"Everyone mourns once in their life, but we hardly speak about it." In our current society, grief is still a difficult topic to discuss. However, this was not always the case. We used to build all kinds of traditions and symbols around dead and loss. This led to visibility in the area and shared commitment that benefited the grieving process. We barely see that nowadays. Grief is kept as much as possible out of sight and the conversation is thereby avoided.
‘Een Teken van Rouw’ (A Sign of Mourning) is an interchangeable mourning emblem that reveals the loss and needs of the grieving person and serves as a tool to make the conversation easier. Through the interchangeable colour elements, the emblem provides a personal support with a subtle signal function to the environment. This gives bystanders a signal on how they can best support the grieving person at that moment, without missing the mark.
‘Een Teken van Rouw ‘(A sign of mourning)’ is the result of my graduation research at the Willem de Kooning academy in Rotterdam. From my personal experience, I noticed that there was often a tense and charged atmosphere when I wanted to bring up my grief. When it came down to it, people didn’t really know how to offer me emotional support. Because of this I also found it difficult to express feelings of grief. This was out of self-protection or the feeling of being a burden to others. In order to spare the other person in his or her discomfort, I avoided my emotions, causing me to move away from it. This clearly affected my grieving process and mental health.
Even today is this topic a barrier in communication and is not openly discussed. Because this still bothers me, I started researching how we can make ‘mourning’ more open for discussion today, in order to find more space and attention for people in their grieving process.
"Mourning is not an individualistic act,
but something you do together with others. "
My literature research shown that grief used to be more obvious and involvement from others a major role plays in shaping grief and sharing emotions. Visibility is therefore a first step in making mourning more open to discussion again today and in this way better supporting the grieving person.
In order to give grief a more visible place, I prototyped a number of conversation attributes to enter into a dialogue with the public.
The insights that emerged from these conversations showed that the sharing of experiences by relatives is perceived as helping. It provided a framework for them to tell their story and be able to have their say. This already indicates how great the need is, but it also became clear that resources are needed to facilitate that conversation. It had to be something discreet; what you can carry with you; but can also take off or possibly adjust. These findings eventually led to ‘A Sign of Mourning’.
In the search for the correct shape, inspiration was found in the former black ‘mourning rhombus’, which was attached to the clothing as a replacement for the mourning band. That visibility and recognition of the past has been incorporated into the design in a contemporary way. The black square in the middle serves as a point of recognition for the grieving person and the embrace of the outer element serves as a signal function to others.