Setting the scene: I wanted to write the post as I feel that this must be a somewhat common experience for us as makers, and wanted to share mine; the experience of crafting through grief. I've thought about whether I should post this for some time, and want to start by saying that I am in a good place with it - I wouldn't be posting about it if I wasn't. x
How to begin. I guess this story begins when we lost our third baby during the pregnancy. Until that day I had never experienced the heart crunching weight of grief.
I remember the day we found out that there was something really wrong with her. I couldn't speak, I couldn't think. I went to a cafe I knew a little and sat there, silent tears flowing for many hours. I guess I was looking for solitude, but didn't want to feel alone. I don't think I really looked up. I don't remember looking up anyway. Some wonderful woman who worked there didn't ask me a thing. She brought me coffee, water and later some lunch. I have no idea who she is but I'm incredibly grateful to her for her care that day. I was fully focused on trying to remember how to breathe.
That day passed as did a few more. We did all the medical things we needed to do and I went to see a counsellor. I told her that I had already brought the yarn for her blanket. That I had made my first two the same baby blanket and I had already started hers. The fact the yarn was sitting there really bugged me. It annoyed me, made me really angry. The counsellor kindly suggested that maybe that was something to explore…. She suggested that as part of the process, I could finish knitting it. I could use it as time to actually feel all the things I needed to feel but didn't want to sit with. Wise woman that she is, she persisted when I told her it was a stupid idea.
I came to it slowly. Over the next few months I picked it up now and then. I picked it up when it annoyed me, or when I felt sad. Sometimes I knitted only a few stitches before tossing it aside. Other times I could really sit with it. Stitch after stitch, yarn running between my fingers, making something for her. The her I wouldn't get to meet.
I'm not sure how far I got - it was 5ply and I wasn't speed knitting - but one day I pulled it out. I don't really even remember doing it. I remember not wanting it on the needles anymore. I balled it up and again the wool sat there for a bit. Now it was in a box. With my hospital tag and her scan. I saw it when I opened my wool cupboard door but I didn't touch it for a while. Till one day I picked it up again. I decided I couldn't make her a blanket she wasn't going to use, like my other kids, because she wasn't like my other kids. I wasn't going to get to meet her. But I did want to make her something. Something special. So I started to knit her a cardigan. Somehow it felt more manageable. I started again but somehow, at some point, I couldn't keep knitting. I put her half finished cardy and all the balls of unused wool in her box and that felt enough. Eventually I moved the box out of the wool cupboard, and there it stays. There is something about the half finishedness of it that fits.
The following year someone I loved, lost someone they loved, suddenly and unexpectedly. A shocking death that left behind a family and two very small kids. At the funeral I was six months pregnant with our smallest kid and I could not stop my tears. I remember feeling embarrassed because I didn't know them that well, but my tears were for my friend and those small people and in retrospect, they were for the baby I lost. Again I couldn't speak.
I remember driving home from the funeral feeling an overwhelming urge to do something for my friend, but I knew I'd lost my voice. I remember changing direction and stopping off at the wool shop. As I'm writing this it almost feels trite. How could wool be helpful? But it was all I could think to do. I could make her something.
I chose some buttery alpaca that I knew she would love and would suit her olivey skin. She had beautiful skin. She often wore scarves and loved yellow. And I knitted. I was often in tears as I knitted but that was a good thing. It was a form of meditation on her loss and the love I had for her. And my loss. I felt like I couldn't help her at the time. I was too caught up in my own grief that all I could do was cry. But I could knit. It gave me a place and a space to put all I was feeling into something useful. Stitch by stitch. The feeling of the yarn in my fingers was comforting.
I sent it to her a few weeks later and I really hope she understood what it meant.
She died a few years later after a short illness. Part of how she prepared herself, in the months leading up to her death, was to sort out her possessions. She left me all her craft; tatting, fabric, scissors, thread. All sorts of things. They came to me in a box with a label on the top; my name in her beautiful handwriting. I love that she did this, that she chose me. Now, included in many things I make, is some little thing that came from her. Lace on a birthday dress, buttons on a cardy.
For me, making became part of the process of loss. The object created holding my memories, my intention and love. The rhythm of the process providing space to acknowledge my grief, and a place to sit with it.
I'm sure many of you have used craft in similar ways.