Trigger Warning: chronic illness, loss of a child, loss of family members.This is a “through post” that is under the author of Jacinta, but is written by a guest author, Sally.
Grief touches us all, as it is part of the human condition. In this “Sewing Through Grief” series, we will be sharing stories from Sewcialists who have sewed through separation, death, illness, and recovery.
I’m one of 7 children, coming in at number 6, and we are all creative in one way or another. I started sewing when I was a child when my 12 years older big sister Gill taught me. We spent a lot of time together and she was someone I really looked up to and loved very much.
I was 21 years old in 1983, when my first baby, Naomi, was born. That same year, Gill was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Two years later, my daughter Jo was born, very ill at birth, having a bowel blockage and subsequently diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. By this time, Gill had deteriorated rapidly and required care-giving. Because our daughter Jo required intensive chest physiotherapy 3 times a day and regimen of medication to help keep infection at bay, I had very little opportunity to sew because it was exhausting looking after such a sick child. This would prove to be a losing battle.
I had another baby, Samuel, in 1989, when Gill passed away from MS. I started to sew again after Sam was born, for the girls, for my mum and for me; I loved it. It brought me joy, helped with my creativity and gave me an outlet. Jo’s health was very up and down. With each down, she didn’t come back up to where she had been before; it was heart-breaking to watch. We tried to keep things as ‘normal’ as possible, but that’s tough when you have a child who is in and out of hospital, receiving constant medical treatment, while you’re also taking care of two other children.
My mum died in 2007. 18 months later, one of my sisters was diagnosed with tonsillar cancer. Soon afterwards in June 2009, at 23 years old, Jo died. We were all devastated. I, in particular, was lost. The whole of Jo’s life I had been her full-time carer.
Unable to face work — I had taken a part-time job — I eventually went to see a bereavement counsellor. After many weeks and many conversations, the counsellor asked what I’d like to do in the future and I had no idea. He asked me what I used to enjoy doing and the only thing I could think of was sewing. He suggested I contact a local college and see what they have available. I was terrified; I felt very vulnerable and isolated. Going somewhere on my own was very daunting, but I enrolled for a 10 week course. Accomplishing that, I enrolled for the next 10 weeks. I also did another course in bridal and evening wear. It was at this point that my sewing instructor suggested that I set myself up working from home. I was both astounded and delighted. Deirdre, my instructor, was such an encouragement; she helped me get back on my feet through sewing, bringing out the skills I already had learned, teaching me new techniques and boosting my confidence. I am so grateful to have been in Deidre’s classes.
I set up my business from home. Tentatively at first, becoming more confident as time has gone on. As the work came in, I have been able to fund both equipment and courses. I completed City and Guilds Pattern Cutting and Design level 2 a couple of years ago, and I have recently bought a lovely new Pfaff sewing machine. My son has set up my work room twice now. He did the first one in previous house and when we moved home, he did it again for me and it’s beautiful. I am much busier than I had ever imagined possible. My family and friends have been so encouraging and supportive.
It will be ten years this year since Jo passed, and 30 years since Gill passed. Who knows what life will bring? I remember saying to a friend I thought I’d given Jo the best years of my life. My friend challenged me by saying, “Who says that’s so, who knows what’s to come?” And she was right. What I do know is that I am thankful for those who have come into my life and made an impact, who have been supportive and encouraging, who have taught me new skills and techniques. There’s always something new and exciting if we’ll only look for it. We love those who we’ve had the joy to know along the way and those who we have lost too, we won’t forget them, we hold them in our hearts. I have good days and not such good days, but I can go into my sewing room and lose myself in the latest project and I am content. Having thought I’d never smile again, that’s a great place to be. 😊
Sally is 57 yrs old, married to Steve, with 2 living children, 2 grandchildren & 2 more on the way. She has 2 dogs. Sally loves to walk, knit and sew and spend time with family and friends. She works from home in her lovely sewing studio her son designed. She lives in the East Midlands UK
Sally can be found on Instagram here and has a Facebook page for her work here.
