I have now been wearing my Mourning Bracelet for six months. I’ve worn it all day, every day and night to every event. I wore it as I traveled across Ireland, to Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Illinois, California, Colorado…. To business meetings, to funerals, to nights out with my husband and celebrations with my children. And, this is what I have discovered.

People see it… But of those that do, most pretend they have not seen it. Some smile softly- seemingly with sorrow… But don’t say anything. Some quickly turn away as if they feel like they’ve accidentally just read a page from my diary. Have people been more gentle and kind to me, as I had hoped they might be when they see this vulnerable proclamation? It’s hard to tell…. I myself am kind to people so it’s common that they are kind in return.

But mostly, this has been an exercise in kindness, patience, empathy and gratitude- for me. I had included this consideration as part of the purpose for wearing this bracelet- but I didn’t know it would be the main reason — at least for me.

The deaths of my friends and family members have not gone away but they have softened and are not presently in the forefront of my mind. I could have taken this bracelet off a few times now but I have kept it on because it carries the mortality of my loved ones with me through my fortunate life. I live better knowing and remembering those who have died. When I step out of the shower, completely nude save my Mourning Bracelet, I remember that I am alive. When I’m dressed and polished from head to toe and having a great night out, I’ll catch a reflection of my Bracelet in a mirror and will remember that I am alive. When I speak with someone who is telling me their tale of death…. Their father, their sister, their horse…. I summon all of the comfort and gratitude my Mourning Bracelet has imbued in it and I find strength to listen fully to their pain.

It’s been only six months and I can no longer say that mourning clothing is just a “good idea” that I support and encourage. It’s a necessity. We must be brave with our mourning- not to alert others necessarily but as a validation for our own feelings… A visual statement for others that mourning happens to everyone and a confirmation that our grief is real. Even when we’re smiling. Even when we are at work. Even all the time through everything we continue with the deaths in our lives and our vulnerability can also be a strength.

When you first put this Bracelet on, you will feel like a screaming beacon- like you’re signaling the whole world that you feel like a sinking ship.

Keep it on.

Then one day you will feel slightly better but in that split second, you look down and upon seeing your Bracelet you sink again.

Keep it on.

Then later still you notice someone looking at your Bracelet and they look away and instead of sinking…. You wonder why they looked away?

Keep it on.

Much later still, you’ll get dressed up to go out and you consider taking off your Bracelet…. Now, at this point…. Maybe you’ll take it off, but keep it close because mourning doesn’t come off when you change your clothes. It’s ok to let it go of course, but it’s also ok to keep it close.

One day you might look at the Bracelet as a symbol of strength.

You can put it on for someone else who is in active mourning. You can put it on again for yourself like calling an old friend when there is an anniversary or an occasion that has you feeling so very sad or lonesome. You can give it away to someone who needs it more than you do right now.

Or, you can like me, just keep it on with no intention of removing it. Because I am a better human by friending grief so that I may love more thoroughly and with sheer gratitude.

Author of Death Nesting and Ancient Death Doula Series. Feeding Your Demons Facilitator. Community Deathcare teacher. Mama of three. www.annemariekeppel.com

Author of Death Nesting and Ancient Death Doula Series. Feeding Your Demons Facilitator. Community Deathcare teacher. Mama of three. www.annemariekeppel.com