Christmas Crafting can be more than just for fun. It can actually work as excellent therapy in time of overwhelming feelings, especially around the festive season.
Very recently I created a robin from the craft of Felting. I’ve never felted before this and actually had no idea what it was. However, last year close to my mums first memorial, my cousin sent me a felting kit to make a robin. It was such a kind, thoughtful and personal gesture and I appreciated it a great deal. However, I couldn’t even begin to think about making it for I was struggling so much just to get through each day at that point. I put the kit to one side with the intent of returning to it someday.
We lost my mum in the December of 2019 and it was a huge shock to everyone who knew her. She was a person full of life, full of fun and full of adventures to be had. She loved socialising and loved her family. I still struggle with the concept that she’s gone, for she was taken so suddenly and without warning and I still feel she had so much more to do, to give, and to be a part of.
Often, the issue with grief, and the feelings within that, are not going to follow a neat patten, coming to completion at a certain point. We each have our own experience within it and so it can last as long as it lasts, resurfacing again and again in varying degrees of intensity. I have lost many people during my life, and each experience is different. I’ve heard people say that ‘loss is loss’ and even suggest that we should be moving on by certain points. But in my experience I don’t see it as straightforward as that. Some losses are tragic, whereas some are seen by loved ones as almost a blessing. Sometimes grief is experienced before a person’s passing, other times it comes afterwards. And even then there is no standard for that; it all depends upon the circumstances, our reaction to those circumstances, our reaction and ability to process change and sudden change, and of course the biggie; our relationship with the person. There are so many factors, which I could talk about for a very long time but suffice to say that I don’t believe that all loss is the same and the all losses are felt or experienced in the same way. For my family and I, we lost a very integral part of our family when mum left us and still find ourselves wondering if we will ever recover from the huge gap that she’s left in our lives. For me, quite simply, I lost my mum. The person who felt more like a friend, a confidant, and always a willing companion in shared interests and pass-times. I remember my mum with happy memories, talk of the good times, and share positive stories with the family of her; keeping her with us as we each continue our own journey in life, and of course, I do my best to privately deal with the emotion that losing her brought about.
However, as those of you who have lost someone close to you will know, these feelings don’t conveniently fit into a neat pattern or time line, in which we can prepare ourselves for, when they strike. They just happen and we do our best to cope with them. Moreover, when my feelings are triggered by events or unexpected associations, I do seem to have less control of steering my thoughts and it can become a lot harder as the memories come through more as a set of flash cards, or even a film being played out in my mind. Each one is significant and I value those memories, and yet they trigger further emotion and it can become quite an overwhelming experience.
Loss and grief are of course not the only events and feelings which can cause us to feel overwhelmed. Christmas preparations can trigger anxiety and stress in many people, life and all that we have to deal with within it can cause this too. This is when, I believe, we need to notice what’s happening and decide what we can do to help ourselves get through those moments. We all know now that mindfulness is a recognised coping mechanism for such times. I think that being creative is another. It’s a time where we can set aside all else that is taking our attention and emotional reserves. A time where we can simply be in the moment, our focus projected onto on the creative process in hand. I have often used painting for this purpose, but I knew I needed something different to get me through my mum’s second memorial; for me a very difficult night in particular. And that’s when I remembered the little robin felting set.
I decided to make the robin in one go, although I think that this is something that can be done over longer periods of time, picking it up and doing a bit at a time, if that suits you better. All of the necessary equipment were provided in the kit so it was nice and easy for me to get straight into making it. Some basic instructions helped (although I did have to figure a bit out myself as I went along … but it wasn’t difficult). I decided to also make a short video of the activity, which you will see in our Focused Friends Advent Calendar 2021 Decemer 21 (access via our homepage under ‘December’, I shall embed it here at a later date).
The activity gave me exactly what I was seeking. Something which took my mind to a different place, keeping it focused on the task in hand. One which was not too difficult and yet needed a level of concentration in order to follow the instructions (and not to pierce my finger!). As I worked I played soothing music in the background. Another known method of calming and distracting the mind. Seeing the little bird take shape, the colour blending and working on the texture all gave a sense of purpose and of creation. I worked into the early house of the next morning to get it completed and was happy and proud of the outcome (for my first attempt!)
The significance of the robin only became as such to me this year. I’ve always associated robin’s with winter, and especially Christmas time as they feature in so much of the festive media. However, since losing my mum I began to notice robins almost all of the time. At first it was one robin in her garden. As I cut her grass (whilst the house was for sale) a robin flew down and seemed to follow me up and down the garden. I thought it so pretty and such an honour to see this little bird. At one point I went to sit for a rest and the robin appeared again, landing close to me. For some reason, I just thought of mum. It sounds a bit silly, but I felt I was being presented with a connection of sorts. Later that day, I was at home in my own garden when a robin flew from the bushes and landed next to me. For the next few hours that little robin stayed near by, he came and went but kept returning. I began to imagine it really was a message from mum. Naturally I did not share my thoughts with anyone else, at this time! Some months later, I went to a Health Spa with my daughter and as we were sat in the outdoor hot tub our conversation turned to discussing my mum, her Grandma, when low and behold, a robin landed close to us! I was flabbergasted. I then told my daughter the story of ‘my‘ little robin both at Grandma’s house and at ours. How strange, and yet how comforting that little bird’s presence felt. More bizarrely, as this year passed I continued to have similar robin related appearances, always accompanied by a feeling of significant connection. By this time my family knew of my interpretation of these moments and found them amusing, but to me they felt comforting. I decided, privately, that there is no harm in allowing myself to believe that I was being sent a message of sorts. A hug perhaps.
When it came to the time of handing over the keys to mum’s house; our family home for over fifty years, I met the new buyers and, as we walked down the garden a robin landed near to us. I smiled inwardly, feeling a heady mix of emotion wash over me. What surprised me was the comment made by the buyer; I wont repeat it for that’s private to them but it was enough for me to realise that I wasn’t alone in the awareness of the presence of a robin during times of emotional need of a person. Since then I have heard of people believing that robin’s represent lost loved ones, or are a connection sent by a lost loved one. Either way, the coincidence that I’d come to this belief myself without knowing so before hand only gives my initial feelings even more credibility to me. I am not trying to convince anyone, I know how I sound, and I know many people will laugh and dismiss any such notion. However, for me, as I wrote earlier, it gives me comfort and so I choose to hold onto that belief for it harms no-one yet gives a glimmer of hope and peace at times when it is most needed. That my cousin sent me a robin to create and that I’ve made it on this significant evening only adds to the sense of connection and meaning that this project has offered.
Perhaps if you’re having a difficult time emotionally, in the lead up to Christmas (or indeed at anytime) maybe you could look through the many crafting kits available, particularly at this time of year, and gift yourself with a project that can promote peace of mind. I do hope that if this is the case, that you find solace and peace both during a creative activity and in time to come.