Who We Are: Sewing Through Grief–Danielle’s story

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, Danielle.

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.

Danielle sits, looking into the camera. Her brown hair is short and parted deeply to one side. She is wearing a purple, white, and gold plaid overshirt, which is unbuttoned and shows her black v-neck tee. Her face shows the hint of a smile.

In 2018, at 32, I came out as queer. I did so with a naivete that slightly shames me now. I thought I could simply say it to my long-term cisgender male partner and nothing would change. I thought I could just exhale and feel relieved that we were acknowledging this long hidden part of me. What happened instead was a steady succession of losses. Loss of my partner of nearly 6 years; loss of my mother, who stopped speaking to me for a time; loss of the family I had created through and with my partner; loss of who I thought I was and where my life was headed. I found myself very suddenly alone, devastated and afraid, each day a rolling dark cloud of uncertainty.

Without knowing what else to do, I threw myself into sewing with a single-minded passion; what I discovered was a way to literally move forward in time.

Sewing takes me out of my brain and into my hands, but in a way that requires my full attention and focus. It is tactile and immediate. It demands my attention and care. I noticed my doubt, melancholy, fear, confusion, and anxiety being transformed into creativity, love, care, gentleness, and a beautiful piece of clothing I put on my skin. It is a deeply literal version of wearing my heart on my sleeve.

Each piece that I have made in the last year feels bursting with life. Each piece is a dear friend who has listened to me cry, filled me with joy, been squeezed in fists of frustration, and holds all my grief in its stitches. When I am feeling fearful, I sometimes worry that to wear clothes made in such a state of darkness will fill me with melancholy. And as a person who is very susceptible to melancholy, they certainly have that element. However, they also stand as a representation of our ability to transform the darkness into light, into a piece of fabric that has seen me at my worst and still covers me. 

My sewing is a very small speck of dust in the world. I am pleased it has occasionally inspired others, but mostly it is moving me, very slowly and methodically and not without mistakes, through the dark woods, one very small stitch at a time.

Danielle is a queer actor, singer, sewist and writer living in Brooklyn, NY and sharing her makes on Instagram at @danielle.purdy. You can view her website at www.daniellepurdy.com.