Making it better

I’m finding that making things helps. Last week I made a cake, an entirely unnecessary cake, but one H. would have liked and one I could share, not to mention eat slowly myself. I’ve also been “making” in the form of a visual grief notebook, pasting and painting and noting, the book getting fatter as the pages stiffen and crinkle with watercolour and glue. I’m not sure why it helps, maybe it’s the fiddly effort of it, which makes grief “work” tangible, or maybe it’s the fact of a record (allowing me to trace where I am/was), or maybe it’s just that it holds down, however temporarily, something otherwise internal and unpredictable and uncertain. Also, the doing is enjoyable. (And as I’ve said before, having finally grasped this for myself, it’s not the artistry that matters but the process.) Whatever the psychology involved, it reminds me of lines from a Sandra Birdsell story in Night Travellers:

…crying made everything worse. But she’d discovered that crayons and paper made it better. Drawing was a bird moving against a clean sky the way you wanted it to.  

Here are a few pages from the book to show what I mean. One early page contained “ordinary little” reminders of him.C1C6E3BB-8AB2-4361-A791-E7215D30841F_1_201_a

Another told a story about his clothes. (Yes, I’m afraid I actually went to the thrift store and bought back a shirt I’d donated!)379E668D-6CC3-439E-9406-9D450757AD32_1_201_a


There was a small regret to note. During the last years, he wasn’t allowed grapefruit because of a heart medication he was on, so we never had them in the house, though we’d both previously liked grapefruit a lot. Once in hospice, off those meds, why didn’t I bring in some juicy triangles of grapefruit to let him taste again? It never occurred to me! Now that I’m back to eating grapefruit myself, I wish, oh I wish, I had!


The most recent page I made was prompted by something I saw in an illustration of Covid loss, which I recognized immediately as a powerful description of absence — space filled with a life summed in obituary. I worked from happy photos of our 46th anniversary last August when we had our morning maté (yerba tea) at the bay, sitting on our favourite log. I walk there still and sometimes sit on that log beside the unbodied shape that memory makes.


20 thoughts on “Making it better

  1. “The fiddly effort of it.” Your voice is so distinctive, Dora.Love the ending: “I walk there still and sometimes sit on that log beside the unbodied shape that memory makes.”

    My eternal Light surround you as you make this book.

  2. A poignant reminder of love, loss and healing as you travel the “grief” journey❤️❤️

  3. Thank you for sharing. My husband died October 2019 and I can relate to your article. Creating things, and journaling have helped me also. After offering my children to take anything of his that they wanted, I donated a lot of his clothes to Goodwill. 6 months later my daughter’s sister-in-law asked for some of his shirts to make a wreath for my daughter. I went back to Goodwill and bought several shirts in the same material so she was able to make it. My daughter cherishes the wreath. Grief has been made harder by the isolation of covid-19. We need to be sure to reach out to our friends who have lost a love one during this time. A phone call or letter lets them know they are not alone, that others care. Don’t worry about what to say, all we need is to know that someone cares enough to check in with us.

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