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December Daily® Storytelling | Special Guest Jill Kane

Hi! My name is Jill Kane and I’m excited to be a part of this blog series. I’ve been a memory keeper for decades and began my tradition of making a December Daily album in 2007.

And I’m going there — to the elephant in the room — with this topic: Grieving while working on December Daily. I know from reading past comments on the AED social accounts that grief touches countless memory keepers. Whether your grief is fresh or it’s something you’re integrating into your life over time, it’s still a part of us. I think of it as the presence sitting next to me.

Like many of us, I’ve been in the throes of new grief and older grief during December Daily time. I completed albums and it wasn’t because I bypassed my feelings and became a December Daily superhero. I was able to make the project work for me through practicing self-compassion, taking breaks, feeling my feelings, leaning on habits and focusing on a variety of supplies and products. Yes, I said it! Sometimes I focused on finding joy from playing with products instead of focusing on my words and photos.

Three grief experiences have intersected with my December Daily practice. The first occurred in early December 2011, when I received a non-renewal (layoff) notice from a job that I loved. The silver lining with this was that my termination wasn’t final until June 2012. Yet it was still a stressful and sad event heaped onto a typically fun and light-hearted season. 

In September 2018, my 84-year-old mom experienced a sudden illness that took her life after a two-week hospitalization. She was expected to recover. She and my dad had been married for 62 years and were living independently in the home they moved to in 1958. While he hadn’t been diagnosed — and was clever at downplaying it— my dad was living with dementia. Within four days time, I realized the extent of his cognitive decline and sat next to my mom as she died.

In May 2019, on my daily visit, I found that dad, also at 84, had passed peacefully at home. While not necessarily unexpected, it was a shock to me. I thought his time living with dementia would be much longer. During the eight months between both deaths, I became dad’s care helper. He remained living at their home and I visited him almost every day, helping with meals, laundry, managing his finances and the house. I’m blessed with a connected family and family friends who helped me (and dad) in many ways during these eight months. It was a hard and amazing time, all at once. Truly bittersweet.

I want to acknowledge that loss takes many forms and grief is both individual and shared. And that how I worked on December Daily amidst all of this was something that worked for me. I’ll share more knowing that what worked for me, won’t work for everyone.

Two ideas:

  • Ask yourself and trust your response to this question: How do you want to feel while you are creating your December Daily project? In 2018, I wanted to feel like I was escaping into a playful world where I didn’t have to face over and over how much this holiday was different from any other in my lifetime. My answer guided my album choice, the products I used and the stories that I included. I wanted the escape of spending time crafting. I knew that if I went down the path of including some stories, my craft time would become crying time. I was at a point with my grief that I wanted a break from crying. Working on December Daily became that time.

  • Let the products you have help you build pages. Plan pages around products instead of around your words and photos. I feel brave writing this on Ali’s website, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that I planned most of the stories I included in 2018 around products, especially from past Story Kits.

This story was from a really hard Sunday afternoon. I wanted to bake dad’s favorite bar cookies. He loved these so much that mom made them throughout the year. I could visualize her standing right where I was in this photo, spreading the chocolate chips into a frosting. I didn’t want to write those words then, and I wanted to show that I was in my walking gear because right after this, I went for a walk. All the products on this page are intentional. The pattern papers remind me of her Christmas table linens. The “finding joy in the doing, “things end,” and “present/past” chipboards were the only words I wanted to build this page around in December 2018. Yet I look at it now and I know exactly what was going on around me in the house and how I felt that afternoon.

Whew! Nothing like keeping it real. Thank you for reading. If you are grieving loss(es), I am so sorry. If you are looking at your new December Daily purchases or your collection of treasured supplies and wondering, “How will I take this on this year?” you are not alone. Listen to yourself. Be true to yourself. Let your mind change. Take your project in a different direction than what you had planned or how you’ve approached it in the past. I believe that our hobbies are sources of joy and ease. If joy feels out of reach, look for ways to find ease in your crafting. Ali’s created a kind community for all of us. Know that you’re not alone this season.

Jill Kane adores all things paper. Right now, she’s still into modern memory keeping and is excited about her growing interest in art journaling and collage. She just launched a new Substack community, Craft Hobby Habits, where she will share more this season about Documenting December & Grief. She’s a Feel Good Effect certified coach (not practicing), nonprofit fundraiser, lover of sunlight, wife to Chip, and cat mom to Eliza. 

Instagram: jillkane25

Blog: Craft Hobby Habits

YouTube: jillkane25

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63 thoughts

  1. carrieW says…
    11/06/2023

    Wow-beautiful, all of this! Love this perspective of very real life.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Jmkane25 says…
      11/07/2023

      Thank you! I hope you enjoy a great DD season!

