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How The Fiber Arts Propels Us Through Grief

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Earlier this week, we looked at how crafting impacts our moods, feelings and emotions. While it’s clear that science supports the idea that crafting can be therapeutic, can something as simple as knitting a hat or crocheting a blanket really help us through some of our darkest hours? Yes! Most definitely yes!

Before we get into specifics, however, it is important to understand the seven stages of grief. These stages don’t happen in order - or at all! - for everyone or every situation. Sometimes you may feel yourself move back into a stage you already went through! There is no “right way” to grieve. There is also no single cause of grief or intensity of grief. Losing a loved one is certainly one we think about a lot, but grief and depression can manifest from a variety of life experiences; you may grieve a pet or relationship, suffer from chronic pain, bullying or trauma, relive a tragic natural disaster, yearn for a pregnancy or baby that hasn’t happened, - or the one we collectively are experiencing today - living through a world-wide pandemic.

While the experience of grief can have us feeling quite isolated, it's important to know you are never alone. Grief itself is a natural emotion that we all experience from time to time and going through the grief process is a healthy way of dealing with loss. Being able to identify the different stages of grief allows us to make some to understand our own emotional needs and changes:

The Seven Stages of Grief:
  • Shock & Denial - a state of disbelief or numbness that the mind uses to protect itself from the pain and overwhelming surge of emotions

  • Pain & Guilt - the shock wears off to be replaced by sadness, pain and/or guilt

  • Anger & Bargaining - feelings of resentment and anger give way to thoughts of “why me” and stubborn wishes for a bargain with fate

  • Depression, Reflection & Loneliness - a sense of sadness as the magnitude of the experience is realized may prompt a desire for isolation to reflect and remember

  • The Upward Turn - the point where life begins to feel a bit calmer or more organized and the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel can be glimpsed

  • Reconstruction & Working Through - motivation returns and there is enough energy and inspiration to tackle life’s day-to-day operations again

  • Acceptance & Hope - the pain of grief diminishes (even if sadness remains!) and it is possible to look forward to the future

One of the keys to coping during times of grief is to recognize the pain and other emotions as they happen. Hiding from or ignoring the aches will not make them go away, while having the ability to be present with them promotes healing. It keeps us from being swept away by overwhelming waves of emotion. We’ve discussed how crafting can transcend into a meditative state, and this allows for a calm mind to observe and process feelings; translating them into stitches.

This metamorphosis of grief into stitches is the very reason our shop’s doors opened in the first place, and in times like today, is the very reminder of how healing crafts can be. Mindful crafting connects us to people; those we craft for, those we craft with, those who have crafted before us and those who will craft after us. A communal and intergenerational experience of the gift of making can shift our focus away from the feeling of isolation and channel it towards creating something with our hands. If our struggle is ongoing, say frequent/lengthy medical treatments, spending time crafting during visits to hospitals and care centers can take the mind off of the clinical surroundings, smells and noises. It is also frequently mentioned how crafting in public draws attention. Sharing our activity with those we care for and those curious souls around us breaks through the dark and dreary, even if only for a few moments.
We can’t necessarily take away anyone’s pain by knitting or crocheting, but you can share something with them - a conversation, time crafting, or a handmade item. In our example above, chances are good that if someone inquires about your crafting in public, they have a connection to the art, which has led them to connect with you. As caregivers, perhaps those we care for want to learn or already know how to knit, crochet, embroider, etc. Spending time with them engaged in a positive activity may prove more therapeutic than any medicine or treatment. If it isn’t possible for them to participate, the social aspect of spending time with you while you craft may evoke fond memories and lift spirits through conversation. And, as always, gifting handmade items gives a level of comfort not found in store-bought items.

Sometimes our grief leads us to loneliness and a state of isolation where connections aren’t as obvious. Sometimes the things that have brought us joy for so long simply don’t hold the same appeal.

Ideas for helping craft through times of grieving:
  • Try to focus on your breathing as you craft and practice mindfulness as best you can.

  • Having a mantra you repeat as you craft, even short simple words that describe what you’re doing, can help move your brain toward a more meditative state.

  • Look for positive connections - to people, to places.

  • Finding a cause to craft for can help shift your mindset and take you out of your own pain through service to others.

Crafting gives us the power of productivity during times when our lives seem out of our control or motivation to function has disappeared. It also gives us the power of connection. No matter where you are in your grieving, allow the fiber arts to be a creative outlet through which you channel your emotions and stabilize your well-being. If you are on your own grief journey, be on the lookout for a tool to help guide you through some additional crafty prompts to meet you where you are and help you navigate the rocky terrain.

Sources
7 Stages of Grief 
Causes of Depression in People Who Were Helped by Crochet 
Knitting is my therapy during this pandemic 

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