Baby boomers and the time of experiencing loss

Maybe every generation goes through this time of life but we at BoomerCafé have noticed that many of us are thinking about and sharing stories of our own vulnerability and the passing of loved ones. Wendy Reichental, a regular BoomerCafé contributor, has written about losing her mother, and now offers this story that grief is a journey.

Some people gave me one year to grieve. They saw grief as a straight line, with a beginning, middle, and end. But it is not linear. It is disjointed. ~ Ann Hood, Comfort: A Journey Through Grief

Wendy with her mother.

Grief is never linear, like my knitting, it’s disjointed!

I read with interest the semiautobiographical and bestselling novel “The Knitting Circle” by Ann Hood, and soon to be an HBO original movie based on the book starring Katherine Heigl. It’s a story about a mother and wife, who is dealing with the aftermath of the sudden death of her only child. As she struggles to make sense of this tragedy, she is encouraged by her mother of whom she already has a challenging relationship with, to take up knitting as a means of potential therapy and comfort.

She reluctantly joins a knitting group and slowly this circle of women start revealing their own personal stories and a thread of hope, healing and friendship gets strewn together. This book inspired me to find a local knitting group so I could experience this same sense of camaraderie and solace in the face of my own unrelenting grief over the loss of my mom.

Wendy with her late mother who is wearing a crochet hat.

Before I knew it, I was introducing myself before a small group of woolly enthusiasts and felt this strange urgency to tell them while I was there to improve my limited knitting abilities, what I really came for, was to glean some lessons on life. I like many other boomers, unfortunately are facing this sort of reality, the loss of one of our parent, or both. I am only 50 and yet still feel so infantile when it comes to such topics as aging and death. I know intellectually these are inevitable events, but in my heart, I’m a scared child who just wants her mom to tell her everything will be alright.

The wool pack I just met, comprised of two men, who looked to be in their 30s, four women who looked to be in their early 60s and one woman who could not have been more than 20, no stereotypical image of a granny knitting on a rocking chair here! Everyone was busy chatting and tending to their crafts, their knitting needles moving up and down in the air in a synchronized knitting fashion. Clearly, knitting has become all the rage now, with not only knitting groups meeting up in swanky cafés, but with an online tight knit community called Ravelry, drawing in yarn and fiber fans of all ages.

It took all my courage to bring out the bag that contained my mom’s wools and last unfinished project before she passed away. In this bag, which belonged to my mom, I took out what would have been a sweater; the two sleeves hiding unhinged at the bottom of the bag, her knitting needles still in place in the remaining ball of wool, the only knot, was deep in my stomach.  The leader of the group invited me to sit next to her and using my mom’s wool expertly positioned my hands around the knitting needles, and started me off on my first easy project, a scarf.

My mom loved to crochet and knit.  She always told me when she had something to work on, it kept her mind mercifully distracted from depressing or worrisome thoughts, and it even made her forget her physical pain stemming from a hip fracture and severe osteoporosis.  I so admired watching her weave her magic so effortlessly and produce within hours a soft acrylic poncho with long bright dangling fringes, or a slightly misshaped colourful crochet hat with earflaps and huge pompoms, now suddenly so in vogue and retro, but back when I was in high school and had to wear them, not so much!

As I was learning how to knit one purl two, I shared with the group that I decided to take up knitting because I saw how much joy it provided my mom, how she revelled in the anticipation of how something would turn out, and just simply how when she was in her knitting zone, she seemed so genuinely at peace.  I knew my mom was happiest when she was able to relax outside under a shade tree on her favourite lounge chair, surrounded by nothing more than a gentle summer breeze and her special bag of  knitting needles, crochet hooks and of course her myriad of marvellous wools.

I recall and hold dear the many cherished times spent with my mom and try to adhere to the pearls of wisdom once echoed by the renown knitting aficionado and pioneer of her time Elizabeth Zimmerman (EZ), who said “Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn’t hurt the untroubled spirit, either.”  Words to embrace as I unravel and cast off another row of stitches from my knitting needle,  my scarf should be completed by winter (not sure which year though!) but somehow I feel rather compelled to knit on!   I know my mom would want me to.


  1. Your essays provide such meaningful insight into your (tight-knit) relationship with your mom. Can’t help but appreciate my own family more.

    I’d love to read more of what you have to say…maybe even about other topics!

  2. I could feel the softness, rhythm and the excitement of transforming a string into something that warms us in your story.
    What a beautiful way to connect to her spirit and legacy!
    Knitting groups are referred to as a circle in more ways than one.
    Moments we cherish with those we love, pass as quickly as that knitting yarn through our hands.

  3. This was a wonderful read! Wendy speaks for so many of us boomers who still feel the pain of losing a parent, or anyone we have loved. I have read all of Wendy’s previous pieces, and have loved them all. She has a great way with words and her style is easy going and hooks the reader immediately. Keep them coming!

  4. “Knit one, purl two” should be your new mantra. May it soothe your soul always.
    Please share the scarf with us when you are done. It too, will have a beautiful story to tell.
    Knit on! and Write on!

  5. Wendy has an intriguing way of inviting us into her world of thoughts and dreams… Having lost both a parent and a child I know full well her pain and struggle, and thoroughly enjoy reading the beautiful tapestry of words she weaves so well.

  6. This is a touching story from a writer who knows how to use simple language to convey feelings of tenderness, love, and solidarity that we all need. Simple and wonderfully written, I can certainly relate to this story. It certainly brings hope to the troubled spirit.

  7. What a stunning and beautiful tribute to your mother and to the craft of knitting, with all its mystery. Generations of women before you and yet to come will appreciate this story. I have recently reconnected to my knitting and really enjoyed this post. Lovely. Thank you! (And now I have another book to read!)

    1. Thank you Nadine, it really is a great read and I look forward to seeing the movie version, rem. you heard about it first here! regards, Wendy

  8. Thanking you for sharing such a loving tribute to your mom. Her spirit will live on as she continues to touch us through your precious stories.

  9. How I love to read about your relationship with your mother. She was a wonderful soul, and I’m sure you have plenty of great memories to sift through and smile over. Keep knitting, keep sharing, keep keeping on. It’s the only way to go….

  10. Thank you everyone for your kind words and thoughts. I know it seems that I write very often about the same theme, that of my mom and loss, but I think it’s an important one, the theme of loss and coping. I think it makes people uncomfortable, and I hate the word “moving on”…we all move on whether we like it or not. But really thanks to everyone taking the time to read my story. Wendy

    1. Wendy…. I took up knitting with my Mom as a teenager, but it was not for me…I preferred a sewing machine. As she aged and developed tremors, knitting kept her hands steady… she made afghans, ski sweaters, mitts, hats, doll clothes…. today her great grand-daughter is bundled in the white baby blanket made over 30 years ago… knitting sustains the circle of life…
      hugs, Carolynn

  11. Loss and grief came early in life for me since I was a change of life baby. Then later on,I had to grieve the loss of other relatives and friends. I worked on a cancer unit. That is really where I learned how to grieve and not rush the process. We supported each other which really helped. Today, I am always there for others that are going through the process. Your story touched me. Thank you for writing.

    1. Thank you Ann for understanding what I am really writing about, that grief like my knitting attempts is ongoing…..everyone is telling me that over time it will get better….but so far all it has proven is that I remember more….thank you for your comment. Wendy

  12. Thank you for sharing these moments with us. You are witty and inspiring. I will leave you with some words that one of my favourite English teachers once said to me, “Keep writing, it’s good for your soul.” Knitting helps, too!

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