Butterflies: Their significance after a loved one passes away

Butterflies have represented death for centuries. Here’s why and what they mean.
Butterflies: Their significance after a loved one passes away

Have you ever said goodbye to a loved one, and then suddenly started noticing beautiful butterflies every time you headed outside in the days, weeks and months that followed?

Turns out, it’s not just you who experiences this (sorry to disappoint).

An introduction to butterflies

We figured we’d start this guide by sharing some interesting facts about butterflies, just to set the scene.

Did you know…

  • Butterflies have been around for 150 million years
  • They are considered one of the most successful species on Earth (show-offs)
  • There are over 20,000 types of butterflies
  • They can be found in nearly every environment (they live on every continent, except Antarctica!)
  • Butterflies can only see the colours red, green and yellow
  • Their wings are actually transparent!
  • They use their feet to taste
  • Butterflies only live for a few weeks

Butterflies and death: A history

Butterflies are a common symbol of death amongst many cultures and religions. In fact, when conducting research for this guide, we learnt that almost every country in the world recognises the connection between butterflies and death.

We think that this symbolism started back in Ancient Greece, where a butterfly sighting after the passing of a loved one was seen to represent the soul of the deceased. This symbolism is still widely respected today.

Different meanings, heaps of comfort

While butterfly sightings after death have traditionally symbolised the soul of the person who has just passed away, their meaning has evolved over time, providing comfort to the bereaved.

Here are some of our favourite ways to interpret (and take comfort in) butterfly sightings after death:

  • Butterflies symbolise transformation and resurrection.
  • They’re a reminder that although your loved one is no longer physically present, they are still always with you and watching over you.
  • They can often be seen around gravesites because they’re attracted to the flowers there. In this setting, they can symbolise the deceased looking for a way out of the underworld.
  • Some believe that butterflies are messengers of the dead. They can help souls find their way to heaven.
  • They can represent the rebirth of the soul (this depends on your culture, religion, and the way you view death and the afterlife).
  • Some believe that a butterfly sighting before someone has passed means the person is about to die.
  • They can symbolise change, joy, hope, new beginnings, and freedom.
  • Some believe that when a butterfly lands on you, a spirit is coming to visit you.
  • They can be seen as a sign that your loved one is okay and in a better place; maybe they’re on a path to healing.

Wrap up

So it’s safe to say that if you’ve been seeing lots of butterflies, and you’ve just said goodbye (or are about to say goodbye) to a loved one, there’s some truly beautiful symbolism there for you to unpack in whichever way feels most comforting to you. More so than butterflies representing the soul of the deceased, they can also represent fresh starts, light at the end of the tunnel, beauty in the everyday (even when things don’t feel so beautiful), and that there is always hope.

Curious to learn about the symbolism behind other animals and objects? Here are 10 of the most popular claims of signs from deceased loved ones.

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