Trigger Warning: chronic illness, loss of a child, loss of family members.
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.
Please welcome guest author Francesca.
My father died on Christmas Day 2017 after a long battle with cancer. He was 88; I’m currently 32. I always knew that he would miss monumental things in my adult life because of our vast age difference. I always prepared myself to lose him early, but you’re never really prepared to lose a parent. My father showed me how to move through the world with power and never-ending dignity. He taught me to communicate what I want, how to be brave, and to always use the talents you have been given to their full extent. He always told me “Francesca, you are definitely some kind of artist” — a validating thing to hear for a young creative professional in a touring band.
Three months after he died, I injured my spine while on the road with my band. I couldn’t use my right arm, or lie on my side, or turn my head, for months. I needed intensive physical therapy. We had to cancel something like 15+ shows as well as a two-week national tour. I was left with hours and hours to fill, and a heart badly damaged from loss, trauma, and grief. Thankfully my job was very accommodating and allowed me to do some at-home work while I recovered. I was also thankful that my health insurance covered much of my care, though I still paid quite a bit out-of-pocket.
I still can’t comfortably play my guitar and the trauma of my injury made me move away from music and songwriting as a creative outlet. Grief crushes us; I needed a lot of time alone to process, to bring calm to the chaos in my head and in my body, to mourn the loss of my father and my artistic power.
Here’s the thing about creativity: It is a force inside us. It needs to go somewhere, and like water, it will find a way. Thankfully, my mother taught me how to sew so early I don’t remember learning. I have always been a casual sewist, but I started spending a lot of time in my studio, retaking it for sewing 100 percent. At first I messed around with small projects, getting my footing. Now I am about to appear at my very first craft fair this Saturday in Portland, Maine.
I will never consider either of these losses a gift — but the time to grieve them was a life raft on my river of creativity. After over a year, I am finally OK. I have entered the decade of my 30s with a refined skill and focus. I am wiser, more tempered, maybe more careful. And I know my father would be proud to see me pushing forward creatively.
Francesca is a marketing and communications consultant that lives in Western Massachusetts. In addition to creating music and writing a lifestyle column for the Berkshire Eagle and UpCountry Magazine, she also runs a small business called No Aesthetic Quilts and via Instagram @noaestheticquilts.