Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Making cuddly pillow to process grief

  Lately, local, national and world events have made me do a lot of
pondering about how we  process grief and help others do the same,
especially children.   It seemed an appropriate time to write up the
pillow project I led in February.

  How to help the after school group of children understand and process
the the grief of losing someone who had been such a consistent
presence in their lives for so long?  That was the challenge when Sam,
director and surrogate grandmother/friend to all of us died in February.
We had told them she entered the hospital and explained it was serious.
They all wrote her sweet cards of love and appreciation with favorite
memories which we took to her. We reported back to the kids how
pleased she was to receive them and how it helped the hospital realize
how much Sam was loved. We didn't encourage get well quick cards.
We then  moved on to letting the kids know that she was not going to
be coming back....like so many other times...and yes was dying.  Then
told them  when she died.  We let them be sad, show emotions, show
grief as they all needed to. My challenge was to help them process in an
additional  way.

  Zina Worley( Z's Fashion and Accessories) had donated lot of  fleece
scraps to the center and I had picked up additional textile materials at
the  Extras  for Creative Reuse Center  in Lynn when I went up
gathering  materials for the First Night workshop. Making large
pillows seemed a  good way to go....lots of soft materials to handle.
Just laying  them all out on the table the day Sam died seemed to help
even the most emotional of  the kids.

  As with most HYCC projects, we did not rush...worked one day a
week (or a bit more sometimes) The  project took about a month -
planning, choosing colors, designing, and hand stitching. It is
informing to see how many kids have never worked with a needle
and thread and which ones have. As they were working, they
continued to talk about Sam and process the loss.

As you can gather from photos the final results varied beautifully.
The only consistency was general size.  I had purchased 20x20
inserts to put inside the pillow covers the kids made...so we had a
basic shape and size to aim for.  I figured an insert was definitely
the way to go. We machine stitched three sides with kids involved
in that as well; then each learned to do a blind stitch to close up the
fourth side.

It was sweet to get reports back from the kids and their
parents after they finished and took the pillows home. A few said
they slept better than in a long time.  In retrospect, I wish we had
extended the project to adults - board members and others who were
processing Sam's loss.  It might have been useful during this difficult
period of transition. Often kids are a lot more resilient than adults.

Next post....back to art and shows.....

Adventure on.   Wendy


  1. Wendy, this is absolutely brilliant! What an incredible and heartwarming idea!
    The project was amazing and the kids are beaming with pride, love and remembrance of their friend. Kudos to you!

  2. What a beautiful way to help the children process their grief. Something tangible and soft that they can hold on to as they hold on to Sam. Reading about this helped me...tremendously. Thank you Wendy, Zina and all the others.