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Most try to talk themselves out of it, telling themselves over and over again that there is absolutely nothing to fear. Yet the anxiety will not go away. A typical response to this anxiety is to get busier than ever, creating more lists of things to do so as not to have to feel this uncomfortable emotion.
Why? Because until now, there have been no words that would help a bride understand what is happening inside, no context in which to place the very normal and expected feelings of fear, anxiety, confusion, and sadness that live alongside the joy and bliss within the engaged woman.
Why would a bride feel fear and sadness in the months preceding her most cherished day? In order to answer this question, we must look at the wedding as a rite of passage.
We have all heard the term rite of passage, usually in reference to adolescence, the birth of child, midlife, and old age. Simply, a rite of passage is a major turning point in life where we experience a change in identity. It is a time of transition where the old way of life ceases to fit and the new life has not yet taken hold.
In traditional cultures, the initiate is guided on the arms of the village elders through an elaborate series of ancient rituals and ceremonies for the purpose of thoroughly shedding the ties to the current identity. They understand that the old identity must completely cease to exist in order to allow space for the new identity to arise.
As the current identity is shed, the initiate experiences sadness and fear, for how can we let go of something that has been with us our entire lives without feeling grief, and how can we avoid feeling afraid when we do not know what the new life holds?
A change of identity involves loss; and loss always, no matter how beautiful and bountiful the gains, involves grief.
How does all of this apply to the bride and her wedding? The moment you become engaged, your rite of passage begins. From this point on, you begin to cut your ties to your identity as single woman so you can slowly prepare for your transformation into wife.
What does it mean to "cut ties" to something as intangible as an identity? It means spending some time thinking about the elements that have come together to form your identity as a single person. It means realizing that after you marry your relationships to your girlfriends, sisters, mother, and father will be altered and allowing yourself to grieve these changes and separations. It means acknowledging that being single means being free, and that when you marry you will sacrifice a significant portion of this freedom.
In fact, in traditional cultures, the members consider all rites of passage as a sacrifice and a gift, a separating and a joining, a death and a rebirth. So as much as the wedding is a time of celebration, happiness, and new beginnings, it is also a time of saying goodbye to an entire identity and grieving the losses.
I have worked with many brides who, once they are given the words and context in which to understand their inner world, breathe a great sigh of relief.
There are countless guidebooks that assist the bride with the practical end of her wedding. But there is scant information that helps the bride navigate through the challenging emotional road that begins at the proposal and continues into the first months of marriage.
If you find yourself crumbling into a heap of tears at the end of the day, or lashing out in anger at those closest to you, take heart: you are experiencing the prewedding blues. It is normal, expected, even necessary.
The more you can allow yourself to express the difficult emotions like grief, anger, and fear, the more you are letting go of your identity as a single woman. And the more you let go, the more space you will have inside to arrive at your wedding day serene, self-aware, and prepared to greet your beloved at the altar, ready to become joined together as wife and husband... for as long as you both shall live.
Copyright © - Sheryl Paul Nissinen, M.A. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved. - Sheryl Paul Nissinen, a counselor and writer, holds a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology and a Bachelor's Degree in Feminine Culture. Adapted from the book, "The Conscious Bride: Women Unveil Their True Feelings about Getting Hitched."
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