The Black Dress

written and shared by Elizabeth Rubenstein

There is a black dress.

I see it every day.

The space it occupies never changes.

The black dress stares back at me when I open my closet door. I cannot escape its harsh presence. The weight of the dress barely being supported by its hanger; a stark contrast to the brightly colored garments surrounding it, which all seem to dance lightly on their hangers, begging to be taken out and worn.


For seven years the black dress has hung heavily on its hanger. It was only worn once.

Colors suggest emotions. White conjures feelings of peace and light. Black is the absence of light. When I wore the black dress, it held no light for me. The black dress deflected the light; allowing only the darkness to seep in, consuming me with sadness and swallowing me with sorrow.


For 12 hours on the second most difficult day of my life, I wore the heavy black dress. From early morning to late into the night it clung to me, absorbing my tears and the tears of so many others. When at last I was able to shed the painful garment, I left it in a heap on the floor, angry at the reason for having to put it on in the first place. It sat there for days.

A constant reminder of the sadness and emptiness

I felt.


Eventually I took the black dress to be cleaned. Why? I do not know. I have no intention of ever wearing it again. I cannot wear it again.


Days later I picked the black dress up from the drycleaner. The person behind the counter handed it to me commenting “Oh, what a beautiful dress!” There was so much that could have been said in that moment. I just replied, “thank you.” And then I turned and walked away carrying my “beautiful” burden home.


Seven years later the black dress still hangs in the same spot where I hung it upon my return from the drycleaner. The sight of it evokes painful memories. A heaviness felt by the everlasting hole in my heart. A grief compounded by overpowering memories and strong emotions from the one time the dress was worn.


Grief is an experience none of us can escape. It is a raw and difficult struggle.


Sadly, I do not need a black dress to remind me of what I have lost. I live with that each and every day.


Years from now the black dress will still be hanging in my closet. Long after I am gone, I wonder what my daughter will do when she opens my closet door and sees the black dress.


Perhaps she has a black dress of her own hanging in the back of her closet….

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