Us knitters are familiar with studies linking knitting to emotional, and mental health. It has been shown to help people manage anxiety and in recovery from addictions. I want to share about my experience with knitting as a way of healing through a story from my own life.
It all started a few months after I got married. I was 23 and we unexpectedly got pregnant. We anticipated some tough years ahead with my husband starting medical school and me pursuing becoming a home birth midwife but at the same time we were thrilled to be becoming parents.
About 12 weeks along, on Thanksgiving day, I started having a back ache and a bit of spotting. The midwife in me told myself to relax and enjoy the day and that it was probably nothing. I was about to start the 2nd trimester after all and I had just told all of our extended family and friends of the good news! But later that night, as I feared, it became apparent that this was indeed the beginning of a miscarriage. We were visiting with my husbands family on Cape Cod and I knew that I just wanted to be home to go through this. So we left late that night and drove back to our apartment just outside of Boston. The cramping got worse and over the next few days my body went through the heartbreaking and physically painful process of miscarrying my first child.
Shortly after this loss I went to my favorite bookstore, got a cup of tea, and went to browse the knitting section. Up until this point I had only knitted small things: scarfs, socks, hats, and one goofy, ill fitting botched sweater. But I was now determined to start a new project. I found a book with a sweater that I LOVED and so I treated myself to it. I went on to buy a sweater's worth of simple yarn online (a big purchase at the time) and I set out to knit my first real sweater.
I don’t remember a ton about the process. What I do remember is many evenings after work sitting cozy on our couch with a big fleece blanket knitting away to distract my heavy heart and mind. I didn't think much about it at the time but i see now how each stitch, each pass of the warm wool between my fingers and needles, helped me to move through the stages of grief.
It did not turn out perfect, the sleeves were too short and I had to go back and awkwardly lengthen them. But it was a sweater... that I made... that fit... and I LOVED it.
I didn't realize it at the time but this would start my obsession with and deep love of knitting.
I got pregnant again quickly and took to knitting as a way to distract my mind from the anxiety and worry that this would happen again. And then later in the pregnancy as a way to look forward to welcoming my baby. I went on to have 3 healthy pregnancies and children. I consider myself very blessed, but that still does not take away from the pain of this early loss.
Knitting became a way I could show love without using words (which I’ve never been great with). It was how I nested for my children in pregnancy, how I showed my midwives how much their presence and help at my births meant to me, how i show new mothers my love and prayers for their new baby with a special blanket.
While I have not had this same kind of loss again, knitting continues to provide me with a source of comfort in difficult times.
Knitting has been one of the few tangible constants, providing a bit of comfort in the ups and downs of life.
Through four moves in five years (covering 3 states and leaving family and friends behind).
In choosing to let go of a dream to become a midwife (because it was best for my family as a whole).
Through countless evenings and weekends alone while my husband works 70-100 hour weeks.
Even in something as simple as a 10 minute refreshing break from the kids on those very long days.
Knitting has woven its way through my life with every search for the perfect yarn, every night spent browsing Ravelry just a little too long, with every stitch, seaming, and blocking.
Each time I look at and wear this sweater I am flooded with memories of sadness and loss, but also of comfort, gratitude, and hope. Isn't this one of the beautiful reasons why we love knitting? We can remember what we were watching, who we were talking to and what about, and what was going on in our lives as we worked on any given project. As we hold a hand knit item in our hands we are brought right back to the those moments of life.
Knitting helps us to heal long after the process ends; it continues to give through the finished object itself.
*I would love to hear about how knitting has been a healing force in your lives, if you would like to share leave a comment below <3