Crafting through Grief

comments (12) January 12th, 2009     

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Jen_W Jennifer Worick, contributor
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Mac Daddy always wanted to be front and center when I was crafting.

Mac Daddy always wanted to be front and center when I was crafting.

Photo: Jennifer Worick

The nights are the hardest.

I put my cat, Mac Daddy, down last week, and I can hardly bear to get into bed, knowing that I can no longer spoon him. Melatonin and Ambien have forsaken me, my mind races all night, and I keep finding crumpled Kleenex in and around the bed. When I went to wash my face, I found white salt clumped on my eyelashes.

Obviously, I’m heartbroken.

I don’t know what to do with myself. I have loads of work to do, but my mind is a fog. Trying to read a book just results in me reading the same paragraph over and over. I developed writer’s block. My friends are doing their best to keep me occupied, but I can’t deal with more than a couple hours at a time, and I sure as heck can’t go out in public (salty eyelashes and all that comes with that). US Weekly, Rock of Love Bus, and pretty much every magazine, website, and TV show I usually enjoy seem callow, shallow, and pretty meaningless. I even, gasp, got bored with Facebook.

I figured I’d craft.

I prewashed some duck canvas and spent a good half hour trying to press it smooth, thinking I’d sew a market tote. Then the idea of measuring and cutting out the pieces overwhelmed me, so I folded the fabric and set it aside. At least it’s ready to go.

I then turned to knitting, another trusty companion. I rummaged around in my three knitting bags, looking for projects in progress or inspiration for a new project. With the Obamarama shawl and Christmas presents completed and blocked, there wasn’t much left. I ripped out two projects: a hat that, in my current mood, seemed fugly and a scarf for a man I’d rather not focus on right now. I grabbed a bag with the beginnings of a sweater, but following directions for shaping wasn’t going to happen.

I eyeballed my massive stash, wanting to work with a yarn that was just as comforting and plush as Mac Daddy’s fur felt and as pleasing to the eye as his furry face. I reached for a Mountain Colors silk/wool yarn and paired it with a hat pattern so familiar that it has become mindless. As I get absorbed in DVDs of The Tudors Season 2 and the John Adams miniseries—shows that will take me far away from my empty apartment—my hands have an activity to replace petting my little beast. Through my craft, my hands can stay busy as I try to calm my mind. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll sleep a little bit better tonight.

What have you created during times of grief?
What crafts do you find comfort in?

For more on Mac Daddy, check out my blog.

In the future, you can find me at my website or blogs, Things I Want to Punch in the Face and Prairie Tales. My new book, Backcountry Betty: Crafting with Style, is in stores now.

posted in: tote, hat, therapy, grief

Comments (12)