  2. lcp6272 says…
    11/06/2023

    Thank you for being so open! I totally get using DD as a way to forget (even temporarily) some of the sad, and focus on the other stuff. My albums from the past couple of years are like that - dealing with my husband's cancer diagnosis and some financial strains. Looking at the albums, I don't forget what was going on, but they do help me remember the good that was happening too. And doing the album/being creative was a way to have some self care during that time!

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Jmkane25 says…
      11/07/2023

      Thank you! I'm so sorry to hear about your husband's diagnosis. I hope he (and you) have found your new "normal." Engaging in creativity is such a gift regardless of how smooth or rocky life is. I hope you enjoy a meaningful DD season this year!

  3. laura_g_ says…
    11/06/2023

    This is such a great topic to cover as we head into DD Season. Most all of us are greiving a loss each year...nothing stays the same...this year we lost my older brother to leukemia...we all miss him so much. Its going to be a tough Christmas.😪 I'm still planning to take pics and journal every day, but not sure how I'll feel about making something everyday. I'll just see how it goes...I'm sewing Memory Bears out of his shirts for his girls, wife, and grandsons. Its hard!! But I hope they bring them comfort, so I'm determined to get all 6 finished by Dec.1.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Jmkane25 says…
      11/07/2023

      I'm so sorry to hear about your brother. Thank you for sharing. A friend of my sister's made us pillows and Christmas ornaments out of mom's winter robe and one of dad's shirts. They are treasures! Some years I tell a date specific story and others I tell between 25-30 stories. I begin my album on my birthday, November 25, and generally go through Christmas. Do what feels best for you. I hope you enjoy a meaningful DD season!

  4. Donna_Clements says…
    11/06/2023

    I’m so sorry for your losses. I, too, have had hard holidays, and can relate to what you wrote. Thank you for sharing and I hope this holiday season is a memorable one for you!💕

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Jmkane25 says…
      11/07/2023

      Thank you! Loss and grief are universal. I hope you enjoy a meaningful DD season, too!

  5. SarahGiles says…
    11/06/2023

    Thank you so much for your honesty and courage in sharing this.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Jmkane25 says…
      11/07/2023

      Thank you! I hope readers feel a sense of we're all human and this is life - yet we can still find ways to care for ourselves through creativity. I hope you enjoy a meaningful DD season!

  6. geordie281 says…
    11/06/2023

    Lovely article thank you. My husband died IN December two years ago, which has changed the season for us as a family for ever. I kept doing my DD all through that month and when I look back I am so glad that I did. I had been keeping a daily journal of his illness as well, and it has a home in one of the DD envelopes in the album, and that is a good place for it to live.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Jmkane25 says…
      11/07/2023

      I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing. I love the idea of finding a home for pieces from a specific time in your DD album. You know they are there, and what to expect when you open up the album. For me, when my parents died has brought a new meaning to those times of the year. Another layer of memories and an opportunity for me to decide each year, what I want to incorporate into the months of Sept and May. I hope you enjoy a meaningful DD season!

  7. cjdragonfly says…
    11/06/2023

    What an incredible blog post; vulnerable, helpful, and touching. Jill, I love the specific example you shared about baking and leading with the products. Sometimes looking back on the photo and the choice in layout is all you need to remember the story. Thank you so much for sharing. - Chandra

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Jmkane25 says…
      11/07/2023

      Thank you, Chandra! I can get really intentional with embellishing choices :) For me, it's probably the most satisfying part of building albums. I don't need a ton of extras, but they need "feel right" to me. Thank you for your kind words. I hope you enjoy a meaningful DD season!

  8. cannycrafter says…
    11/06/2023

    Thank you for this post, it resonated with me. In Dec 2017 my dad went into palliative care and I was close to not documenting that December as I knew he was close to death, however I carried on and now these are precious memories I look back on.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Jmkane25 says…
      11/07/2023

      I'm so sorry for your loss. Isn't it a good feeling to look at what we crafted in the happy times and the hard times! I'm happy that you found a way to remember him in 2017. I hope you enjoy a meaningful DD season!

