Grief and Loss

Meet artist Katie Wood


As part of an emerging workshop series at the studio, we have invited Katie Wood, metalsmith, to offer her workshop on designing heirloom jewelry. You can learn more about the workshop and register on our website. Recently, Jai sat down with Katie to learn more about her and her work.

 

 

Jai: Tell us a little bit about yourself

Katie: Raised near Chicago, I was instilled with a spirit of curiosity from a young age, constantly encouraged by my family to explore and learn. My journey into the realm of art began with clay; a passion cultivated since childhood. In 2008, an exciting opportunity led my husband, our three children, and me to England. It was there that I embarked on a new artistic adventure, delving into the world of metalsmithing. Over four years, I honed my skills and let my creativity grow in metalsmithing. Now, settled in Greencastle with my husband and our standard poodle named Windsor, I find myself deeply rooted in both my personal and artistic endeavors. Alongside my artistic pursuits, I am also actively engaged in volunteer work within the Greencastle community, seeking to give back and make a positive impact wherever I can.

J: Working with heirloom pieces is not something everyone does. How were you drawn to this practice?

K: One day, while admiring the intricate design of a casserole dish, inspiration struck me. I envisioned those elegant patterns adorning a beautiful bracelet, transforming an unused item into a cherished piece of jewelry. The challenge was irresistible, and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to bring this vision to life. Simultaneously, my volunteer work at a local thrift store exposed me to a reality: the sight of cherished family heirlooms being donated instead of treasured saddened me. It stirred a desire within me to preserve not just the physical objects, but the memories and legacies they held. Driven by this passion, I set out to find a meaningful solution. I wanted to offer people a way to hold onto their family’s history in a tangible and wearable form. Whether it’s creating earrings, bracelets, bookmarks, or necklaces, my aim is to transform these sentimental treasures into pieces that can be cherished and worn, keeping memories alive and close to the heart.

J: It seems like there might be some intersections between your work and mine as a Grief Coach and Grief Educator. How do you encounter grief when you are working with someone who wants to create a piece from a special family artifact?

K: Often, I find myself listening to the heartfelt stories shared by individuals about their beloved family members. Some stories are filled with laughter, others steeped in history, and some tinged with sorrow. Yet a common thread emerges – the realization of the fleeting nature of memories and the profound need to preserve them before they fade away. However, the joy that fills the room when these individuals open the jewelry box and behold a stunning piece crafted from a cherished family treasure is immeasurable. In that moment, the initial grief is transformed into a beautiful celebration of love, connection, and remembrance.

J: Talk a little about this workshop. I don’t consider myself artistic and so I can’t imagine creating anything beautiful. How will I be a part of the creative process?

K: We will embark on this journey together to find the beauty within your treasured possessions. During our time together, we’ll explore the intricate surface designs of your heirloom, seeking out elements that speak to you on a personal level. Whether it’s a particular section that catches your eye or a specific motif that resonates with your style, our goal is to identify the essence of what makes your heirloom special to you. As we delve into the design process, we’ll talk about your preferences and vision for transforming your heirloom into a timeless piece of modern jewelry. Whether you envision a delicate necklace, a statement bracelet, or a pair of elegant earrings, your input will guide the creation of your unique heirloom jewelry. Following our workshop, I’ll return to my studio to bring your vision to life, crafting a one-of-a-kind piece that reflects the beauty and sentiment of your family heirloom. Please note that the pricing for the finished jewelry starts at $50, and the final cost will depend on the complexity of the design and materials used. It’s important to understand that in the process of creating your jewelry, I’ll need to deconstruct the heirloom piece. While it won’t be returned in its original form, any unused pieces can be returned to you, if desired.

J: Anything else you would like to share?

K: Thank you for entrusting me with the privilege of transforming your cherished heirloom into a modern heirloom that will be cherished for generations to come.

