Sometimes the best way to deal with the depth your grief is to step outside yourself and do something for someone else. I first truly learned this in February 2019 when I faced my first Valentines Day without my Valentine and decided to make the members of my Spousal Loss Grief Support Group my Valentines (see post Valenties).
With the 1 year anniversary of Terry the Quilting Husband (TTQH)‘s sudden passing approaching I knew the only way to face it was to step outside myself again.
The Last Quilt
The last quilt that Terry created the blocks for was a homespun quilt in 2018. I wrote a post about the progress of that quilt in February 2018 – Spinning the Homespuns with TTQH.
Terry never finished this quilt (but he had so much fun working on it) and I had the 25 blocks he made tucked away in my UFO (unfinished objects) stash.
My incredibly awesome, talented and generous friend Wendy Hill (@wendyquilter) offered after Terry passed to finish the quilt for me. I so appreciated her generous offer but at the time (early 2019) I could not even imagine pulling out those blocks and looking at them. Just waking up each morning and facing the day was so incredibly painful and I knew I needed to protect myself from complete psychological collapse which always seemed just around the corner.
For those of you who’ve had long time partners, after many years with a person (especially if you’ve been with them since you were young), your identity can get enmeshed and integrated with that person. So when you lose that person you lose part of your identity.
In my 8-week spousal loss grief support group, we frequently discussed the “secondary losses” that come with losing a spouse. After losing Terry just to be around other married people or hear other married people talk about their spouses was gut wrenching on a level I cannot even put into words.
Friends and family attempted to relate to my experience by sharing their stories of losses of their parents, etc. I too have loss my parents and as close you are to your parents, losing your life partner is a completely different experience.
Why? Because (unless you have a very strange relationship), you do not wake up each morning next to your parent, share your hopes and dreams, share day to day household and financial issues, have an intimate relationship, have a romantic relationship, etc.
Humorously (but not necessarily humorously at the time) some people even shared stories of losing a beloved pet to try and relate. I dearly loved all my dogs who have passed but I can tell you first hand that this does not compare to losing a spouse on any level.
I do not mean to diminish anyone’s personal grief experience or journey from losing someone beloved in their life, but experts have said the two greatest losses you can experience are loss of a child or loss of a life partner.
Here is some unsolicited advice to anyone who has not experienced one of these types tremendous losses but is trying to comfort a friend who is experiencing such as loss:
Consider not trying to connect their experience to your loss of a parent, pet, etc. Instead consider just supporting and listening to them with no agenda or judgement. Just be be there for them. If it feels right, you can also suggest they join a grief support group (when they are ready) so they connect with people who truly understand what they are going through.
The best advice I was given came from the caring Sheriff Department Champlain in Central Oregon who arrived at my house with the police on the worse day of my life. He strongly suggested I get into a grief support group as soon as I was ready.
In addition to the amazing grief support group I attend for 8-weeks in Central Oregon, I have been lucky enough to have some incredible people in my life who have done exactly what I suggested above – they just supported me without judgement and accepted all the ups and downs of my journey as an unexpected widow.
Now grief can be thought of as a “spiral staircase” and after a year of discovering that I am stronger than I ever thought I was, I am at a good spot on that “staircase”, and I was ready to pull out those blocks from storage and make them into a quilt for someone special in Terry’s life.
For His Brother
Terry was the youngest of 7 children. When he passed I gave away many of his quilts to his siblings. A year or two before he passed we had also given several quilts to some of his nieces and I made a lovely quilt for his nephew who got married.
However I did not give a quilt made by Terry to his oldest brother Andy, who Terry adored. A couple years ago, while we were in Fort Worth, Texas for Andy’s son’s wedding, we stopped at quilt shop and I have an awesome photo of Terry and his big brother standing around a quilt shop while Andy’s wife and Terry’s sisters and I were shopping. I did a post about this quilt shop in June 2017 – Cabbage Rose Quilting & Fabrics, Ft. Worth TX.
I knew Andy loved quilts because many years ago I made him a quilt in my early days of quilting when I was his Secret Santa (with so many adults in the family, Terry’s family used to do an annual Secret Santa drawing and I always made a quilt for the person whose name I drew) and made him a quilt. I made the quilt in the early 2000s but any time I would talk to Andy he would mention how much he loved the quilt (and it was in my early days of quilting and nothing to “write home about”).
I just knew that Terry would approve of Andy being the recipient of his last quilt.
Making the Quilt
The first step to making the quilt was pulling out the 25 blocks and sitting on the floor and sobbing uncontrollably for an hour (not a pretty sight).
Once that was over, it was time to get off my butt and “put my big girl panties on” and get to work on the quilt.
Terry created quilts with love but not necessarily with accuracy (smile) so I had to trim all 25 blocks to a uniform size.
Originally the pattern made a king-sized quilt and had sashing around all the blocks. I decided to make a lap size quilt and just piece the blocks together.
Making a lap size quilt (each block was approximately 18″ x 18″), I did not need all the blocks for the front of the quilt, so I pieced the rest of the blocks for the back of the quilt.
I decided to machine quilt it myself as there was no time to send off to a professional long-arm quilter before Christmas. So I had to spread it out on the floor and pin it all down for quilting.
Surprisingly I finished quilting it faster than I expected and put on the binding around the edge of the quilt.
While sitting around the living room, with the quilt on my lap, hand sewing down the binding, Mike my miniature schnauzer kept snuggling with the quilt. When I got up to take a break from sewing down the binding, Mike would fully snuggle in the quilt.
Mike loved Terry so much and he seemed to know that this was Terry’s last quilt. I know that pets grieve also and I know Mike himself has had a journey over the past year too. He was stuck with Terry’s body for 3 hours before I arrived home and discovered him, and I wondered for a while if Mike would ever recover from that terrible experience.
Mike is now thriving in his new life in the Denver Metro area.
Here is the label I created for the quilt, I put it was from Terry and me.
I thought this was the right sentiment to write on the label:
Sending love from this life and the next.
The quilt arrived yesterday to Andy in Texas and I hope he finds comfort in that quilt, the last quilt Terry the Quilting Husband will ever make.
I feel like I’ve shared enough of my grief story and journey and now, on the 1 year anniversary of Terry’s passing, I’ve decided my blog will no longer talk about my grief journey. I am just going to focus on what my life is moving forward in its new iteration, in its new identity.
I came across this wonderful quote that at first I thought sounded harsh (like you are just forgetting about the past) but then I totally connected with it:
Your future needs you. Your past does not.
I tried to figure out who to attribute the quote but came across too many sources when googling, but thank you to whomever said it.
So with this quote in mind, I am spending today with my partner John and later on today with his darling 10 year old granddaughter who totally loves Mike my dog.
We are going to make dinner together, go see the movie Frozen 2, and then have a PJ Party (she is staying overnight) and decorate the Christmas tree. What better way to honor Terry than to go forth and be happy (and present) in my new life?
I am so thankful for the amazing past I had and now am going to be fully in the present and the future.