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Origin Story of the Grief Bonnets:

    The first Grief Bonnet was one that I purchased on my way to the memorial service for my husband. I found it at the Lincoln Homestead State Park gift shop, and to me it was the perfect symbol of trying to experience grief while simultaneously trying to move through ones public life.


      I grew up and lived in a small town in Southeastern Iowa. The best and worst thing about this is that, when you walk through town, do your errands, shopping, go to work, etc.  you are constantly running into people who know you or who simply know about you. Folks in small towns have less boundaries than folks in big cities, they’ve seen you grow up, or have seen you around and know your name and it gives a feeling of closeness and familiarity whether that feeling is mutual or even true. I couldn’t leave my house without someone coming up to console me, give me a sad glance, or worst of all trap me in a one sided conversation about all the people they have known who have died the way my husband did and how terrible it was for them.

So I started wearing my bonnet on the days when I had to go into town and I was barely holding it together and had no more energy left to engage in any sort of acknowledgement that someone I loved dearly had died. And it worked. The bonnet shielded me from making any accidental eye contact, my close friends knew if they saw me in my Grief Bonnet I needed my space, and everyone else probably just thought it was a bit weird and left me alone.

     I started making my own Grief Bonnets as part of my art practice in order to mull over this ever changing experience of grieving, as well as to give form to this symbol of safety, protection, personal boundaries, an individual needs. I think a lot about how we grieve and how little we are taught about grieving until the death of a loved one is thrust upon us, and how lonely that can be. I now live in a large city and I no longer need my Grief Bonnet because city folks tend to keep to themselves more, it is rare to run into someone you know unexpectedly, and I get overwhelmed by my grief much less then I used to. I have on occasion put on a Grief Bonnet in the privacy of my home and sat with the feeling of grief and felt safe and protected in my home-made prairie hat.


   As this series develops the Grief Bonnets have taken on the symbols of many kinds of grief and grieving; personal, universal, specific and broad. There are many things that cause grief, not all of them death, not all of them permanent.

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