The Little Black Dress of Grief

August 10, 2021

As I pick through my closet I see it, the little black dress. The one that hangs hidden in the back of my closet, similar to my most agonizing grief. The dress that was chosen through denial and heartbreak. The dress that was worn to say my final goodbye, the one worn to bury my mother. 

The dress that now sits in my closet constantly signifying death and loss. It doesn’t get worn for anything else. It stays tucked away. It stays in the back, covered by clothes that have no sentimental meaning, surrounded by clothes that don’t hurt to look at or bring back debilitating pain. My little black dress. 

The dress of loss. 

The dress of pain.

The dress of denial and confusion.

The dress of haunting memories.

The dress of finality and a funeral. 

Do you have one? A dress or outfit you were forced to purchase out of necessity and not desire? A dress that you can no longer look at? One you can’t bear to wear again? A dress that is just as dark as the moments you wore it. 

I tucked mine away waiting until I need it again, but hoping not to see its presence unless I had to. Today it caught my eye and I sat there staring at that dress paralyzed by the delicate movements that it made. It covered the grief-stricken shell of a person. It covered my brokenness and my raw wounds. It covered the fragile first moments of my grief. 

The little black dress with a different meaning and purpose than the ones that hang in my friends’ closets. The little black dress that buried my mother and carried the body and soul of a woman who became motherless. 

The little black dress, cloth as dark as my grief and emotion, hanging as still as my breath when I see it. The little black dress of grief.

xox, Chels

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7 comments so far.

7 responses to “The Little Black Dress of Grief”

  1. Hailey says:

    When I got the call it was the middle of the night. My moms Covid advanced fast and she went into the hospital Friday evening. That next morning at 3am I got the call. I threw on my favorite tanktop and leggings, and drove faster than I care to admit. Everything happend in less than 24 hours.

    I wore the tanktop on the worst day of my life. I wore it when I decided to turn off the ventilator and say goodbye to my mom. I wore it when I climbed on top of her lifeless body and screamed a scream nobody should ever have to hear come from another human. I thought it was just me.

    I finally worked up the courage to wear it this past week, and I’ve worn it twice now. It’ll be a year on September 19th. At this point, it’s the thing I was wearing when I last held my moms hand and I think I needed that now. Her birthday is Friday.

    Thank you for making me feel less crazy about my anxiety surrounding an article of clothing. I’m sorry you’re going through this too.

    • chelseaohlemiller says:

      Hailey, thank you so much for reading my work. I can assure you that you are not crazy, nor alone, in this grief journey. It’s a complex and complicated path that is unique to each person. I pray you continue to find hope and encouragement on my page. xox, Chels

  2. Lenda says:

    I own 7 pairs of black dress pants. The 2 newest ones came to the collection almost one year ago. My mom had been fighting melanoma for about 2 1/2 years until she lost that battle and gained her wings on 11/2/2020 just 4 days shy of her 66th birthday. My sons who live 6 hours away came up that night and left the next day. I went out and bought a new pair of pants for her funeral since the others didn’t fit to well. I was so upset that my sons couldn’t make it for her funeral as one was just in a car reck and the other just welcomed his son in to the world. I never imagined that just a month and a half later I would be out shopping for another pair of black pants. I never thought that when I hugged my sons before they left back home back on 11/3/2020 that I would be woken up in the middle of the night with that call no parent ever should get. On 12/22/22 My son, age 22 who just became a father was shot 8 times and killed and his fiancé was shot and rushed in to surgery just hours after doing the last of their Christmas shopping. I came across the pants as I was cleaning out my closet and getting rid of some clothes and I just sat on the chair in my room and cried. I don’t think I will ever get rid of those pants. I took a small pillow he had on his bed and a few other things just to have and I sleep with that pillow every night. His jacket hangs in my closet and every so often I will just go and smell it. 💔😢

    • chelseaohlemiller says:

      Lenda, thank you for reading my work and taking the time to share a piece of your own story and journey. I’m honored to read it. Please know I’m lifting you in comfort, love and encouragement from afar. xox, Chels

  3. Carrie Cox says:

    My dad passed away 2 months ago. The dress I wore to his funeral I threw away. I decided I’d never be able to wear i again without it just being a constant reminder of my loss. Thanks for the wonderful articles you share on grief. They’re a great encouragement to me.

  4. Sarah says:

    My mum passed 14 years ago (still feels like yesterday )I replay that day over and over … we found her in her house . Wasn’t picking up the phone . So drove to her house . We followed the fire engine to the house .. they broke in ,and there she was .. cant explain the feeling of devastation i and complete shock . and then it hit me I had to survive without her .. I was 31 with a 7 and 2 year old girls that idolised their nanny .. my little black dress still hangs in my closet ..I try not to look at it but then sometimes i find it and im back in that day, that final day when i said goodbye to my beautiful mum . My life will never be the same, i have a whole in my heart that will never heal .. and a black dress that I will never wear again but can never throw it away ..

  5. Butterfly says:

    Thank you for sharing your grief.
    I lost my mom and dad within 3 years. My moms heart gave out and my dads lungs gave up. Her heart couldnt beat without his breath.

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Chelsea Ohlemiller

Chelsea Ohlemiller

A thirty-something wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.

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