How Making a Crochet Blanket Helped Me To Process My Cousin's Death

by Megan Duncan

May 15, 2021

Photo of the finished blanket

At 7:12 a.m. my phone buzzed on the desk as I unloaded my laptop and sipped coffee. My dad never called during working hours. My stomach clenched. I mentally ticked through the list of family, but I wasn't ready for his next words. “It’s Will. His F-16 crashed and I didn’t want you to find out from the news.” The words looped through my brain. Will. Cousin. Dead.

I left work and didn’t return to the office for weeks.

Single, Double, Seed

I found a skein of yarn in my closet, clasped a hook in my right hand and stitched. First single crochet followed by rows of double crochet then seed stitch. My sister, a crochet expert, and I met for daily video calls. Some days we talked; some days we cried. Some days we sat in silence; the sound of yarn-on-hook was barely audible through the computer speakers.

The stitching rhythm provided comfort. As the blanket expanded it provided warmth to my legs while I worked.

Grief is a Process

His body returned home under a draped flag, wet from the surrounding grief. Less than a month after Will’s death, a pilot from Jordan was captured by ISIS and burned alive in a cage. My guilt stitched into the blanket as I cried grateful tears that wasn’t the fate of my cousin.

The seed stitch grew from one row to two and grief rooted into me. It found soft places to squeeze into and voids to fill.

A Misspelled Name

News stations across the country picked up the story about the small-town, 30-year-old pilot who died and many spelled his name wrong. It enraged me.

In my college journalism classes, we had learned the critical importance of getting every detail in an obituary right. I wanted to call each news station and yell at them until they corrected the “b” to “B” in our last name.


My new husband listened as I ranted about the misspelling, and knew it was me yelling out of grief.

Crochet: Therapist Approved

My therapist encouraged work on my grief blanket. She introduced me to practices that allowed me to process the trauma of how Will died. Crochet moved me through grief instead of it sitting stagnant.

I finished the blanket exactly one year after Will’s death. After my initial month of feverish stitching, I set it down when it felt too heavy. I picked it up when I wanted to remember Will and spend time with my grief.

Close friends encouraged me to call it a “remembrance blanket”. I suppose “grief blanket” was depressing, but that’s what it was. The blanket held me and my grief.


Cozy Up’s New Meaning

Six years after Will died, we use the blanket regularly. It’s the roof of a fort. It’s the land on a floor of lava. It’s the warmth we need on a winter day.

The grief blanket encourages memories of Will, and it makes me smile. It holds my grief over his loss, and also the memories of us growing up together. He is no longer here, but the blanket wraps me in the warmth of his spirit.