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, or where ever you find yourself when emotions overtake you.
No one is embarrassed to wear a poppy, and although wearing mourning symbols for a personal loss is not as common as it was in the past (https://grievingtogether.ca/can-wearing-black-truly-help-grieving-person/) there is no reason to hesitate over wearing a mourning symbol now. The signal to your community that you are grieving is relevant for your loss of a loved one, just as much as a poppy is relevant to signal that you remember.
Grieving Together offers a selection of mourning symbols to help you in your grief. You can find out more about them here. (https://grievingtogether.ca/shop)