My business is named for my children – my three children if you consider my logo. When people ask what ‘Olives and Bananas’ means I always reply that it’s a play on words using the names of my two living children, Oliver and Hannah, and when the moment seems right (which most often it is) I add that the dragonfly in the logo is for our son, Finn, who lived and died in 2013.
In the first few years after Finn lived and died I spent a lot of time reflecting and writing about him.
I didn’t go out much, I felt exposed and fragile, while also feeling like my heartache was being worn like heavy armour. Five years later I still feel that way, though over time I’ve found ways to express my grief that make it more comfortable to wear.
In those first years there was a lot of alone time and space to think. I needed to talk about him, but silently while I worked on the right words. It was easy to purge my feelings in the Instagram community because I knew there were others out there who identified with my words, and that made it safe.
In the past year my safe place has become the wool shop. I know that one of the many reasons I don’t write as much about Finn as I once did is because I talk about him more, I have real life conversations about him now in ways couldn’t before. This past year has forced me into the confrontations and questions I feared the most, and in that I learned that I can handle it, I can cry in front of someone and recover and move on with my day, I can catch my breath. It’s okay to cry, it’s okay if I cry, and we can hug it out – or better let’s dance it out like Grey’s.
The subject of child loss isn’t one that comes up often in casual conversation, but because the “how many kids do you have?” question is asked all too often, for some of us child loss does come up all.the.time.
I could have avoided the subject more easily by naming my shop ‘Amy’s Wool Shop’ or something equally uninspired, but there wasn’t much heart in that, and not in line with what the shop is about. More often than not people who shop & stitch here are making something for someone else; if not it’s something special for themselves. It’s more about the pride in creating and giving than anything else, and it’s been deeply inspiring to be surrounded in that kind of sharing.
I think naming the shop for my children points to who I’m creating for and why on a personal level, which opens the door to deeper conversations – which I think is lovely, and we need more of that in this world.
There’s a perception is that the subject of child loss is too sad or complicated to talk about openly, and I know some people worry about my response and wonder if they should bring up Finn and his story. You should, you always should. It would be much more sad to not hear his name, or feel like he’s being forgotten because he’s not physically present. When his name is said aloud he is acknowledged, as is our grief, and makes me feel less alone in remembering him.
The experiences in the months since opening the shop have been hard to put into words for many enormous and extraordinary reasons. There have some been some really profound exchanges and heartfelt moments, confessions, tears, sharing, hugs, laughter, …all the emotions that seem indescribable when I try to transcribe them.
Finn’s photo in his rainbow knit elf hat hangs prominently in the shop. That hat, that photo, that memory… it all represents such an important step toward my business – long before I even knew the direction I was headed. By the time the path appeared I was already well on my way.
Some of you have come in wearing dragonfly clothing or jewelry as a gesture in honour of Finn. Some have brought me little dragonfly trinkets, candles, and bookmarks. You have shared heartfelt stories about what dragonflies mean to you, and the folklore that makes you believe there’s something magical about them. All of this demonstrating the best of the human heart, and I’m eternally grateful.
Finn’s dragonflies originate in a simple pencil drawing by Betsy Bowen, whose original sketch of ‘green darner dragonflies’ for the book Hawk’s Ridge was for sale as part of the 2012 Crossing Borders Art Studio Tour. I bought it a few months before I was even pregnant, but knew it was special instantly. It was he first thing I hung in Finn’s nursery in 2013.
In the shop I’ve been visited by other bereaved parents, who find the right moments to share their stories. Talking openly together somehow softens the effects of our tragic stories. Losing a child can feel isolating, it’s an incomprehensible grief unless you’re in it. You can imagine the worst – and I’ve lived the sad losses: my parents are both gone, friends, deeply missed, so many people live in my heart…, but nothing compares to the longing for Finn. My little Finn…
It is so important to me that Finn is remembered for living as much if not more than because he died so young.
Finn brought so much joy, relief, peace, and hope to our family when he was born. A rainbow baby himself, he was a bright light after years of miscarriages. Once he was in my arms I felt calm like I hadn’t in years. The future was wide open with potential and possibilities.
He was such a beautiful baby; his golden hair and bright, curious eyes made my heart melt. Tiny and loud, he was perfect in every way.
He had visitors, people held him, we all cooed over him. I nursed him, changed him, bathed him… unaware that all these firsts were his last. Our last. The only.
His death blindsided us.
Five years later and for weeks now I haven’t been sleeping well. I’m waking in the very early hours and can’t fall back asleep despite all my hacks. In the months following Finn’s death I couldn’t sleep without some kind of white noise being pumped into my head, anything to drown out the wheels turning. The only times I felt I really slept was after an acupuncture treatment, and though I still see my acupuncturist weekly it’s not enough to ease this restlessness.
Every morning for weeks I’ve felt butterflies and anxiousness as if I’m heading into an important interview and it’s messing terribly with my physical well-being.
There’s nothing in particular keeping me awake or making me feel anxious; it’s simply a function of grief and the time of year bringing all the feelings to the surface. The air, the way the sun rises and sets, the changing colours of autumn, all of these earthly reminders of Finn are impossible to escape. And why would I want to? It’s always been my favourite time of year. I felt so lucky to be able to celebrate my special boy in this beautiful season.
Now he is everything autumn is to me; he is the lake breeze, the sunrise and shine, and all the warm colours – everything reminds me of him. It’s both paralyzing and full of static energy. He’s my forever baby, he will never grow up, he will never have a first day of school, ride a bike, play with friends, choose Halloween costumes, or celebrate Christmas. All these occasions still come and pass without him, and all I can do is imagine him and wonder who he would be.
September is difficult to navigate. This year I’ve felt numb, distracted, and unable to express myself in the ways I’ve found healing in the past. I’ve learned enough from previous years to know that I can’t predict anything, the triggers will catch me off guard, some will devastate me and others will lift me (and everything in between). I try not to schedule too much or makes plans knowing that each day needs its own space.
Five years ago I thought I would never leave the house again. I definitely wouldn’t have believed I would be running a wool shop, talking to people about Finn, least of all smiling.
Thank you, to all of you who have shown such genuine thoughtfulness, compassion, and empathy for my little Finn, myself and my family. I’ve learned a lot more about humanity this year than wool. We really do need more togetherness in this world because we heal better in groups leaning on one another.