A (modified) excerpt from my book, Crochet Saved My Life: The Mental and Physical Health Benefits of Crochet:
Crochet for Self-Care
We have explored how crochet can be healing for people with a variety of different mental and physical health conditions. But in doing so, we’ve left out a large group of people who can also benefit from crochet: the loved ones of those who are ill. Illnesses of all kinds can wreak havoc on family members and other people who love them. Sometimes living with a loved one who is ill can cause us our own health problems. We might get fatigue and headaches from the stress of worrying about a loved one. Or we may experience our own depression and issues with codependency as we help someone we love work through their mental health issues. Often, the health of everyone else takes a backseat to concerns about the sickest person in a family. However, it is very true that if we don’t take care of ourselves first and foremost then we can’t take care of those we love. For that reason, it’s important that anyone with a sick loved one takes special care to make sure that they themselves are not suffering health consequences as a result. And crochet can help with that.
Crochet Builds Self-Esteem
One of the biggest benefits of crochet for people with ill loved ones is that it is a craft that can build self-esteem. Having a loved one who is ill can make you feel helpless and eventually even worthless. You can’t help them to feel better or get better. And sometimes you get mad at them for being sick even though you know that they typically can’t help it … then you feel bad about yourself for not being more patient with them and with the situation. In some cases, the ill person’s behavior (especially in cases of their mental illness) can specifically cause you to doubt your own sanity and this can lower your self-esteem. Crochet can be a gift that you give to yourself to maintain your own sense of who you are and what you can do as an individual. You can create things with your own two hands and be proud of that. You can create items that comfort your sick loved one, which is a way to give to them even if you can’t fix their health problems. You can crochet things for other people in need, making yourself feel useful and valuable once again. And you can crochet special things just for yourself as a way of treating yourself well and showing yourself love.
Crochet Reduces Stress
As we’ve discussed previously, crochet is also a great form of stress relief and a way to reduce anxiety, feelings that we know all too well if we have someone in our lives who is ill. Our brains often whirl around on themselves with fears about what is going on with the sick person in our lives and attempts to puzzle a logical way through what is essentially an emotional experience. Taking the time to sit down to crochet, focusing on the process of forming stitch after stitch, can help to ease your mind. It gives you a much-needed mental health break when dealing with the difficulties of having someone in your life who is very ill.
Crochet Offers a Feeling of Control/ Calm
Additionally, crochet offers the opportunity to feel like you are in control of something in your life. Sinikka Pollanen writes, “It can be said that craft can appear as an area of life that individuals can fully control according to their own terms, so that it supports the sense of control in life. Craft can help in attaining a feeling of life management and fully functional personality in situations where all the other areas of life are uncontrollable.” This healing aspect of craft is certainly relevant to individuals who are going through a health crisis. But it can also be relevant to the caregivers in various situations. You can’t stop your alcoholic husband from drinking, your sister’s cancer from coming back out of remission, your anorexic daughter from starving herself thin, your parent’s mind from deteriorating. You can’t control any of it. But you can control every choice inside of your crochet project and while that’s not everything, it’s something, and sometimes something is enough to get you through to the next day.
Crochet Offers Reprieve
If used properly, crochet can also be a way to just get time away from the entire experience of illness that sometimes seems to consume your life when you love someone with a serious health problem. When things get too intense at home or in the hospital, you can walk away and take a little time to yourself to crochet something and get your mind back into a peaceful state of being. You can even join a local crochet club where you might find a group of people to talk to about something other than illness for a change. It can be a refreshing and beneficial part of your life, even if you don’t consider yourself “the sick one” in your family.”