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Death and Dying: how to begin the conversation

Whether or not we want to talk about it, the reality is that at some point, each of us is going to die. Like birth, death is another natural transition among the cycles of life. So why is it so hard to talk about it? We live in a culture in which we eschew the conversation. Perhaps it is because it causes us to face our own mortality. It can be frightening to think about our own death or the death of someone we love. We anticipate the feeling of loss and so it is easier to avoid it than address it. Maybe we feel unprepared, not having thought ahead to funerals or memorials, or understanding the final wishes of the dying, or question our financial stability after the loss. There could be unresolved issues in our life including relationships that need to be repaired or the anticipated grief that comes from acknowledging unfulfilled hopes and dreams. Perhaps the hardest thing is death itself and the fear of wondering what it will feel like, what happens after death, and all the things leading up to it.

But talking about death is an essential conversation that enriches living. As we reflect and talk, we start to look at all parts of our human experience differently. We may realize we are not alone in what we feel. Values and priorities may emerge with more clarity and this newfound awareness gives rise to intention and purpose. When we start the conversation, we give ourselves and others permission to feel deeply and the space to explore all of what is present. Ultimately, talking honestly opens us to the possibility that those things that might keep us from talking about death and dying might instead be embraced with ease and grace.
This is not small talk, and so starting the conversation may not be the easiest one you have ever initiated. Begin with yourself. What is important about your own mortality? What quality of life do you want at the end of life? Consider your relationships. Are there words that need to be said or actions completed before you die? Getting comfortable with the idea of your own death can be the first step in starting the conversation with others.

Consider exploring advanced directives with your loved ones. Advanced directives are documents that outline final wishes and often identify a representative to speak in proxy. This is an opportunity to plan care in advance of when it is needed. It is a perfect opportunity to explore the standard of care you want for yourself and to learn of the same requests your loved ones have for their own end of life. What are your own wishes when you are unable to speak for yourself? This is also a perfect opportunity to share how you want to be remembered. Discussing final wishes with loved ones relieves each person of the burden of making difficult choices and can open the door to fruitful and loving discussions.

If you find talking about all of this challenging at first, contemplate writing a letter to loved ones to be read after you have died. Perhaps there are stories in your life that remain untold or things held inside that need to be shared. Maybe the letter is a joyful celebration of the intersection of your life with theirs. Regardless of what flows from your pen, writing this message can be a wonderfully cathartic and inspiring way to share what you love about each person and what matters most to you.

Death is unavoidable, but talking about it is not. As we begin this new year, we also start a new cycle of life and death. With this comes the fresh opportunity to talk to those you love about what matters most. So while it can be hard, rest assured that the more we talk, the easier it gets.

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A mindful approach to grief

words related to mindfulness under a magnifying glass

Tara Haelle’s interesting post introduces some important ideas about the intersections of grief and loss with the crises of the Covid-19 pandemic. Ambiguous grief is central to our current experience and she offers some good strategies for managing it, including acceptance, setting reasonable expectations, and finding fulfillment in familiar activities.

Another challenge of the pandemic is our need for the “long view” or life after the pandemic. So much of our attention can be directed to the point in time when the pandemic ends, but as Haelle correctly notes, we are nowhere near the end. So how can focusing on the present moment by adopting a mindful approach to grieving be helpful?

  • Mindfulness engages us in the present moment. Cultivating mindful awareness gives us a sense of time and place and amplifies our sense of control over our circumstance
  • Focusing on the present reduces the stress of looking ahead and the “what-if’s” that come along with it
  • Mindful awareness, when coupled with attention to the breath, stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system or the part of our wiring that is responsible for rest and relaxation

Mindfulness as a practice of self-care was pioneered by Jon Kabat-Zinn who defines it as awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. As I share this concept with my clients, I emphasize the non-judgmental nature of this focus. When we simply notice, rather than appraise what is happening and what we are feeling, we are better able to quiet the nervous chatter of the mind. Free from this distraction, we can then invest our energy in what is available in the present moment. 

Want to learn more? Join us for our Conversation Café on Monday September 21 at 7pm for a lively discussion about mindfulness and learn some practical applications for your daily life.

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