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.
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:
And did this:
And I ended up with this:
And I love it very much.
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.