How A Dress Was a Symbol of Defiant Hope in the Wake of My Miscarriage
Don’t let the smile on this face fool you. The girl in this dress has sore feet, a tired mind, bags under her eyes, and grief in her heart.
This photo of me was taken on Day 14 of Dressember 2016 — the last day of finals for my fifth semester of grad school. I had just come from a full day of work and was heading straight to a coffee shop to proofread a paper late into the night for at least the tenth day in a row. I realized I still hadn't posted my Dressember picture for that day on social media, so my husband was kind enough to meet me in the parking lot, just to snap a picture before I proceeded to spend the next five hours over-caffeinated and holed up finishing that last paper.
I’d had a great experience participating in Dressember the previous year. My pictures were cute, I had lots of hopeful captions to inspire and motivate, and the response from others was encouraging. Despite this, the decision to participate in 2016 was not an easy one, and not just because of my crazy work and grad school schedule.
In the late fall of 2016, I experienced a miscarriage that devastated me to my core. I was running on empty — spending every waking moment working and writing papers, while inwardly grieving a loss. I didn’t feel I had the extra energy to put more thought into my outfits, slap a smile on my face, snap a selfie, and put it out there with a hopeful caption for hundreds of friends to see. I was asking friends to text me encouragement just to get out of bed in the morning. I didn’t have a hopeful message to share with others; I needed hope for myself.
As I considered whether to take part in Dressember that year, my husband encouraged me that perhaps my feelings of hopelessness were precisely why I needed to participate. Maybe my weakness was a perfect starting place to find strength for myself and others. Perhaps even in my hopelessness, I could offer hope to others.
Hope isn't blindly optimistic; it isn't casual or cutesy. Hope is hard won. The holidays surrounding the month of December mark a time of hope coming to people who desperately need it. Even in my grief and exhaustion, I had the chance to fight for that hope for my 45 million brothers and sisters who are victims of human trafficking, with something as small as a dress. As I both fought despair and chose an outfit every morning that month, the dress became a daily reminder — a symbol of defiant hope.
People ask about Dressember: "Why a dress? Why is it significant?" On its own, it isn't, but during the month of December, it becomes that same symbol of defiant hope. It's a sign of solidarity — an acknowledgment that we may not know the names and faces of our 45 million enslaved brothers and sisters, but we are choosing to remember them every day. We are thinking of them, talking about them, and fighting for them every day.
So, every morning, I picked out a dress through bleary eyes. Every day, I tried (often unsuccessfully) to keep it together and not to let the grief for my little girl overflow. Every night, I huddled up in a coffee shop with my laptop, triple checking my footnotes. And every day, I did all these things in a dress to purposefully broadcast that symbol of hope to others.
I posted this picture on Christmas Eve of that year, with the caption:
"If you are feeling [helpless, hurting, oppressed, and lonely], as I have many times this Christmas season, you are not the oddball. Christmas is for you and for me in those moments. Peace comes out of chaos, joy out of despair, and hope out of hopelessness. Glad through Dressember to be able to identify with the hurting and oppressed this Christmas season."
I’m sure that as we head into the holiday season, many of you identify more with the loss and grief of my story than with the peace and joy you feel you’re supposed to be experiencing. And if that’s the case, just like I said two years ago, you are not the oddball. I hope you feel a release from the pressure to put on a fake smile and power through. I hope you give yourself the freedom to grieve in your own time. I hope you find hope even in moments of despair. I hope you find a way to use your grief as a weapon, and turn your pain into defiant hope for others.
Raise your voice against slavery this December!
Commit to wearing a dress or tie every day in December. You'll challenge yourself, expand your knowledge on modern slavery, and be equipped to lead your community in the fight to end human trafficking. Registration is open for Dressember 2018 and fundraising has already started! Be a part of the impact for our local and global partners by creating your campaign page today!
About the Author
Erin Flippin King is a freelance writer and editor, loving life in Jonesboro, AR with her husband, Aaron (same name, cute right?), and son, Sam. Erin enjoys dancing like a fool, joking at wildly inappropriate times, spending time in the sunshine, and Dr. Pepper. She recently earned her master's degree in Biblical Studies and Hebrew and shares her writing at erinflippinking.com.