By Angie Cherney
I bought a Silhouette machine just two months ago. I’d been wanting a cutting machine for years, but didn’t feel like I had a good enough reason to spend a chunk of money on myself, especially since I’m not what most would consider “crafty” or artistic. In fact, I often say that I can’t even draw stick people! Me? Crafty? Ummm. No. #true
I’m rather late in the game when it comes to crafting, and truth be told, I’m not sure I would have even ventured into this world of SVGs, HTVs, sketch pens, cutting blades, and print and cut if it weren’t for, of all things, grief. How on earth does grief lead to crafting, you ask? Well, I’ve been around the grief block a time or two… or three.
Our 16-year-old son Matt died as a result of a car accident in 2011. I certainly wasn’t thinking “Hey, I’ll craft as a way to deal with my grief.” I did, however, write. My blog was born as an outlet for my grief and, from what I’m told, it’s helped many. Seven years later, my precious mom was hit and killed by a car while crossing a street. Walking ‘round the grief block this time, however, the ink didn’t flow. The well of emotions ran deep, but I could no longer pull up words from the bucket in the well. Once again, I couldn’t sleep, insomnia my unwanted traveling companion, and now my beloved words failed me. I couldn’t give voice to my grief through words this time.
The pandemic and resulting isolation measures of 2020 certainly didn’t help my grief. Thankfully, I began telehealth counseling appointments, and my counselor asked me one day if I could come up with a self-care idea, one that tied into or had meaning with my mom, one that would honor her memory and also help me. My mom worked as a graphic artist and was also a writer. I definitely identified with her love of writing, but graphic arts was foreign territory to me. However, I remembered visiting her at work throughout the years, watching how she crafted ad layouts and pieced together various elements to create interesting and attention-grabbing newspaper advertisements.
I began to wonder if I couldn’t explore crafting as a way to honor her memory and also deal with my grief in a therapeutic way. I started researching cutting machines and eventually decided to bite the bullet. I bought my machine, joined a couple of Facebook groups for beginners, and took my first tentative step at crafting. Thankfully, the resources for beginner crafters are plentiful! I spent weeks reading about my machine, watching YouTube videos on how to use it, and bookmarked all the recommended websites, including lovesvg.com.
Besides being a graphic artist, my mom was also fantastically good at sending cards for every occasion. Every birthday, anniversary, graduation, holiday, or “just because,” she would hand-pick each card, intentionally choosing one with a particular recipient in mind. They were personal, and each card’s sentiment was chosen with care. Whether it was serious, carefree, or humorous, her cards were a treasure to receive.
I decided my first crafting project would be a card. Pre-designed cards were a safe choice, and I found a plethora of options to download online. My mom always found just the right one, so I was optimistic that I could follow her example. After just a few attempts with my cutting machine, I began to grow confident and was proud of the small successes. I liked having pre-designed cards where everything was already done for you. Grief, especially when fresh, hovers like a dense fog, and even the simplest of decisions is incalculably difficult. I needed something that didn’t take a lot of brainpower. Insomnia that accompanied my sorrow also meant that I was up at night, and I needed something that was easy, quick, and quiet. Crafting was my answer.
Crafting, especially using designs that I don’t have to create, makes me feel accomplished and provides a creative outlet for my grief. When a moment (or day) of sadness overwhelms, I head to my machine, pop up my library of designs and allow myself to let out the steady stream of emotions rather than trying to bury them, ignore them, or avoid them. Trust me, doing any of the aforementioned methods doesn’t work and only prolongs the healing process. What’s more, the tears can flow freely as I craft. (I just need to remember not to let them fall over my freshly cut cardstock!) Who knew, too, that a box of tissues next to my cutting machine was a “must-have” when crafting?
It wasn’t too many cards later that I ventured into the more daring territory and began to craft cards that, reminiscent of my mom, were personally designed for the recipient. I started to create more cards from scratch than ready-made. My mom loved butterflies, so I began to incorporate them into my cards and vinyl designs. Crafting them into my creations brings me great comfort. Cardinals are also special to me, having been a personal heaven-sent “sign” to me after our son died. I especially love the birds singing and happy butterfly designs from lovesvg.com, both of which are free, I might add.
Once bitten by the crafting bug, it soon became my therapeutic go-to whenever I needed an outlet for a “missing mom” or “missing Matt” day or moment. My son died at the end of the month of July, so this month of June is heavy laden with the impending anniversary death date blues. Crafting is the calm in my storm. It’s become my resource for the gentle release of overwhelming grief. I’m grateful for the beautiful SVGs and SVG bundles I’ve found (like lovesvg.com) which have helped soothe my aching heart by giving me an outlet with which to express my sorrow in positive, therapeutic ways.
Unfortunately, our family suffered another unexpected loss just weeks ago when my oldest big brother died. An emergency visit to the hospital turned into what we thought was going to be a life-saving surgery but ended up four weeks later in another unbelievable “this can’t be” goodbye. His death at just 58 years old, too, premature. (Aren’t they all?) As I struggled to find a way to honor him, I flipped on my cutting machine. My brother was an avid collector of Oliver tractors, of all things. I created a condolence card with a green tractor and placed the word Oliver above his initials forming the tire of the tractor. I think my brother would have liked it.
Crafting might seem insignificant or even trivial to some. But to me, it’s been a lifeline, a way forward, a way to honor my loved ones. It’s given me comfort, hope, and beauty in a place of brokenness and ugly grief. To craft has reminded me of what my mom, in her usual quick wit, would often quip like Dr. Phil, “How’s that working for you?” To which I now reply, “It’s working well.”
Angie, mom to Matt, daughter of Mary, and sister to Dave.