Welcome to my interview with Ann Hood. I am thrilled that Ms. Hood accepted my request for this blog interview, especially in light of her busy traveling schedule with the paperback release of her newest book, The Red Thread. Ms. Hood is a noted author of the best-selling novel, The Knitting Circle and the memoir, Comfort – A Journey Through Grief, among her many other books and short stories.
A few years ago, I read her memoir, Comfort, about the tragic and most untimely death of her five year old daughter, Grace, to a rapid strep infection. I think of Ms. Hood as someone, who despite the worst possible loss- that of a child- has been able to rebuild her life and continue on in a productive and meaningful way. Hence, my reaching out to her now.
What personal qualities have helped you carry on and move in a positive direction?
I think the curse of being an optimist has helped keep me moving in a positive direction. Also, I was raised to push forward, no matter what. I remember when I was 19 and had mono, I came home from college to recuperate and my mother allowed me just enough time to do that. Then it was: Get off that couch and get back to the business of life.
Did you go through a period of self-pity? What helped lift you out so you could see beyond?
I think one big misconception about grief is that we move through it in some orderly way. Instead, it’s a messy business. Even now I can go through times of self pity or despair or any of the other emotions that together make up grief. Knitting, hugs, family and friends, my other fabulous kids, books—the same things that help me through everyday lift me up at bad times. But I also learned it’s ok to experience all the bad feelings too. Too often we beat ourselves up for feeling self pity, or really any negative emotions. Part of moving through them is to feel them.
Was there a specific moment, thought or epiphany that helped guide you to a better place mentally or psychologically?
Oh, no epiphanies, though that was what I hoped for: one THING that would make it better. Unfortunately, it gets better in baby steps, with lots of sliding backwards and dark periods. It’s important in those times to know that it will be better.
What were/are your day-to-day coping skills that kept/keep you afloat?
I knit almost every day. In fact, I can tell when I’m going through a bad spell because I knit a lot. Luckily, I have a strong support system of friends and family and I call on them often. Knowing that I have a coffee date or a dinner set up with someone who understands helps me move forward.
What thoughts propel you forward?
I’m a take it day by day kind of person, so I tend to focus on what is up next rather than dwelling on large questions and projections. This attitude has actually helped me move forward. I wake up in the morning and take stock of that day. Usually that in itself propels me forward: get kids to school, dog to groomer, coffee date with friend, visit Mom, work on novel, speak at knitting store…that is my day today; and thinking about it, tackling it, not only propels me forward but also makes me feel necessary, loved and creative.
In general, how have you managed to rebuild your life after your tragedy?
One stitch at a time. It is slow and often painful; and an ongoing process. Accepting that helps you do it. No magic wand or potion, no healing flash. Really it’s just putting one foot in front of the other every day and going about the sometimes messy, sometimes glorious business of living.
What advice would you offer someone going through a very difficult time in their life, in the hope of being able to come out of the darkness intact?
Learn to tell people what you need. Do you want to be left alone? Do you want to visit a faraway friend? Do you want company? I have found that people want to help but don’t know how. When I give voice to my needs, I am never let down.
Attack something new. For me it was knitting, which was anathema to anything I would have ever learned. For my husband, it was masonry. He re-did our entire front and back yard with gorgeous stonework, teaching himself as he went along. For others, volunteer work has helped.
Although I know how hard it is to remain hopeful during difficult times, find a mantra or talisman or something that you can hold or repeat when you feel hopeless, some tangible symbol of a better time.
To win a free copy of Ann Hood’s book , Comfort:
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