Have you been wearing a poppy? Lots of people in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK pin a poppy over their hearts in the weeks before Remembrance Day, do you? This tradition stems from the poem In Flanders Fields with its imagery of poppies blowing between the tombstone crosses in a World War I graveyard. What’s your reason for wearing a poppy? Maybe you want to support the work of the Legion with your donation (or donations in my case, as I usually buy and lose about four every year). Or you might have served in the armed forces or have a loved one who did, and you want to acknowledge their contribution, and the sacrifice of people who died in war. Poppies are a community symbol of mourning. You may not personally know a soldier who lost their life in war, but we feel moved to mark the loss with the symbol pinned to our lapels. Mourning symbols, (like arm bands and black ribbons) work in a similar way. They give us the opportunity to publicly declare our loss. “Someone I care about has died” they say, even when you don’t have the words. A poppy in November denotes something specific: Remembrance. It links you to other people wearing a poppy in a shared emotion. A mourning symbol also denotes something specific: grief. It allows others to see that you are in mourning. That the things you do, even the mundane things like grocery shopping, are tinged with grief. The mourning symbol you wear can link you to others who have experienced grief and arouse compassion in people who encounter you in your mourning—crying in the produce aisle, or screaming in traffic,
Are you ready for Halloween? In Canada and the US, we celebrate the occasion with costumes and candy, haunted houses and scary movies. You might be wondering what is has to do with mourning or remembrance-it’s a silly fun holiday for kids. But it isn’t celebrated in the same way everywhere. The word Halloween comes from a contraction of All Hallows’ Eve, and in many cultures the focus is on honouring people who have died. Hallows is an archaic name for saints, and the day following All Hallows’ Eve is All Saints Day. The day is reserved in some Christian denominations to remember those who have died, with church services and with special prayers of remembrance. Although it is sombre, it is a comforting time to share your grief with those who have also experienced loss. Like I said, not too much to do with pillowcases full of candy! Many countries and cultures have holidays and festivals to commemorate family and friends who have died. In the Philippines, families gather for Undas, travelling home to celebrate together. They visit the graves of family members to clean and repaint the tomb or mausoleum, eat together, and light candles and pray. In Sweden, most shops and businesses are closed on All Saints’ Day, and people spend time with their families. Candles are lit and placed on gravestones of loved ones, and many churches will have services and host concerts. The Day of the Dead festivals in some parts of Mexico are probably the best known. Sugar skulls ornately decorated skeleton figurines, and bright yellow marigolds are part of the colourful celebrations, where special meals are eaten with family, graves are visited, and altars are constructed with offerings of things that were meaningful to the person
Grief Diaries is an amazing series of books which delve into the experiences of those who’ve suffered a loss. The series contains a number of book specific to various types of loss, such as Loss of a Spouse, Loss of a Child, Loss of a Parent, Loss by Suicide and many more. The books provide incredible insight to the grief journey from a first-hand perspective. A box of Kleenex is highly recommended when reading these books, as the stories are incredibly personal and touching. The books are a highly valuable bereavement tool as not only do they offer comfort and hope, but they are an all-important reminder that we do not walk this journey alone. A full list of the book titles can be found at www.griefdiaries.com. Many of the titles are also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca. Simply search under ‘grief diaries” and the list will come up. Julie Mjelve, co-founder of Grieving together, has been blessed and honored to be a contributor to three of the books, Loss of a Spouse, Loss by Suicide and How to Help the Newly Bereaved. Whatever loss you have experienced in your life, all the Grief Diaries books aim to come alongside you and hold you up through your own personal journey.
There was a time when wearing black after a death was simply what was done. It was the proper etiquette. A widow would wear a full length black dress, often for a full year. Black armbands were commonly worn for 6 months following the death of a parent or spouse. Yet these traditions seem to be a thing of the past. Was there something important about wearing black? Did it truly help the grieving person? On one hand, I think the gut response is to answer ‘of course not, it’s just a color’. True. Yet, not true. The important part of wearing black was that it was a society-wide norm. Everyone knew what it meant if you were seen wearing black. Nowadays, widows don’t wear black dresses, and armbands are rarely seen outside of a funeral service, if even that. Instead, we might see pink if the person died from breast cancer, or orange to signify their favorite color. Is there anything wrong with that? Again, the first instinct is to answer ‘of course not, it’s just a color’. Again, true. Yet, not true. Unfortunately, while it is fantastic that people wish to support the research of breast cancer, wearing pink does not let your surrounding community know whether you have lost someone to breast cancer, or just know someone who underwent treatment for breast cancer, and continues to live today.
Wearing black is more than a tradition, it serves a function. Whether we like the color choice or not, someone many years ago chose black as the color to represent mourning. The
Time is Measurable, Love and Grief are Not In March, Julie openly wrote about her grief hero, comedian Patton Oswalt, and how his honest and ‘unpretty’ truth gave her hope. His candid and very public grief journey continued recently when he announced his engagement to actress, Meredith Salenger, “only” 15 months after his wife died. As usual, some people had strong opinions about this news. And, boy oh boy, some of those nasty opinions pretty much blew up the widow-verse. The prickles came when reading venomous remarks condemning Oswalt’s engagement–everything from “Nope, too soon” to suggesting his grief wasn’t genuine. After all, he’d just taken his wedding ring off a few weeks prior to his engagement announcement. Now consider this: Imagine Patton is a widowed woman living in Victorian times. If she adhered to full rather than half mourning, she would wear a black mourning dress for twelve months. This mourning dress, the visible expression of her grief, would be shed at the end of that year and she would be expected to remarry. Despite what she may feel inside, the visible mourning period dictated at that time would be over. Done. No controversy. But today we have prickles and condemnation. Enter the Widow-verse. Erica Roman, a widowed writer, eloquently schooled those who think they know how love works after being widowed. Her defense of Patton’s new love caught his attention and Erica’s blog went viral. I highly suggest reading her post. It obviously resonates with many widows, but it also serves as education for those seeking insight on supporting someone who has lost a spouse. https://ericaroman.me/2017/07/07/a-widows-rage-defense-of-patton-oswalts-engagement/ In my mind, the naysayers were not aware of two widowhood concepts.
- Time has no effect on love and grief, and
- Widows have the capacity and ability to love both their