Jen_W writes: IlaPan: I am SO, so sorry to hear about your dog. It's awful when it catches you unawares but I suppose it's not any easier when the pet slowly suffers. Good luck and I'll keep you in my thoughts.
Posted: 7:02 pm on February 13th
IlaPan writes: Oh, Jennifer how I understand what you are going through. I had to put my 13-year old dog down Feb 2nd. He was fine on Friday, not feeling well on Saturday and died on Monday. I took him to the emergency vet in my town and after the chest xray was taken the vet didn't level with me...she said he had pneumonia when in fact he had a tumor in his chest and pneumonia. He suffered terribly early Monday morning with respiratory failure and by the time I picked him up he was at deaths door. We went went to leave to go to his private vet, I litterally had one foot in and one foot out of the clinic when he lifted up his head, eyes rolled back and let out the worst agonal cry I have ever heard. The vet and I took him back to the exam room, she said his heart rate was faint and wanted to know what I wanted and I said put him down and she did. He died in my arms. I have filed a complaint with his private Vet, part owner of the ER clinic, and with the Dept. of Licensure, Vet area. It is incomprehensible and unforgivable for these ER Vets to let my dog suffer the way he did. I have to believe he is in a better place with my husband who died 12/07 and my only child who died 6/12/03 who was 23 yrs old. Just keep doing your crafts, cry and grieve. Also, if religious pray. Jesus knows what we are going through, he will help if you ask him. God Bless You....
Posted: 6:19 pm on February 13th
kaytet writes: Jennifer- I am so sorry to hear about Mac Dady. What a handsome devil he was.
Losing a pet is so hard. I don't have kids so my pets are really family. Crafting is so healing for me too. It's very soothing to get lost in a meditative craft.
Posted: 11:06 pm on January 13th
MichaelaMurphy writes: Oh Jen, I am so sorry to hear about Mac Daddy. He was such a sweet little guy and I am lucky to have experienced his craft companionship while sitting and knitting with you during the presidential debates. I'll come over and make a hat with you, watch TV and miss my yarn getting all entangled by Mac Daddy.
Posted: 4:19 pm on January 13th
Jen_W writes: Thanks for all of the well-wishes, ladies. Linda, I am busy knitting the first of what will be many more mindless hat projects. I was so happy to get that going. The Tudors Season 2 is helping as well.
Posted: 11:40 am on January 13th
susanstars writes: I'm so sorry, Jen. Thinking of you.
Posted: 9:49 pm on January 12th
dany4bec writes: Sorry about Mac...I have lost a menagerie of animals (big and small) over the years and it never gets easier.xox Dany
Posted: 9:33 pm on January 12th
LindaPermann writes: I'm sorry to hear about your kitty. Losing a pet is so hard, especially if he was your crafty cheerleader.

I'm trying to craft through some prolonged personal grief right now, and experiencing the same things as you (writer's block, fog, unable to do projects which require thinking). I have been turning to simple-to-memorize crochet patterns that I can do kind of mindlessly, so that I can get to that place of just being and thinking. I think sewing is too much for me right now (too much measuring, and i don't think i could deal with having to seam rip anything) but crocheting and knitting are nice and repetitive, and lend themselves to a quiet evening on the couch.

i hope your salty eyelashes clear up soon. but i think it is important to take the time to mourn, so make as many hats as you need to!


Posted: 7:34 pm on January 12th
Char50 writes: I am SOOO sorry for your loss.

I have had to put down several cats over the years (they each reached the age of 16+ years and just could no longer go on) but it has never been easy...in fact, I think it gets more difficult with each one. If you want to craft through your grief, may I suggest making a scrapbook of pictures of MacDaddy (if you're like me, you have lots -- my cats like to ham it up for the camera) and writing beside them what was going on when the photo was taken or his quirks and likes and dislikes. That way you bring back the happy memories of your time together and in the future, when you are missing him you can get it out and look through it.

When our last cat was put down, I wrote a poem about cats to help me grieve.

I have found that one way to conquer grief is to go to the shelter and find another kitty who is in need of a loving owner (sorry, I meant "staff"-- dogs have owners, cats have "staff" -- LOL).

Hope this helps.
Char50 (cat-ghans@sbcglobal.net)
Posted: 7:07 pm on January 12th
Sister_Diane writes: So sorry to hear about Mac Daddy. It's an awful thing to lose a beloved pet, and certainly takes time to recover. Crafting is indeed a good balm for a broken heart.
Posted: 5:31 pm on January 12th
RubyKitty writes: I had to make the sad (but right) decision to have my elderly cat Caesar put to sleep a few months ago. I'd owned him (as much as anyone can be said to own a cat!) for about 15 years, so it was a big wrench. I miss the sweet, funny fella and totally understand how upset you are. Grief over a pet dying is real grief. They do become a part of your family, and they're such unique personalities they're not easy to replace.
Posted: 5:03 pm on January 12th
Halahblue writes: My condolences on your loss of Mac Daddy. Losing a pet is such a painful loss and one I can fully understand. I hope that using crafting as a distraction from your pain can help you begin to heal.
Posted: 1:10 pm on January 12th
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