A friend’s mother has recently died. My friend has struggled with how to honor her mother and her own grief. She has chosen to wear a black arm band embroidered with her mom’s name. She had a hard time finding one though. Black arm bands are not as prevalent as they once were.
In Victorian times, the tradition of wearing black to denote grief and a mourning period was brought to its height. I would guess because of the extreme mourning that Queen Victoria did for Prince Albert. She wore black the rest of her long life and although not requiring it of her subjects, did prefer people to wear black. Women’s mourning attire often included heavy face-covering veils. Jewelry was even made of black stones.
The World Wars changed that as so many people died and so many people were in mourning while having to carry on with their lives that the tradition faded. And it faded so rapidly that by the time my mother died when I was 16 some 14 years after WWII ended, we didn’t even think about the color of our clothes. Oh, the memorial service was filled with people in black or deep blue or purple but that was it.
I did very little grieving at the time. My dad was a believer that God was the God of the living and that my mom wouldn’t have wanted us to be sad so we weren’t. (Said with tongue in cheek.) I did not really grieve for my mom until the night of my oldest daughter’s first wedding. I was alone in the house doing some preparation for the next day and I just started to weep. I went on with what I was doing just crying and crying because my mother had not been with me on my wedding day. Several years later when the same daughter was pregnant she called to talk to her mom because she had had morning sickness and been stung by a bee on the same day. Instead of being with her, I started to cry again because I had not been able to share my pregnancies with my mom.
When my first husband died, I thought again about the wearing of black. Many a time that first year, I wished for some outward sign to say to people in the grocery store, this person is feeling very vulnerable and raw right now. Treat her gently, please. The sadness was so overwhelming sometimes and I didn’t under-stand how they couldn’t tell. I felt like I was wearing it like a swirling cloak. A simple black armband might have helped.
I admire my friend for her persistence. Maybe she will start a trend. No rules for how long or anything. Just the presence of a simple band that tells the world we are honoring someone we are missing very much. Please, be gentle with us for a while.