funds that are NOT going to be used for charity. But if you are collecting funds for charity, if you can choose a single charity there are several better routes to consider that would send money straight to the charity, like Facebook Causes, Razoo, FirstGiving (Facebook Causes being the best of these 3 because of the lack of fees taken from the donations).
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:51 AM on November 23, 2012

Cut yourself a break, if you want flowers, then don't say In lieu of Flowers.

Usually, when I get information on a funeral I'll get a blurb like,

Please send a donation in Mother's memory to the Humane Society.

Don't solicit donations to you, to then send out to others. Just tell them where to send the money.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:52 AM on November 23, 2012 [13 favorites]

I am so sorry for your loss. When my father died suddenly we did the "in lieu of flowers" thing and indicated one or two charities that people could donate to. When we did a memorial service at the home many people asked "Is there anything we can do/bring?" and to those people we said "Bringing flowers would be nice" which was a nice way for them to contribute and, at the same time, meant we didn't have to invest in flowers. That Wikipedia page is all over the place and I wouldn't put a lot of stock in what it's saying.

If it were me and I had your questions, I'd decide them this way

- this is not a bad idea, basically any ideas are fine and if you have trusted friends or family members you can ask for their suggestions as well
- I'd handle some versus no flowers as I suggested. People will bring flowers anyhow, no matter what you say in many cases.
- don't know about online stuff
- I'd suggest two charities one that might be more activistish if your mom had causes that she was supporting and one that was more either local or appropriate to what happened to her ["In lieu of flowers please consider a donation to the XYZ Restorative Justice Program or the Save the Bay foundation'} generally people make those donations to the charities directly, you do not collect them
- Legal issues: not really. If you are not the executor of her estate (if there is an official estate) talk to whoever is because funeral expenses (including flowers I think if you provided some as part of the service) are part of the tax process since they are paid by the estate
- If it were me and I was doing this I'd wait on the memorial marker until the immediate stuff is handled. Obviously think about it and tell people you are planning but this can happen later and it's probably better if you have some time to think on it. People will donate to that sort of thing at a later date and it's totally appropriate. Alternatively you could collect funds for a memorial marker separately via a tip jar. Consult whoever is in charge of dealing with the estate finances for specific advice here, don't just take internet advice.

Mostly be kind to yourself. This is so difficult and it's easy to bury yourself in planning which is a totally fine thing to do but things that might be manageable to normally-functioning you may seem impossible or really out of control stressful to stressed out you. In addition to the specifics of what happened, it's just hard to lose a person who was in your life and managing a bunch of people who are dealing with their own grief is very hard. Good for you for taking care of yourself. Stay fed and rested to the best of your ability and that will help you put this all together as effectively as you can.
posted by jessamyn at 7:02 AM on November 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Most funeral homes have some kind of online memory pages and the newspaper will also publish the obituary online. Having just gone through planning my father's services, a lot of the things we thought we needed to do, ended up being taken care of by either the funeral home or by friends. Wait until you go to meet with the funeral director; he or she will probably be able to answer most of your concerns.
posted by tamitang at 7:03 AM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am so sorry for your loss. There was a recent death in my family. We said "flowers are acceptable, or donations to [charities]" and that worked out fine. Some people sent flowers while others donated, so there were some flowers.
posted by veerat at 7:03 AM on November 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding everything Ruthless Bunny said. Delegate as much as possible - don't take on the job of collecting money, deciding what to do with it, etc. In the obituary, let people know where you would like them to donate. Also there may be some people who would prefer to donate anonymously and to a credible charity for a variety of reasons.

If you're not having an actual funeral at the cemetery, I would not worry about the memorial marker now, nor would I solicit funds for that purpose for those same reasons.

Is there a reason you need to know how many people will be there? If I were arranging my mother's services (again) I would give anyone who needed to know an estimate, rather than count RSVPs.

If you start feeling some weird pressure from people about doing things the "right" way, eff that. You do whatever you need to in order to get through. I'm sorry for your loss.
posted by lyssabee at 7:05 AM on November 23, 2012

When my son died I indicated 3 charities for donations, but I did not set up any special mechanism for collection of money. Some people made donations directly to the charities in question (the two smaller/local charities let me know later on who had made donations and I sent thank-yous to those people), while other people wrote checks specifically to their charity of choice and included them in sympathy cards, which I then forwarded to the charities in question. Other people wrote checks out to me or simply included cash.

We still got some--not overwhelming masses--of flowers. I like flowers and kind of wish I had left "in lieu of flowers" out of the announcement, because I wouldn't have minded having more flowers at his visitation/service. However, I guess it's also nice to know that the charities I selected wound up getting a not insignificant amount of donations in Simon's name. I am glad that two of the organizations I chose are local/not huge--it made the experience more personal (I've received multiple lovely personal letters from both organizations) and it made it feel like the money was really making a difference and not just a drop in the bucket of some huge, if worthy, charity machine.

I think people who write checks to the family of the deceased or donate cash expect that the money will be used to help defray funeral costs. Unless someone is writing you a check in excess of $10,000, it's a gift and not income. If you wind up donating some of the "unearmarked" funds to the charities of your choice, you can deduct that from your own taxes if you happen to itemize your deductions.

The funeral director can really help answer all these sorts of questions and many more than you haven't even thought to ask.
posted by drlith at 7:07 AM on November 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm so sorry for your loss.

I've seen "donations to _____ charity in _____'s memory are greatly appreciated" type things that didn't specify the donations would be in lieu of flowers. I agree that if you'd like flowers, it's fine to do both.

