I recently lost my daughter, and along with the physical and emotional loss that comes with the death of a loved one, I experienced the loss of my identity. From one moment to the next, I stopped being the person I was and became someone else, someone I didn’t recognize in the mirror and who didn’t know how to express himself.
I just wanted to take a step back and reinvent myself, free myself from the pain I felt when I saw what I would never be and recognize who I should start to be. At that moment I decided to cut my hair.
According to Yale University Professor Rose Weitz, our hair is the only part of the body that we can change at will. Therefore, it becomes a reflection of who we are, a sign of identity. Cutting my hair did not end my grief, but it helped me mourn the end of a stage in my life and know the woman I am now.
Cut your hair to close cycles
There’s a running joke online that dyeing their hair and cutting their bangs is how young people deal with all kinds of crises, from pandemics to breakups. However, in many indigenous cultures, hair has long been associated with spirituality. “Your hair is an extension of your soul and carries emotions,” explains Daniel Gomez-Ortigozawhom we interviewed earlier in All Things Hair—. All your history is contained in your hair.
In India, after the death of a parent, children are expected to shave their heads as a symbol of grief and detachment from the ego. Similarly, widows are expected to remain bald after the death of their husbands, as a way of giving up femininity and pleasure. In some Native American cultures, long hair is a sign of connection to one’s spirituality, while in religions such as Buddhism, shaving one’s hair signifies detachment from earthly possessions.
Psychologically, cutting your hair in times of grief prepares you for a new and different life. Dr. Katherine Ellen Foley mentions that people recovering from any type of trauma often cope by changing their appearance, and this in itself is a form of self-care. For example, Britney Spears shaved her head in 2007 because she wanted some control over her life and image, after being run by music executives since she was 16.
Haircuts, therefore, have a much deeper meaning than just a trip to the salon. They can be a form of mourning for the end of a relationship or the loss of a loved one, and even a souvenir form. My decision to cut my hair helped me to embrace the new me, and as a result, to be able to look in the mirror every day, acknowledging my history and the connection I have with my daughter.
If you are going through a loss, you are not alone: learning to live without someone we love is very difficult. It is not necessary for people to see your transformation, the important thing is that you feel it.