Mourning in flipflops

An African elephant mother mourns her calf.

An African elephant mother mourns her calf*.

Mourning is grief in action, the outward ways that we express our sadness. Throughout history, societies have shown their grief in countless ways: from a simple burial and necessitated fast return to daily duties to massive funeral processions and elaborate mourning dress for years. Even animals seem to mourn their dead in different but oh-so-familiar ways (especially for our babies: elephant, dolphin, gorilla for just a few).

Today, at least in the part of the US where I live, mourning is done in private. We go back to work, go to the grocery store, see our friends, dress in normal clothes… all while dying inside from the grief that tears us apart. Why do we feel the need to grieve alone? Where has the mourning process gone? Except for a very rare few who have short lives themselves, all of us experience death within our lifetimes. If we haven’t already lost a loved one, we will at some point before our own deaths. Why not share the pain and help pull each other up?

Sometimes I fancy I’d like to bring back the black armband or perhaps a bracelet would do. Then, others would know why the sadness creases my face even when nothing sad is happening around us. And, even more importantly, if others wore it too then we would know we were grieving together.

I may be wearing flipflops and a sundress, but I am in mourning just as much as if I were in full black regalia. Today I’m wearing a long blue sundress with butterflies on it, beautiful blue butterfly earrings sent by a friend in remembrance of Ada, a black bracelet, and my ever present Teva flipflops. These are my mourning clothes today.


*Copyright of the image is held by the BBC but hopefully they will be ok with my non-commercial use of the image. I’ll quickly take it down if asked. This image of a mamma elephant grieving her baby just resonated with me in a way few images have. I understand her pain, and she would understand mine.


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