How Crafting Helped me Cope with Grief by Helen Kurtz

Tuesday 7th August 2018


When my husband died very suddenly and unexpectedly in October 2016, my whole world was turned upside down. I was in shock and felt completely numb, unable to think about anything except the trauma I was experiencing. I couldn't focus on anything and had no interest whatsoever in knitting or crochet. My sleep was badly affected and I found myself waking up each night at the time Rowley had died, wide awake and my mind in overdrive. Sleep was impossible and I couldn't concentrate on reading so I looked for something else to occupy me rather than just lie there tossing and turning. I had bought a blanket's worth of Stylecraft Special DK the previous year at Ally Pally with the intention of knitting one. I wanted something mindless and soothing to work on, so decided to crochet a Granny Square blanket instead.

The repetitiveness of the crochet stitches was perfect. There was no special plan; I picked a ball of yarn at random to work each round. I didn't need to think about what I was doing - the pattern was so familiar that it became automatic and I was able to work on it each night until I was ready to drop off again or it was time to get up. Crocheting helped to calm my mind and relax me. The blanket was my midnight companion and that's how the name of the blanket came about. It sat in a bag by my bed, within easy reach and it was comforting to know that it was there, ready and waiting for me during those darkest of hours.

My crafting mojo returned very gradually. In the day time, I worked on socks. Nothing complicated though, just the good old plain vanilla kind of socks which let  the colourful yarns speak for themselves. I'm still not able to focus on complicated knitting and crochet that easily. I've heard it referred to as 'bereavement brain', and it appears to be quite common for people who have gone through similar experiences. This helped me to understand that I wasn't alone and what I was feeling was perfectly normal.

Crafting can also help other people who want to do something to show that they are thinking of you in difficult times. Although I don't belong to any knitting groups locally, I guess you could say that I am part of the world's biggest group of fibre lovers - Ravelry. Within Ravelry, I am a member of lots of different groups and I was totally overwhelmed when I received a blanket that had been knitted by over 40 of my Ravelry friends, mostly living in the USA. They wanted to do something to show that they were thinking of me and the resulting blanket had love and good thoughts knitted into every single stitch. It felt like I was being hugged over and over again as I wrapped myself up in this beautiful, thoughtful gift. It was a tangible sign that people were thinking of me and it definitely helped me.

If you are experiencing any kind of stress in your life, I encourage you to reach out for your knitting needles or crochet hook. It will help you to relax and take your mind off the difficulties you are going through, allowing you some much needed time out, so that you are able to carry on with your life.

Written by Helen Kurtz