Posted by: Admin | November 4, 2010

Modern Mourning

Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying “In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes,” but it is only death that demands public display as well as personal emotion.

floral tributes for Diana, Princess of Wales (

Rituals may differ across time and cultures, but they endure, their purpose often practical as well as symbolic. For the Victorians, mourning dress was an outward symbol of inner seclusion, used as a mark of respect, but personal grief was very much a private affair.

That all changed with the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997, as private tragedy transmogrified into public outpouring of raw emotion. This differed from public displays of respect such as, for example, football teams wearing a black armband to commemorate a dead colleague or manager, or observing a minute’s silence on Remembrance Sunday. Such restraint no longer felt adequate. It is now common for floral tributes, soft toys and heartfelt notes to be left at accident sites or outside the houses of the bereaved by sympathisers who have no personal contact at all with the deceased.

For those of us who were brought up to display a “stiff upper lip” and to keep personal emotions private, this move towards public display can feel uncomfortably like emotional voyeurism. However, in times of tragedy it can be cathartic to join with others to express shock, grief and simple remembrance.

I have been fascinated by the response to the unexpected passing of our well-loved relative. Specifically, his Facebook page has been populated by mourners who have written to him directly and shared stories and memories with each other. Close relatives have posted his photograph as their own Profile picture in tribute. It doesn’t feel voyeuristic – it is a simple, heartfelt response facilitated by social media

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