I also agree that it's ok to let someone else like the pastor make a lot of the arrangements for you/ with you. This is a challenging experience.
posted by windykites at 7:14 AM on November 23, 2012

Nthing the comments above, that 'in lieu of flowers, donations to X would be greatly appreciated'. I would stay away from a memorial fund of some kind, as that seems like a lot of hassle in terms of setting it up correctly, administering the paperwork, filing taxes, etc. At the very least, get someone else to handle that, if that is how you want to go.

But coming back to the flowers-vs-charities thing, I've had great 'success' (if that's the word) with memorial tree plantings. They have a nice sense of life-for-a-life sort of thing to them, and fill a practical purpose. My go-to is through the JNF, but there are plenty of others, all easily googleable.

Sorry for your loss.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:17 AM on November 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

One thing to note: even when there is an "in lieu of flowers" message, some people still send flowers.
posted by megatherium at 7:19 AM on November 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Anon, I'm sorry for your loss....nthing posting "in lieu of flowers" in the announcement.

Alternatively you could collect funds for a memorial marker separately via a tip jar.

@Jessamyn: I think that's tacky.
posted by brujita at 7:49 AM on November 23, 2012

Very sorry for your loss. For simplicity both in the announcement and in handling the logistics, I'd simply pick one charity. "In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution to _____." (Several good wordsmithing alternates above.) That way you don't handle the funds. Some will bring/send flowers anyway; just thank them and move on.

Personally, I would not solicit for funds for a marker, outside of your immediate family and VERY close friends, and I would not do it publicly.
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:55 AM on November 23, 2012

* "Is this simply a bad idea? Any better ideas?"
* "How do I handle "some" versus "no" flowers?"
I think windykites has a good proposal for how to mention the charity option without making flowers seem a bad idea. Some people are bound to pick between the two, and the people who want to do flowers won't have to wrestle with their desire versus instructions.

* "What are the best online mechanisms for setting up a donation fund? It looks like could work. Good? Bad? Better?"
treehorn+bunny's breakdown on this is good. If you want a more general funding option to consider with ChipIn, there's also GoFundMe.

* "What charities might I consider?"
My instinct would be to choose 2 maximum, with one being something that was very close to her heart that you would always be proud to think of as being helped by her and the other something that productively deals with how she was lost and/or the impact it has on the survivors. drlith's points on this are invaluable, of course.

* "Are there legal issues I should be aware of?"
The funeral director might be able to answer these, but perhaps not as well as the estate attorney.

** "Should these efforts be separated?"
It depends. If you need a lot of help with covering closure costs, making a general request for funds and stating that any overage will go to the selected charities, you can track those expenses as being part of the estate and write off the donated portion.

If the closure costs aren't going to be as much of an issue, just giving people the info for the selected charities, putting up a collection container for any in-person contributions to the memorial, and informing people who ask where to send contributions after the fact should do the job well.

Collecting for the memorial fund at any gatherings in her honour can be done tender with a container she loved or that otherwise represents what she means to everyone. Even a beloved hat. Setting it near a display of photographs with a brief note ("Memorial Marker Fund") will keep it sweet.

Otherwise, the estate attorney can advise most specifically. Do be sure to keep all receipts.

* "Any other obvious questions I'm missing?"
There's often a character limit in newspaper obituaries, so you may need to choose between the donation options you mention to save space. If you're able to point people to a single, simple webpage with links to everything they'd need to know from there, it would save space and give them all their options in one place. You probably have a friend or family member who would love to help out by doing this for you. If not, please feel free to ask here.

Whatever you decide to do in this, my heart goes out to you. As has been said above so well, do keep checking in on yourself and give yourself gentleness and understanding as you navigate this portion of your path. Don't be afraid to ask for and accept help.
posted by batmonkey at 8:00 AM on November 23, 2012

I work for a florist. People do still sometimes send flowers even if the obit says "in lieu of flowers." But in your case I would recommend you just leave out mention of flowers and just mention the charity.

(If you have any other questions regarding memorial flowers, feel free to memail me.)

And I am so very sorry for your loss.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:07 AM on November 23, 2012

The OP asked me to post this on their behalf, so, here goes:

I lurked at MeFi for years before I broke down and ponied up. I've always valued
the quality of the interaction here, although my personal contributions are
fairly limited. I try to only say something if I feel it's really worth saying.
There's a number of highly visible users here who have invested a lot of time in
making the site what it is.

Posting anonymously had something to do with not coloring my other interactions
here. The event itself referred to in my post was highly visible and on TV news
across a fairly wide area. Shortly after the event, my girl/partner and I ate
dinner at a local restaurant where we are friendly with the owners who are
really sweet people, and they didn't know. It was so refreshing to be around
someone who didn't know what was going on and we didn't have to talk about it.

All of the comments were very kind and helpful, but more so the physically
palpable sense of a burden shared has made my day lighter.

Thank you all.

posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:44 PM on November 23, 2012

I'm sorry for your loss.

At my grandfather's funeral recently we did the "in lieu of flowers" thing because we didn't want people to spend large amounts of money on flowers. But like you we did want some flowers at the service, so we went to a supermarket and bought armfuls of the cheap bouquets (we got something like 30 bouquets for under $100), and pulled all the individual flowers out of them. Each member of the extended family who walked in following the casket was given a handful of flowers to carry, and then laid the flowers on top of the casket at the front. That meant during the service the casket was covered with a huge mass of flowers, without anyone having spent much on them.
posted by lollusc at 4:51 PM on November 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

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