In six weeks you can recuperate from major surgery and be back at work. In six weeks you can have your first baby, bond with it, arrange your mind, your house and childcare and be back at work. In six weeks you can say goodbye to old friends, pack the closets, get the moving van, unpack the boxes, hang the curtains, make new friends and be back at work. In six weeks you can mourn the death of a parent and be back at work. Six weeks is the modern expectation of how long it takes to adjust to change. Six weeks is what you get before people start to wonder why things aren't ticking away like usual. Six weeks to normal.
Give me black crepe and widow's weeds. Give me rigid ritual and rules that must be followed. Give me two years before I am allowed to dance again without scandal. Give me full mourning for a year and then I will move on to half mourning and add gray and maybe lavendar to my costume. Give me this so I don't have to smile at the grocery clerk. Give me this so you will remember to handle me with care. Give me this as a signal to the village. Give me this as shelter from the gossips at the well. Give me these limits, please, to move about in freely.
And if I want, let me be like Queen Victoria and wear it for dear Albert for the remainder of my days. Let me not forget. Let me retreat. Let me never be the same. (I will never be the same. I will never be the same.)
Even, for a black armband like the servants wore. That would do. Just a small sign that things are not back to normal. And a message to that impatient receptionist or to that pushy parent (who wants to arrange yet another playdate for the kids) that birth, and life, and death take longer than six weeks.