Mourning Clothes – Why Queen Victoria Had It Right

Why do we no longer wear mourning clothes? Why can’t we, like Queen Victoria, have an outward sign for others to know that we are still grieving?

When you suffer a loss, it often hits hardest three to four weeks after the death. Why? Because that is when the realisation sets in that this is how it will be from now on. And because by then those around you have moved on with their lives.

People are uncomfortable with other people’s grief. They can respond appropriately in the immediate aftermath but weeks later they can find it difficult to know how to react to someone still in pain.

Of course, those grieving often don’t help themselves. Not wanting to make others uncomfortable, they act as if nothing has happened, that everything is normal.

But it did happen. And nothing is normal. In fact, nothing will be as it was ever again.

When Prince Albert died in 1861, Queen Victoria went into mourning. She dressed in black and continued to wear black until her death in 1901. Her mourning clothes were a constant reminder to others that she had suffered a great loss that would always be with her.

Queen Victoria & John Brown at Balmoral Photograph taken by George Washington Wilson in 1863 (Public Domain)

Queen Victoria & John Brown at Balmoral
Photograph taken by George Washington Wilson in 1863
(Public Domain)

Unfortunately, there is now no obvious way to indicate to those around us that we are still suffering.

In the absence of a mourning outfit, I offer the following:

Just because the funeral is over, please do not forget that I am still grieving and I may need you.

If I am laughing and joking with you, it is because sometimes I need to remind myself that there will still be joy.

If I am arguing loudly with you about a topic, it is because it stops me from screaming.

If I ask you casually, “So, do you want to meet up for a coffee?”, what I’m really saying is, “I need to be with someone doing something so I don’t crawl into bed for the rest of the day.” Please be there for me if you possibly can because it is more than just coffee to me.

If I seem to be getting on with life, it is because I know it makes you uncomfortable to see me sad all the time so I act ‘normal’ to make it easier for you.

I may look to have it all together but inside I am broken and while I may eventually heal, the scars will always remain.

And finally:

Please be patient. This will take time.



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30 thoughts on “Mourning Clothes – Why Queen Victoria Had It Right

  1. When someone you love dearly has died, you cannot get help from a professional for a month. That is because if they helped you from the very beginning, that very period you mention, H, comes around exactly as you say and hits you all over again; and you think that the counselling has been useless. It then become really difficult for anyone to help you.
    So you see how right you are about this.
    For myself, I wanted to wear a big label around my neck that said “I just want to BE with people !”. But by and large they withdrew from me because they were afraid. Death is catching, that’s what they think …
    Well no; of course they don’t really think that; they think “I don’t want to be in this person’s presence with the sadness of loss around her, or I might have to think about its happening to me one day”, or something of the sort.
    A woman I went right through school with, who had been my best friend for something like 12 years, and from whom I was separated by my forced move to the eastern states, started to come to Sydney to visit a son here. Chic couldn’t stand her, so she was here only if he wasn’t – about twice, I think. When he died, she called me up roughly six week afterwards and asked how I was; and when I said I wan’t too hot, she said (and I quote) “STILL ???!”. I haven’t seen her since the time I did before that call, and never shall again: just for starters, I wouldn’t’ve known how to discuss the six years of terror and indescribable misery that followed …


    • Oh, M-R, how awful. Those are the words of someone who has clearly never known great loss.
      I knew that you would understand this completely. The irony is that it is often the really bad days that you desperately want to be with people – if only for the distraction from the terrible thoughts in your head – but they are the very days that people tend to avoid you.


      • I totally agree, Barbara ! And he was, too; the only person he loved of my small and motley array of people I brought to our relationship was my second-eldest sister. Although he did really enjoy the company of my mate from the ’70s – and she is now my only Sydney friend.


  2. Grieving is really difficult for most people to manage in others. I understand how you feel about wanting to “wear” your mourning.
    If I can make a suggestion that might help you …. when my father passed away, I needed to hold him close to me in some way. I dreamt about him every night and his voice calling my name would wake me up. My mom understood and gave me an old ring that sat in his jewellry box for years and years. I started to wear it whenever I found the waves starting to get too large to swim. I did the same when my mom passed away with one of her necklaces that she always wore. Over time – a long time, actually – the need to wear them started to fade.
    Those close to me knew and understood what it meant when I ‘wore my grief’.


  3. I remember in the late 1970’s, a woman my age had lost a grand parent. Her heritage was Greek, I believe. In keeping with the cultural tradition she wore black, head to toe, for a year. She resented it deeply. She was in her early 20’s and this was during the flower-power hippy-dippy days. I understood her feelings then.

    Just as I now understand yours, having experienced loss. In the days after my mother died, I remember feeling off balance. The rest of the world continued as before without acknowledging how my world was anything but the same as before.

    I hope your friends and family members get the message and are able to understand.


  4. Your words ring true even for those of us who may still have our loved ones with us, but who are now permanently disabled. My daughter’s beautiful personality has been destroyed by brain injury, and I feel as though that daughter is dead now. Her physical presence is still here but her “self” is not. It’s a different person now. And I’ve had to stuff that down because, really, people just can’t bear the pain of it all. There is all kinds of grieving going on and if I could enswathe myself in a black shroud, I would. It’s just invisible, is all.


  5. Ugh, and not to be all me-me-me in my earlier comment. You have to give yourself Permission to grieve exactly as you want to. To wallow, weep, and wail as much as you need to and for as long as you need to. The beauty of life is that glimmers of new beginnings do occur and the beat goes on. XXX


    • Oh, I’m so glad you shared your story. That is what this community is all about. It must be even harder for you as you would face the attitude of “but she’s still here”. But you have lost the daughter you knew and that loss is just as deeply felt. Plus you must now care for and get to know the person she is now. I can’t even imagine how hard that must be for you. XXX


  6. I suspect more people do understand than you might realise right now. A month, two months, is no time at all. I think people recognise that. When sadness overwhelms you, say so. When you need care, or company, please keep asking. I’m always up for cappuccino, btw.


    • Thanks, Elly. Part of the problem is having different groups of friends. I may put the call out to one group, it takes them a few hours to respond, every one of them says they’re not available and by then it’s too late to ask anyone else. (Plus not only are you then dealing with a crap day but that awful feeling that people weren’t there for you.) Maybe I need to introduce all my friends to each other so I can just put out one universal call – like a bat signal – “I need somebody”.


  7. Maybe we need something even if it’s not mourning clothes – a special pin of sorts, perhaps.
    One of my closest friends always says yes if I ask if she wants to meet for coffee even though she doesn’t drink it.


    • I was thinking about that – and more on the mourning clothes – this morning and realised that so much of our communication is electronic now so would anyone see it? One of my friends lost her Dad in May and she has a photo of him as her profile picture on Facebook. I think that’s a good electronic form of mourning clothes – reminding people that she is grieving.

      That is a wonderful friend to have. 🙂


  8. This is your hugging blogger buddy…sending you more hugs from across the pond. I know your sadness, it takes time to soften, but never totally goes away. Take care of yourself, wear black if it brings comfort.


  9. I feel for you at this time because you are isolated but you know that we in the cyber world are there with virtual hugs and cups of coffee when ever you let us know you need company (and probably at times you don’t need company too.) Lots of love being sent your way. ❤


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