Things You Should and Shouldn’t Leave at a Grave

There is nothing more heartbreaking than when someone close to you has died. Trying to pick up the pieces of the life they left behind is not the easiest thing to do but it’s a must when someone passes away. Many people spend time grieving, so things like gravestones and places to scatter ashes aren’t always close to your mind. 

Visiting a gravesite of a loved one? That is healing for a lot of people. They need somewhere to go and grieve, to sit, to believe that they can be close to the person they lost. When someone close to you dies, you need a place to sit and think as a token of the life left behind. You can go to a grave and arrange flowers, sit with a lunch or just stand and think, but a grave gives you a site to go to to move forward. Many people like to go to a grave and bring tokens and gifts with them, but there are some things that you shouldn’t leave at a gravesite. Below, we’ve got two lists: one to tell you what to leave and one to tell you what to avoid. Let’s take a look:

Image source: Pexels

You should leave…

  1. Flowers. So many people choose to leave flowers in cemetery grave vases by the grave of their loved one. If they had a favorite flower, then buying these every week and leaving them at the graveside is really a beautiful thing to do. It’s a tradition that goes back many years, and you should take note of the rules regarding flowers that the cemetery has before leaving any. The last thing that you want to do is have the beautiful arrangement stolen.
  2. Holiday decorations. In the form of holiday ornaments or wreaths, these are absolutely something to leave behind. Again, check with the cemetery to know the rules of what to leave behind, but festive seasonal decorations can make you feel like you’re close to the person you love. Flashing lights probably aren’t the right thing to leave, but bedecking the headstone or the ground in ornaments can make you feel close. It doesn’t just have to be Christmas, either.
  3. Blankets. Some people like to use grave blankets at a grave site, and you might think we’re suggesting you lay a knitted quilt over a grave. Actually, a grave blanket is an evergreen arrangement that is laid over a grave. It’s symbolic in Scandinavian culture to ‘warm’ the loved one in the grave and let them know you’re close to them. Evergreen works really well for this as it’s hardier in the winter months than other types of flowers that may be too delicate.
  4. Coins. Believe it or not, some people love to leave coins at a grave site as it’s a tradition that dates right back through centuries. In Ancient Greece, coins would be placed over the eyes and mouth of the deceased as payment for the Charon, the Greek God. You may see coins on the headstones of veterans, too, as military tradition suggests leaving coins on the graves of deceased military family members. These are usually left in gratitude for service.
  5. Pebbles and stones. Headstones are often used to mark a grave, but some people also like to bring pebbles and stones. Even smaller rocks can be used and this originates from Jewish cultures and customs. The origins of this tradition aren’t widely known as they go back centuries, but it’s thought that they are left behind before receiving final judgment. Stones are durable and long-lasting, so they’re a practical thing to leave behind. Plus, you have to consider that no one is really going to steal rocks from a grave as they’re expected to be there.

Image source: Pexels

You shouldn’t leave…

  1. Flags. It can be very tempting to leave large flags on a grave for the holidays, or Memorial Day, but small planted flags should be ok. Large flags can be overwhelming in a cemetery, prone to theft and it can be distracting to others who are mourning. It can also be pretty disrespectful to leave flags out in the elements depending on who you ask.
  2. Fences. We all know that walking over a grave is bad taste, but fencing – even low fencing – can be an obstacle for groundskeepers. So largely, the practice of leaving fencing behind to protect a grave from animals, people walking over it and vandals has largely ceased.
  3. Vases. While you can leave vases behind, you might want to rethink it if the vase is too big. Cemetery grave vases are a beautiful addition to any grave, but too large and they can be targets for theft, they can break and they can leave sharp chunks everywhere if they smash and that’s a hazard.
  4. Stuffed toys. A lot of people leave stuffed toys on the graves of babies and children, and while it’s a lovely gesture, it’s not one that is practical. More and more cemeteries are banning this practice and it’s because of the fact that they get tattered, dirty and struck by the elements quite quickly. When this happens, it becomes an eyesore and not a cute memory on the grave.
  5. Staked decor. Many cemeteries are banning these types of decoration because they can blow away in the wind. Staked decorations often interfere with the groundskeepers and their ability to get their work done. In fact, the decorations can blow away, with the stakes left in the ground sticking up. These can be damaged by lawn mowers or stepped on.

When it comes down to it, you have to find what’s going to work for you. Getting the mementos you want onto the graveside of a loved one should be done in a way that’s respectful and in keeping with the rules of the cemetery. Always make a point of being respectful to the other mourners, too. A grave site is a place of grief and grief demands sensitivity and calm.