Five Stages of Grief with Natural Hair

Five Stages of Grief with Natural Hair

I’ll never forget the time I did the big chop. I was upset that I walked into the bathroom with a pair of regular scissors and cut my hair down to my new growth. It was practically nothing because I had just got a relaxer touch-up about two weeks prior. I stood in the mirror looking back at myself, the sight of my natural hair left me distraught.


My decision for chopping my hair off was impulsive frustration with how damaged my colored-treated and relaxed hair was. After a year of cutting off about six inches of damage, I was torn. Another 12 months would end in the same result. I was big mad.

The truth I kept denying was simple. Color treatments will lead to damage if not done correctly or properly maintained. Many of us rely on our stylist’s directions for home hair care, and that information isn’t always correct or given. The other hard truth is that relaxed hair struggles to maintain healthiness AND length. When we straighten our hair with chemicals, we weaken our hair. Weak hair is prone to split ends and breakage. Add a color treatment on top of a relaxer and the odds are stacked against your favor.


At first, I attempted to just cut off a little but the breakage had crawled so far up my hair shafts. I would have been left with a pixie cut (which I had never been a fan of) if I cut off all my damage. I remember standing in my bathroom stumped. At what point had I gone too far? I knew the relaxer touch-up from two weeks prior had a lot to do with it, but that was water under the bridge. What was I going to do with this hair, now?

I was so angry. I listened to my mother and the elders in my community. I followed their advice. I thought I was taking care of my hair. Instead of length, I was rewarded with breakage. The habits that many of us are taught result in hair loss. Bald spots, split ends, and weak hair are common. Everything I had been taught about my hair had led me to this moment. How was that fair?


Since the bob was out of the question, I did the next best thing based on the awful condition of my hair. I cut all of it. With no plan and no clue what to do with the hair that would grow out of my head. I impulsively and angrily cut off my hair.

My desperation came from the overwhelming pressure to have “good hair.” I had been told by society that my hair looked best when it wasn’t “kinky” and that I should strive for waist-length locks. I needed to look acceptable and beautiful to society. How could I achieve that if my hair was damaged? I was crumbling under the weight of the world. I was being told to feel confident in my skin, but only after I altered myself.


As soon as I was done cutting my hair. I looked in the mirror frozen. What did I just do? Within seconds came the waterworks. I was so hurt. Hurt that my hair was damaged. Hurt that I literally had no hair. And scared I looked so much like a boy, I’d be single forever. Who would want me? And more importantly, what on earth was I going to do with my hair?

The hair depression went on for a few years. I hid my big chop from everyone, including myself. I made wigs for the first two years. When my hair grew long enough, I would braid it in extension styles. Then, one day, I was in between styles. Freshly cleansed I pulled it up into a tight bun and was on my way. My sister discovered a few tight curls hanging out and asked what had I done to get my hair so curly. Offensively, I immediately thought she was making fun of my hair but later saw there we curls.

Black women have been conditioned to attach their appearance to their self-worth. Our hair has to meet Eurocentric beauty standards and we must look presentable at all times. Anything less and we’re subject to insults and passive-aggressive comments. This type of pressure starts around infancy. Our emotions can correlate directly with our hair. Many of us have wept and wept over a bad haircut or a failed style because we know how it will affect our lives. People will perceive us as “less than” if we don’t meet their expectations. We may face poorer service and get less respect just because of our hair.


Now if only I could get these curls to look like this all of the time, I’d be good. So I explored the hair product aisles only to find limited options available and poor results. A few things that immediately registered were:

  1. Water and oil don’t mix. So layering raw oils on the hair and trying to hydrate it was a recipe for disaster.

  2. Air drying after drenching oil on wet-styled hair was a mess, especially when going to an outdoor event in the middle of Summer. Ask me how I know.

  3. Most of the hair and scalp-related issues could be resolved by simply cleansing more often. This meant no bi-weekly co-washing, oiling the scalp, keeping”protective” styles installed for weeks and months on end, and over-abusing deep conditioners.

After adopting a clean and simple regimen I saw how incredibly easy my hair was. I immediately felt remorse for all the time wasted on hiding and altering my hair. Why didn’t my mother teach me about my hair?

She didn’t teach me because she did not know. That wasn’t her fault. We learned from our elders, who learned from their elders. They did their hair with whatever they had access to in order to survive colonial terrorism. The poor haircare that gets repeated to us is a product of society. A society that would rather force insecurities on us and sells us products to overcome them.

The Evolution of Black Hair

Black people’s hair has evolved over the centuries. In America, the idea that our coily hair in its natural state was dirty, unkempt, and unattractive was further reinforced during slavery. Degradation and belittlement is a tactic that has been used since colonization began. This, and many other tactics, made colonizers feel superior and forced many groups of people to convert to a new way of living. It placed unreasonable, Eurocentric beauty standards on those who weren’t of European descent.

Hair discrimination has prevailed over the decades by not only the descendants of colonizers but within our community. Natural hair was demonized so heavily that many people adapted to this belief out of the need to survive. Today, many of us are fortunate to be in a society that is growing more accepting of natural hair, in and out of our community. It began to resurge during the Civil Rights Movement and has made a massive comeback in the last decade.

However, the shift toward natural hair doesn’t unsay every hurtful comment you’ve heard about your beautiful, coily hair. Your generational hair trauma isn’t healed the second you do a twist-out. Many naturals still struggle with length retention because we’ve been told that long natural hair is beautiful hair. In reality, our natural hair is simply beautiful.

Adopting a Clean and Simple Natural Hair Regimen

I encourage my clients and students to follow a specific regimen so they can maintain the integrity and health of their hair and scalp. It will also simplify and improve their relationship with their natural hair. You should know that I do the exact same things that I teach. My hair is a testament to the clean and simple lifestyle.

Weekly cleansing with regular shampoo and rinse out (not deep) conditioning, styling product for your style and goal, and trims every 2-3 months on healthy hair and more frequently on hair in need of repair. Products don’t create healthy hair; your habits do. So let’s prioritize focusing on a clean and simple approach to your natural hair care. Clean and simple hair is not a unique method, technique, or quick fix. It’s simply cleansing, conditioning, styling, and setting a lifestyle routine. This routine is ALL the hair needs, no matter what anyone you know, and especially any non-experienced stranger on the internet may have told you.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.