• Susan L. Williams

Shades of black, the thick, opaque, dense color that defines sorrow.

When I was widowed I wanted a uniform. Something I could wear that would set me apart from all of the other non grieving souls I walked by each day. I thought the darker my attire the more I could disappear, walk unseen in an alien landscape populated with people who were seemingly untouched by loss.

The light of the natural world seemed to pierce my skin and at times I felt that people could see inside of me. Everyone could see the devastated human that lived inside my skin. Opaque black could block such transparency. That's what I thought.

Visions of women Like Victoria, Queen of England, who lost her beloved Albert, settled into my brain and I longed for arm bands, huge dresses, veils, hats. The heavy fabric that reflects the weight of sorrow. But, alas, contemporary custom does not hold to Victorian customs.

Non-the-less, after the death of my husband I laid down the gauntlet and chose to wear shades of black. Coats, skirts, sweaters, pants, shirts - all black. I wore my dark attire including sunglasses through fall, winter spring, and summer for almost two years. I was marking myself as a widow. Ever so slowly color came back into my wardrobe, but muted tones of the natural world were all that were allowed in.

Mourning clothiers were popular in the nineteenth century when customs and rituals were more precisely defined by society.

Now we must define our own.

Jacqueline Kennedy lives in our collective heart as one of the quintessential

images of mourning. Her long black veil signifying her profound grief and

protecting her from the prying eyes of the world

In a culture that often ignores grief and often expects a rapid recovery from loss those who mourn can be left in a sort of stasis. We must define our own observance practice for as long as we deem necessary. Grief is not subject to linear time. Even simple things like the way we dress can express our inner world and signify our bereavement, if only to ourselves. This practice can last a lifetime.

For myself the wearing of black actually manifested into dressing up as grief itself. I painted my face, one side young and the other webbed with the lines of age. I draped myself in the garments of a darker time including a long black dress, hat and veil. I was following an inner voice that encouraged this odd behavior. I know this sounds a bit strange, but for me this was a breakthrough experience. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was exploring my relationship with grief. The grief that lived inside of me everyday. The experience felt incredibly honest and forthright. The inside became the outside and we were a match.

We must listen to our inner voice and even if that voice tells us to do something out of the ordinary contemplate the possibility. If the action does not harm you or anyone else, consider a way to let that expression live. If only for a moment.

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  • Susan L. Williams

They Say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Sometimes words cannot express our grief or our sympathy. At those times art can show us what words cannot.

Sorrowing Old Man (At Eternity's Gate) by Vincent Van Gogh, was painted in 1890 in Provence, France. Van Gogh finished his painting in the spring when he was recovering from a severe lapse of health. About two months later he committed what is thought to be suicide.

For me, Van Gogh captured the unyielding weight of grief's depressive nature. Such depression can harness a soul for years. I know because this happened to me.

I have experienced various stages of depression, and had a lot of counseling. However, when my husband was killed a darker shade of depression closed in. The depression was episodic for years. I was aware of the effect of depleted serotonin levels, but did not take it seriously. https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/serotonin. Thankfully my current husband saw what was happening, drug me to a doctor and I finally accepted a medication that made a remarkable difference, and I am happy to say the light came back into my life and for the most part stayed. Thank goodness most people do not need medication in their battle with grief and depression, but as someone who does I am so very thankful I received the help I needed.

Fortunately, there are now communities of people working together to help folks through the darkest of days. If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one research what is available in your community. Seek family resources, churches, online and local grief recovery groups, therapists and workshops. In the small town where I live there are an amazing number of people who specialize in grief work. You may be surprised by what you find.

Life is so very short and untreated and prolonged grief has a profoundly negative impact on the quality of one's life. No one should be subject to endless suffering.

Here is a website that defines grief versus depression. I hope the information is helpful.


Excerpt from A Very Well Mind


How Grief and Depression Are Similar

Grief has several symptoms in common with the symptoms of major depressive disorder, including intense sadness, insomnia, poor appetite, and weight loss. In fact, the symptoms of grief and depression can appear remarkable similar.

With grief, it is normal to experience sadness and to cry. It is normal to experience changes in sleep patterns, energy levels, and appetite. It is normal to have difficulty concentrating and to have moments of anger, loneliness, and more. A difference, however, is that these feelings usually begin to debate over time. That is, unless, someone develops complicated grief.

What Is Complicated Grief?

Complicated grief, unlike uncomplicated grief, does not seem to dissipate with time.

Symptoms of complicated or chronic grief may include intense sadness, anger, or irritability. A person may have difficulty accepting that whatever caused her grief really occurred. She may focus excessively on the episode of grief or not face it at all. She may engage in self-destructive behaviors or even contemplate or attempt suicide.

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