Loop through Loop upon Loops :: Learning a Little About Grief from My Knitting

Thank you so much for your very kind, very tender words on my last post. Losing my mom (and so unexpectedly) has been the most painful, most disorienting experience I’ve ever gone through, but the kind words and support of friends, acquaintances, and even strangers has truly made a difference for me. Some of you shared in the comments on my last post your own experiences with grief or depression, and I feel very honored that you would do that. It makes me feel less alone.

One of the weird things for me has been that, professionally, I deal with grief quite a lot. From a professional/academic standpoint, I feel like I know a fair amount about what’s “normal” and what’s “expected.” But none of my knowledge or experience makes any difference for my own grief. No matter how “normal” this is – how I feel does not feel normal. No matter how much I expect grief not to move in linear stages, it is still always a surprise to me to find myself back in the middle of feeling shocked. I can go for two or three days of feeling like the absence of my mom is the new reality, and I’m adjusting to it; and then, I’ll suddenly have a day where it will feel like a total surprise (of the worst kind), and something that cannot possibly be real. Knowing this is how grief works hasn’t made it any more comprehensible, or reasonable, or manageable.

I realized several days ago that the addiction recovery movement has something to teach me about grief recovery: one day at a time. You know this. I thought I knew this. But I’m knowing it in a new way now. When I think too far ahead – how can we celebrate Christmas without my mom? – I’m sunk. But if I can just think – today, I’m not going to have a chance to talk to my mom, and that can be okay, because there have been plenty of days like that in my life, and those days were okay – if I can just think like that, and approach each day as a single day, and just get through that one day without her, then I do all right, and I think that maybe I can keep being all right.

In other words: grief has a lot in common with knitting.

As you and I both know, the only way to knit a sweater is one stitch at a time. Not even a single round or row at a time – a single, tiny stitch. If you just keep doing that, you will have a sweater in your hands eventually. It may take longer than you’d hoped, it may involve ripping back and redoing some portions, it may involve tears, anger, frustration, and discouragement, you may have to set it totally aside from time-to-time. But in the end, the only way to move forward is to knit the next stitch.

Of course this analogy is imperfect because I don’t expect I’ll ever be “done” with my grief the way I expect to eventually be done with a knitting project. Still, for now, it’s helpful to keep in mind that all I have to do is the next tiny thing.

For me lately, that has finally meant picking the knitting needles back up. It’s not with the same zest and energy I typically have, and it hasn’t been every day. But I am making the time to make some stitches, and it feels good.

handspun Laurie pullover

handspun Laurie pullover

Wooly stitches offer a kind of familiar solace that I’m cherishing now (handspan wooly stitches even more so!). This is supposed to be my Rhinebeck sweater, and with a cuff and a sleeve left, I’m still not sure I’ll get it finished in time. I have ten days to get ‘er done, so we’ll see.

I’m also, at last, back at the wheel e-spinner, and that, too, feels so good. If the grief process is like a spiral, then I suppose it has something in common not only with knitting but also with spinning.

Over the last few days, I took this:

Southern Cross Fibre Organic Merino,

Southern Cross Fibre Organic Merino, “Laurel Crown”

And did this:

IMG_7559

and this:

IMG_7560

And I ended up with this:

230 yds light worsted 2-ply

230 yds light worsted 2-ply

And I love it very much.

Squoosh!

Squoosh!

And I guess this is one more thing I’m trying to learn from my knitting and spinning. If I just keep going – stitch-by-stitch, loop-by-loop, turn-by-turn – eventually, something beautiful might be created. I do believe this – I do believe that out of great sorrow, something new and beautiful and good can come. Pain can be a good teacher, if we let it be, and loss can shape us in ways that make us stronger and truer than we were before. I have seen the tiniest flashes of how this might become true for me – ways my mother’s legacy suddenly burns brighter in my life – and I trust that a new strength will grow and deepen in me if I can open my heart to my own grief.

In the meantime, I knit on.

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8 thoughts on “Loop through Loop upon Loops :: Learning a Little About Grief from My Knitting

  1. Stacy,

    This was such a beautiful, meaningful post. You are so gifted in many ways. I love your words. I love your knitting and spinning. I love your tender heart

    All my best,

    Kathy

  2. It really is one day at a time – feet on the floor first thing in the morning. No mulling first thing. I’ve been through it and it isn’t easy. Even if you don’t feel like it pick up your knitting. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  3. I am so sorry for your loss, Stacey.
    I have no words for you that would make you feel better.
    I have not been there myself and don’t know what will make you feel better.
    One day at a time. Time gone by and well spent?
    I see my mother die a slow death from cancer right now in Germany while I am here in the US. I am trying to prepare myself for the inevitable and I have the same thoughts you so wonderfully wrote down.
    I cannot imagine any day without her, even though I don’t talk to her every day either.
    I cannot imagine the burial, you only bury grandmothers, not mothers.
    But I am getting older myself, I realize that. And still….
    I cannot imagine not being able to call her, ask her, tell her.
    One day at a time, 24h, 1440 minutes …. It is the only way. They say, you said.
    My thoughts are with you and I hope you will grow strong again.

  4. Pingback: Wednesday Festival – a Pumpkin-free Zone | RevGalBlogPals

  5. I am so sorry for the loss of your dear mother. God’s peace to you. Both of my parents died suddenly, as did the aunt & uncle who raised me until I was five (when my mother married my step/adoptive dad, and we made a family). I was so young, handled it so badly, knew nothing about grief except to soldier on, because that was what we did in my family. The loss of a marriage, then a beloved friend, I handled better, armed with knowledge. But felt the losses just as keenly, continue to feel them, though less acutely. The loss turns to memory turns to warmth and joy of the love known. I guess that’s how I honor them. You will (have already) found a pat particular to you. Of course you know not to judge your grief against others’ – your loss and grief are yours, and as unique and necessary as are you. One loop at a time sounds like a good plan. Be well, however long that takes.

  6. Hello Stacey, I am here from rev gal blog pals’ post, a pumpkin-free zone.

    I am so sorry about the pain, loss, and disorientation from your mom’s passing. I love your “stitch-by-stitch, loop-by-loop, turn-by-turn” way of facing the grief. The visual reminder that as we do this work something beautiful can result is hope-producing.
    (And your spinning product is very beautiful.)

    My mom’s death was also unexpected. and left me reeling. It was the same process for me. I used to say, I will deal with this 15 minutes; and then this 15 minutes and so on.

    Just prayed for God’s peace to be with you today.

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