I am so sorry for your losses. Sewing has helped me through great losses and life’s challenges as well. Complicated child loss, losing the ability to work outside the home, my acceptance of my own disabilities…sewing has given me purpose and fulfills me in ways I cannot describe as lovely as you did. Thank you for sharing.
Dear Torrina, thank you so much for reading my story.
I’m sorry to hear of you loss and disabilities and pleased to hear that you have found purpose in sewing.
Sending you love and good wishes,
Beautiful Post Sally.
Thank you xx
thank you for sharing
i’m so sorry for your loss
Thank you xx
Dear Sally, I found your story very moving. It’s wonderful that you have found restoration and fulfilment in using your creative gifts. I’m so glad I had the privilege of knowing Jo. Much love Margaret
Thank you for your kind words. Sending love to you xx
Nothing to add, just sending love and good thoughts! Your family sounds wonderful and strong.
Thank you poundcake, such lovely words of encouragement xx
Nice one, am learning how to sew now, to keep my self busy, after series of failed relationships. Thanks for encouraging me Sally
Hope you find fulfilment in creating things, remember, if you can imagine it, you can make!
Have fun with your sewing 😊
A beautiful, inspiring story! Thanks to both the author for sharing, and the publishers for having the heart to take it public! Xoxo
Thank you for reading my story Nancy and for commenting,
Best wishes, Sally x
Such a moving and positive story
Thank you xx
So sorry for your loss, and love how much you have done with your sewing, and such a lovely testament to your sister you continued on what she taught you. After my dad died I could not concentrate on anything and was grieving a lot more than I knew. Coincidentally a friend showed me how to crochet and it became my constant go to for the next few years – as all I had to ever think on was one stitch and if my mind wandered I could easily pick up where I left off.
Thank you. We all handle our grief differently and each time we grieve it’s different too…
after my daughter died, I didn’t sew for quite a while but started knitting. Made lots of mistakes though… undid the knitting more than actually knitted! I eventually finished a cardigan.
I’d love to learn to crochet.
I am so sorry for all of your losses. Jo was beautiful. The photos of her and knowing you lost her make me want to cry for you. I cannot imagine losing my son. You are so strong and brave for having gone on and forward and for finding a way through your grief. I admire you so much.
Thank you anartfeltlife, such kind words. I have to say I didn’t feel brave at all… in fact I was terrified! Not only had I lost my baby, I’d lost part of my identity! What I did know was that I couldn’t stay where I was. I felt paralysed, unable to move forward. I went for counselling to early.. I was desperate for the pain to go away. It wouldn’t and it wasn’t until I started college that I started to feel a bit better and things started to change.
Sally, I’m so happy for you that you have had sewing as a creative outlet to help you through the tough times and help you heal.
You told a friend you thought you had given Jo the best years of your life. You may not have given her the best years of your life, but you certainly gave her the best years of her life. Such a beautiful girl! You can see from her smile that she was genuinely happy. That’s on you. That’s the gift you gave her, to help her live her best life through all the hardships of severe chronic illness. Thank you for sharing your story and your strength.
Thank you for you kind words Kay, thank you for sharing too. There were indeed sometimes when it was very difficult and we did the best we could.
Thank you again xx
I love your story. Its so inspiring to hear what you went though and how sewing was there for you. Im sorry for your loss of family along the way.
Thank you so much for your kind thoughts xx
Thank you for sharing Sally! You have been incredibly resilient and I’m glad you’ve found solace in sewing.
Thank you so much for reading my story and taking the time to comment, it means so much.
Love & best wishes, Sally x
Thank you to everyone who has read my story and taken the time to leave a kind comment or encouraging words, it means so much.
I have found much joy in being creative, I trust you do too.
Sending my love to those that grieve and are struggling,