I want to thank Courtney Luck for her bravery and fierceness and her beautiful sharing of words in this guest-post.
I’ve always changed my hair.
The first time I dyed my hair I was in 8th grade. I’d begged my mom and she allowed me for my 13th birthday to dye my hair flaming red. From then on, it was a free for all. Short, long, purple, blonde, green, brunette; you name it I did it. I really didn’t think there was a rhyme or reason to my hair urges and needs. I just went for it. Or so I thought.
It wasn’t until my husband died suddenly in March of 2011 that I actually became keenly aware of how my hair changed with different emotions and changes happening in my life. When I stumbled upon How-to Hair Girl in June 2015 I really resonated with the words “stuck in hair, stuck in life”. Reading that was like a word arrow shot straight into me.
Before my husband died, I was floating through life. I wasn’t a good observer of myself. When I lost him, I lost everything. Allowing myself to be in the unknowing was a huge learning experience; getting to know and understand myself, my thoughts, feelings, and motivations. This is where my hair story begins.
About 9 months before my husband died, we decided we were finally ready to have a baby. This is something I had wanted my entire life (and still do). I immediately went to the salon and had my stylist dye my hair to as close to my natural color as possible. I didn’t want to worry about chemicals when I got pregnant.
I was a week late on the day that my husband, TJ, died. And it wasn’t until another 2 weeks had passed that I brought myself to take a pregnancy test. I couldn’t even begin to think about that would mean to me if I were pregnant and yet I had to know.
I bought a test and told my mother “if you hear a big thud in the morning, it’s me fainting if this thing is positive”. The next morning it showed up with a line and a half. What the hell does that even mean?
I went to the doctor to get a blood test instead. I wasn’t going to keep peeing on a stick and hoping it was wrong. The blood test confirmed that I was not pregnant. Loss number two. Not only had my husband died, my dream of having his child died, too.
Three months later my husband’s uncle, who was more of an uncle to me than any of my own, died suddenly. His funeral was a real setback. I felt totally smothered by the condolences and attention from wellwishers wondering if I was okay with all this loss, even though it was coming from a place of love and concern.
Stranger to Myself
During this time, when I looked in the mirror in the morning I didn’t recognize the woman looking back at me. Her skin was greyish in color, her eyes were so sad with dark circles, and her hair was matte brown with no lustre. I needed a pick me up, big time.
It was around that time that the ladies I worked with at the interior design firm had pooled together to buy me a gift card to a spa in town. The day I received the gift I knew I would be using it for hair only. I decided to start slow with some highlights. Simple enough and a still a nice change.
The night before I was due to go back to work I had a complete breakdown. I cried and shook and couldn’t even begin to speak. Both of my parents laid in bed on either side of me and held me. The numbness that I’d been experiencing was turned off like a light switch.
In the morning, my mother called my boss and let him know that I wasn’t going to be able to come back to work just yet. I realized that the only way forward was to make a clean break from everything old in my life.
After I quit my job, new hair was once again in order….This time a short angled bob dyed platinum blonde.
Several months passed as I went from platinum blonde to red, to brown, then back to blonde. Nothing really stuck around for long and nothing seemed right yet. I still didn’t feel like myself.
Seeking a Different Path
I began to travel with the little money I had left from TJ’s life insurance. I went to Oregon to house sit and pet sit for a friend in January…….I arrived with chin length hair colored brown with blonde highlights. Eugene felt like my safe haven. It’d been 9 months since TJ had died. With his one year anniversary approaching it was a life saver to be out of town. And not just out of town but across the country.
I spent my days reading books, walking their beautiful wolf dog, Lucius, and snuggling with their sweet kitty Scallop. I was finally feeling more like myself because I was able to be alone, thousands of miles away from home, and I actually felt happy.
It was a total miracle to feel happy, even a little bit. When my friends returned from their trip, we spent an extra week together before I was to leave for home. I didn’t want to go. I was happy, I felt content. And going home meant that his anniversary was in just 2 weeks.
As my friend and I sat at her adorable kitchen table sipping tea, I looked at her and said “I think I want to cut my hair.” She beamed and shouted “Let’s do it right now.
We had a hair cutting party in her bathroom that instant. She put my hair into a bunch of little pony tails and started to cut them one by one. She was being conservative and I was feeling impatient so I asked for the scissors and said “I’m just going to hack at it”! I felt totally giddy and crazed.
I chopped my hair in the front first into little tiny short baby bangs. Then began to grab the sides and cut into it mercilessly and haphazardly. It was glorious! My friend offered to cut the back for me because I couldn’t see what I was doing.
The finished product was exactly what I wanted. A total mess! No continuity, no blending. This was the first time that my hair felt like I did. My feelings on the inside were finally represented on the outside. No salon necessary.
A New Direction
As my favorite haircut ever began to grow out I was preparing to enter grad school to become an acupuncturist. This was a big fucking deal. This was the first decision I had made, since TJ’s passing, that actually started me on a new path.
Everything I’d done since his death was kind of like a holding pattern of sorts. This was taking a step. A big one. I felt it only right to chop my hair off again, only leaving the strands about 5″ long on top and even shorter on the sides.
Over the years of schooling I let my natural color grow out, which happened to be this lovely mix of brown, auburn, and gold with a smattering of greys. And here I’d spent all this time covering that up!
I let my hair grow past my shoulders, which is the longest it’s been since I was 12 years old. As the end of my program and clinicals drew near, I was itching to do something to my hair to mark the transition. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to cut it. I most certainly didn’t want to dye it all over and mess up all the hard work of growing out my natural color.
This felt similar to being in Oregon only magnified. I was the happiest I’d ever been, even when my husband was still live. Which is really hard to say. Before he died, he was the only good thing I had going. I was miserable otherwise. And now I had found my calling.
I had grieved hard and true, I had cried and pushed and succeeded at finding my passion through acupuncture. I had created this incredible life for myself that I was so proud of. What could possibly help me to reflect my inner excitement onto my outward appearance?
Ringing the Bell
Pink Hair. Hot hot pink Hair. I had the ends done right before my bell ringing ceremony. Because each student completes clinic at their own pace there is not a graduation ceremony. Instead, there is a big beautiful copper bell outside of the building facing the forest. You invite your beloveds and you ring the bell 3 times.
Once for your ancestors and all of those healers who came before you, once for the future generations that your work and healing will serve, and once for yourself– for the holy particular that you are and for all you have accomplished to bring you to that exact moment.
The joy I felt ringing that bell with hot pink hair was unmatched. I’d done the work, I’d made the changes, and now I was ready to embark on my new, exciting, glorious path as healer.
I am grateful for this journey. And I never thought that I would be able to use my hair as a mile marker. What a great discovery! My hair reflects the path I have walked to get to where I am today and leaves me curiously excited to see what hair wonders will unfold as my journey continues. I am thankful for sparking this connection within me about how hair and grief most certainly go together. And not just hair and grief, hair and LIFE
With Gratitude, Courtney
Courtney Luck is a Five Element, Maryland state licensed acupuncturist and received her Masters of Acupuncture at the Maryland University of Integrative Health in 2015. She opened her private practice, Soul Garden Acupuncture, on Nov 3, 2015 in the heart of downtown Frederick, MD. Courtney has experience treating symptoms related to grief, anxiety, PTSD, back pain, knee pain, bowel disorders, respiratory disorders, immune disorders, and women’s health, to name just a few. She has patients of all ages and all backgrounds and is passionate about bringing holistic healing to one and all.
Find her on the web:
Personal blog on grief:
(This is the specific post with our hair cutting party. Julia is amazing- based in Eugene and travels often to Paris and NYC doing her shows)