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Duration and manifestations of a mourning

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Mary, Queen of Scots(Mary, Queen of Scots, in deuil blanc c. 1559 following the deaths of her father-in-law, mother, and first husband Francis II of France)

The period of mourning is very variable, according to the suffering of the person. It can range from several weeks to several months or even years. However when the mourning follows the loss of a loved one, the first year is often crucial due to all the great anniversary dates.

Once in Western countries, in France for ex., the period of mourning was generally fixed for the spouses to one year for the widower and two years for the widow. When was the death of a person with no family ties, bereavement could be met only by courtesy, for a much shorter duration. During the period of “mourning” which usually lasted one year, the widow should wear only black clothes. Even more the clothes had to be wool or crepe only. No jewelry except blackened wood or, later, jet. The hat comes with a long crepe veil covering the face and falling to his knees. It should not be lifted before six months. Generous, the Countess of Ganja accurate however in “Etiquette and mundane uses” that it is “permitted during the hot weather to bring back the curtain on the left shoulder.”

After this time, the traditions allow to coat purple, mauve or gray, up until the end of mourning. This is called the period of “half mourning”. The widow can then wear velvet or taffeta. It can recover to wear pearls and amethysts …

Needless to say, in the countryside, these considerations did not progress … The kin is large, frequent deaths, reduced income, and the problem is solved by dressing in black during almost all of his existence.

The widower, meanwhile, was wearing dark clothing, and possibly set a black crepe band around his hat or wear a black band around the arm. For a military or any man in uniform (including college), it’s the only mark of mourning. The same Countess Ganja precise “that the height of crepe varies with the degree of relationship.” That is, how far would the detail! The tradition requires that the widower may remarry after six months of widowhood (eighteen months for the widow …). The textbooks state that “worldly convenience formally not to take advantage of this tolerance.”

For another member of the family (father, mother, child, brother, sister …), the same rules were applied but in promptly. However, the veil weared for six months is imposed also for parents and children. For siblings, it is weared on the left shoulder or wrapped in a sling. For more distant relatives, the veil is not required unless you are heir of the deceased. Note that it was not bound to strict mourning for the dead children in infancy. Besides mourning dress, no cakewalk, no party, no dinner, no concert, no flowers are allowed during the first six months of mourning. Any noise is avoided in the home, forbidden music, closed piano. Social activities are taken in small doses during the period of half-mourning. Even the writing papers and handkerchiefs are lined with a black band whose width varies according to the degree of mourning.

The Second World War marked the beginning of the decline of mourning, primarily with the restrictions no longer allowed to purchase the appropriate clothing. It nevertheless continued to be weared until the end of the sixties in rural areas and in traditional families. The events of 1968 and the evolution of ensued morals dealt the fatal blow.

Today, black is worn by everyone. There are not generally more outward sign of mourning, and in fact no more social mourning itself. Some regret this fact: if the entourage is aware of the situation of the person is not however the case of other persons, which may lead to a lack of tact and therefore additional suffering in certain situations.

Wearing mourning is recommended by some psychiatrists to their customers suffering after the loss of a loved one. It’s a way to externalize their grief. In general, they are thereby well. Between the excesses of previous centuries and that of the current century that struggles to deny death in a losing battle, there is a balance to be found.


Grief, as normal as a step through which a person is passing during his lifetime, includes a risk in most cases. Severe reactions occur in approximately 10 to 15% of bereaved individuals. Severe reactions occur in individuals with depression before the loss of a loved one. These reactions may have implications for the environment of the individual mourner. Research shows that a married couple has a reduced risk of breaking after the death of her child.


The color of mourning varies across cultures and customs.

  • In the Western world, this color is usually black
  • In Vietnam, South Korea and India and the Arab countries, is white.
  • In Japan is white and black.
  • In China, it is often combined black to white, however there can be other colors for different situations or conditions of the deceased. For example, if the person was very old, relatives can consider that death is a joyous celebration (as it deserved to live so long), the red or pink colors can then mark the mourning.

We can see many symbols in these colors:

  • Black is darkness, associated with the closing of the eyes, nocturnal sleep (death is frequently seen as an eternal sleep), in the absence of light under the ground (burial, field of Hades where are going the died in the ancient Greek tradition, where is supposed to be the hell);
  • White evokes the pallor of death, heavenly light, the truth (in some cultures, the soul of the dead has access to knowledge beyond human reach).

However, we note that if the black is the color associated with mourning in the West, because it is that of the grief and, formerly, of the liturgy of the dead, others mourning colors are admitted : purple (lavender to purple) – which today is the liturgical color of the Mass for the dead – gray and white.

Translated from Wikipedia

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