THE COLOR OF GRIEF
After my husband Peter died almost five years ago, I no longer saw the world in color. I saw only shades of gray, as if I was in an old-fashioned black-and-white movie. Color and more importantly, the richness of color, was displaced by a dull vision of gray gloominess. My life was drained of all color and vibrancy. I felt as if the trauma of my loss transformed my vision to the overcast loneliness of gray.
Remember the 2000 movie Pleasantville? Everyone in Pleasantville is portrayed in black and white. But slowly, as the characters experience the emotions of compassion, kindness, and love, color returned to the screen. When I was in the early throes of grief, I saw days in a blinding haze of shadows. As I began to see some light at the end of the tunnel, colors began to come back into view. As I ventured out into the world, taking small steps forward, technicolor slowly began to return to my vision.
I discovered that colors and emotions are closely allied. Some colors make us feel happy, and some evoke feelings of sadness. The psychological effects colors have on emotions depends on the brightness, the tint, the hue, and whether the colors are warm or cool. Traditionally warm colors are reds, oranges, and yellows. Theoretically warm colors induce optimistic and happy feelings. But, when one thinks of red, one also thinks of anger which is one of the stages of grief. Red also makes you stop, literally at a stop sign or it can signal danger. Cool colors, include blue, green and purple. Cool colors evoke soothing and comforting feelings but blue can also be used to mean sadness as in the “blues.”
When I think of happy colors, I think of pastels colors, particularly pink, lilacs, and soft blues. Maybe they evoke baby colors which always brings a smile. Sad colors are muddy greys and browns. In Western culture black is the color of mourning but in East Asian countries white is used for mourning to symbolize rebirth.
As a blond, I love to wear red which is not only flattering but seems to suggest the fact that I am empowered and impassioned. Yellow is the color of smiley faces and seems to give one a sense of happiness. Orange is a high-energy color with a lot of vitality. Green is the color of nature and evokes calming and a sense of growth. Pink is feminine, flirty and fun. Purple is associated with royalty and wealth and also has a calming effect. Black is sure to remind one of sophistication. Who doesn’t want to look great in an LBD (little black dress)? But black is also the color of sadness and mourning. White conjures up feelings of purity, rebirth, and modernity.
Blue is my favorite color. Blue calms me, and makes me feel relaxed. As I move to accept my new reality, blue has helped me to view my new existence. For me blue is the color of healing and growth. Others feel that green, since it signifies plants and new growth, is a better choice for healing. But I choose blue. It is my calmative, quieting, soothing, and comforting lens through which I move forward into the light.
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