April 8, 2021

Why it’s Okay to Grieve our Long, Terrible, Beautiful Year.


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Queen Victoria wore black for 40 years after Albert died.

Not black like a fashion statement. It wasn’t “her color.” She wore black like someone who is showing deep grief. Forty years of anguish until Victoria died, too.

That story intrigues me. Probably because I believe there was a point in there where Victoria felt ready to stop grieving, but she was uncertain how to shed the black mourning clothes. I’m not saying she wanted to go out in pastels, but perhaps a navy. Or dark green.

Some people think it was romantic. Victoria was wildly, madly in love in a way that few of us will ever have the chance to feel. And that could be true. But maybe, just maybe, she didn’t know how to allow herself to transition from the darkness. After all, if she showed up in something new, wouldn’t everyone assume that she had fully grieved her husband, that she no longer yearned for him? Did the green dress mean that she had moved on?

Or perhaps…she would want to venture out of her black clothes in stages. First, lose the shawl. Then, the petticoat. Then, the lace. Until, hopefully, she was a lighter version of herself. Maybe she could shed that grief in layers.

This will come as a shock, but I actually don’t know Queen Victoria personally. I know little about the woman, except that she was the one to propose to dear old Albert. I am merely speculating on her feelings: her battle with grief and the decision of when to let it go. I’ve never lost the love of my life, and I hope I never know what that feels like.

However, many of us have experienced unimaginable grief this year. Whether or not pandemic-related, most have lost someone or something important to us: a loved one, a memory, a year of life, or a special occasion reduced to a phone call. That is grief too. It’s acceptable to mourn.

I know the pandemic is not over, but the daffodils are out, and I feel spring in the air. I am filled with a sensation that we may just have a hint of normalcy soon. But the question remains: how long do we grieve what we lost when the season changes?

How long until we can stop wearing black?

What a long way to tell you I don’t have the answer.

And neither does anyone else.

What I want you to know is that on the days where the sun comes shining in and you are feeling bright and full of life, it is okay to put the green dress on. And in moments where the night is dark and even your bones feel lonely, it is okay to wrap the black shawl around you a little tighter.

And there will be times where you swear you will wear black for the next 40 years.
And times where you swear you will never wear black again.
And times when you decide that black is not grief—it is your style.

What a long and terrible and beautiful year for everyone on this planet.
So here is your permission to grieve.
And here is your permission to dance.
And here is your permission to fall into the spaces in between grief and laughter.
And here is your permission to change your feelings as frequently as your clothes.

Notice the good. Let it fill you.
I hope Victoria knew that.

I hope you do too.


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