Losing the love of your life is never easy.
Cultures and couples throughout history have used different ways to cope with love and loss. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we wanted to look at the traditions, customs, and coping rituals that couples have used to ease a broken heart.
Culture and Customs
The Native Americans had distinct rituals depending on the tribe and culture. For example, the Choctaw widows would mourn the loss of their partner by never combing their hair during the grieving period. For Chippeway men, it was custom to paint their face completely black during mourning.
In Sioux culture, a widow would shave her head and cut herself with a piece of flint on her arms and legs. She would then join a mourning circle. For each revolution around the circle the widow made, it would be considered an oath to not remarry for that many years.
In the Victorian era, fashion played a huge part in mourning a lover. Widows wore specific bonnets during mourning periods. Black veils were worn over the bonnet for three months and mourning colors (typically all black) were worn for up to two years, and sometimes for the rest of the widow’s life.
For men, a black suit, gloves, and necktie were required for at least a year during the mourning period. Jewelry also was important. Lockets contained a photo or strand of hair of a lover. Sometimes jewelry would be made completely out of the deceased’s hair.
Famous Monuments & Moments of Love
Sometimes the grief of losing a lover causes people to go to epic lengths to honor their memory.
That’s what Mughal emperor Shah Jahan did when he constructed the elaborate Taj Mahal as a place to house the remains of his beloved wife. The mausoleum took more than 20 years to build and required more than 20,000 workers from all over India, Persia, and Europe.
Sweetheart Abbey gives a whole new meaning to the term sweetheart. While the abbey today looks a bit weathered compared to the Taj Mahal, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
The abbey was founded by Dervorguilla of Galloway to honor her late husband. After he died, she had his heart embalmed and placed in a small casket of ivory and silver. For the rest of her life, she carried the embalmed heart with her. And when she died, her body was buried at Sweetheart Abbey, still holding the enshrined heart of her husband.
Champagne: The Original Love Potion
For Valentine’s Day, nothing is more iconic than a bottle of bubbly. But did you know the modern champagne market was created by a widow to save her late husband’s business?
Madame Barbe-Nicole Clicquot and her husband Francois turned down the opportunity to work for the Cliquot family textile business and instead wanted to focus on their true passion — wine making. Although their family didn’t approve, they set about learning the trade anyway.
The Napoleonic Wars caused unforeseen troubles, and their early wine endeavor looked like it was about to go bankrupt. To make matters worse, Francois fell suddenly ill and died. This left Madam Clicquot alone with the business. But through her business savvy, she was able to turn the near-bankrupt business into one of the most recognized brands of champagne today— Veuve Clicquot. She even invented a faster way to make champagne, which at the time was a time-consuming process.
‘Til Death Do Us Part?
Turns out, that’s not the case for this couple who refused to let even death separate them. In 1912, on the fateful night when the Titanic began sinking, passengers began scrambling for lifeboats. One elderly couple, Mr. and Mrs. Straus, were given permission to board a lifeboat. But Mr. Straus refused because there were still women and children on the sinking ship.
When Mr. Straus urged his wife Ida to board, she refused also. According to the original article published in the Denver Post on April 19th, 1912, “Mrs. Straus had a chance to be saved, but she refused to leave her husband. As our boat moved away from the ship, the last boat of all, we could plainly see Mr. and Mrs. Straus standing near the rail with their arms around each other.”
In an essay titled Titanic, Elbert Hubbard wrote about the couple, saying “Mr. and Mrs. Straus, I envy you that legacy of love and loyalty left to your children and grandchildren. The calm courage that was yours all your long and useful career was your possession in death. You knew how to do three great things — you knew how to live, how to love and how to die… Happy lovers, both. In life they were never separated and in death they are not divided.”