It was summer. A group of us were waiting outside for the mother and sister to arrive. When we told them that the young man had died in an accident, his mother and sister immediately threw themselves to their knees, screaming and moaning. They scooped up fistfuls of dirt and threw it over their heads.
I had never seen such an extreme expression of grief and sorrow.
I found a passage in Jeremiah the Prophet where God predicts war that will bring death to the people, "Put on sackcloth, daughter of my people, roll in ashes as for an only son. (6:26)"
We put ashes on our heads to express our deep sorrow for our sins.