  9. ShirleyinTexas says…
    11/06/2023

    Dear Jill, as I read your experiences it hit home and I felt a connection to you. I too have scrapbooked for decades and just adore filing away cherished memories that always brought so much pleasure. Playing with pretty things is such bliss.
    I’m a pretty private person so posting this here feels like a safe place to land. I honor you for being so open because it helps people like me understand none of us are alone when it comes to facing hard things.
    With my parents my situation went in reverse of yours , where my dad passed and I discovered my mother’s Alzheimer’s was much worse than any of us thought. They disguised it well. Due to this I was forced to leave a job I loved to care for her but not begrudgingly. Her walk was slow and now I know why they call it “the long goodbye”. She didn’t leave until she was nearing her 99th birthday.
    It was difficult to approach DD that year but I knew I must pay tribute to her because she loved Christmas and her sense of humor could spill onto my pages sprinkled with my sorrows.
    It’s such a personal thing how each of us choose to handle it. I must admit I’ve had a few of these close together lately and some of those times I just had to take a break.
    But the best part is returning to the joy it brings and sweet memories I never want to forget, all the good that I acknowledged later.
    So here’s to anyone facing a difficult December. This little gem can be so healing. So let go and let Christmas have your heart.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Jmkane25 says…
      11/07/2023

      Thank you, Shirley, I'm touched by your story. You are not alone. I'm so sorry for your losses. Dementia certainly can be the long goodbye. My mom suffered with chronic physical conditions for years; dad with the cognitive decline for longer than I was able to see (or wanted to see). It is a lot of work to take on being a care helper - even if it's something we want to do! I hope that you found/continue to find support for your time helping her. Odd as it may sound, I struggled with the loss of my caregiving role, the loss of that schedule structure that role demanded. It took a while for me to find new patterns. I'm glad you approached memory keeping in a way that worked for you during that time. It's the right thing to ask of ourselves. I hope you enjoy a meaningful DD season this year (and beyond)!

  10. aussiehostie says…
    11/06/2023

    Thank you Jill, this was really helpful.❤️

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Jmkane25 says…
      11/07/2023

      Thank you for your kind words! I hope you enjoy a meaningful DD season!

  11. AmberCA says…
    11/06/2023

    This touched my heart! I love your perspective. I am currently working on my DD 2022 and it is hard! My dad lost his battle with a horrible illness on December 22, 2022. It is still very fresh for me, but working on my album has been good therapy. Thank you for sharing is very tender part of your story.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Jmkane25 says…
      11/07/2023

      I'm so sorry for your loss. Sigh. It's so hard! I'm glad to hear that working on your 2022 DD project is helpful for you. I hope you continue to enjoy a meaningful season this year!

  12. petrii says…
    11/06/2023

    Thank you for this! Currently my parents are 84. My dad had a mini stroke last week and is struggling and my mom will have a bone marrow biopsy on Thursday to see if cancer is in her bones, and she has dementia. It is a tough season for my parents. I’ve been thinking about my reason why this year, my first official year of doing December Daily. My reason why will include Joy. That much I know. Because I will hold joy and a heavy burden together this year. I’m sure my album will reflect that. Thank you for sharing this. I needed to read it. Blessings to you ♥️

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Jmkane25 says…
      11/07/2023

      I'm so sorry to hear about your parents' health challenges. Aging can be so hard. I will keep them (and you) in my thoughts. Yay for focusing on the joy that is still around! Thank you for your kind words. I'm glad they are landing for readers. I hope you enjoy a meaningful DD season!

  13. kategm47 says…
    11/06/2023

    I wish there were more products inviting us to explore stories of major life changes (like loss or grief). My DD this year will be in a space of grief myself- I just lost my dad yesterday. And my intro page is literally a ribbon tree with the words stitched into it "Oh December, Please Be Gentle" Thank you for sharing this post, it gives me permission to be real this year.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Jmkane25 says…
      11/07/2023

      I'm so sorry to hear about your dad's death. So sorry. Fresh loss is it's own thing and deeply personal. You are on your way to approaching December by calling in gentleness for yourself this season. Thank you for sharing. Warm hugs coming to you!

  14. tlsent1 says…
    11/06/2023

    Wow. The timing on this post is uncanny. I just finished my 13 days of October album which I almost didn’t do because of losing our 30 year old niece at the beginning of October. After reflecting, I decided my album was representing my memories, good or bad, happy or sad, funny or serious. I saved her tribute page until last and am very happy I included it. This post hit home with the picture of the Ann Voskamp quote…our niece’s name was Joy.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Jmkane25 says…
      11/07/2023

      I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing here. I know your October album will continue to have a special place in your life. You are not alone in the memory keeping community. I love the Voskamp quote - it was right for the story I told with it in 2018. Hugs to you! I hope you also find meaning with DD this season!

  15. robynv says…
    11/06/2023

    This is such a wonderful blog post, and so important since we all have grief of some sort in our lives, at some point. Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your story. Your ideas for carrying on with this project even when life isn't very merry are so good. I really love this.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Jmkane25 says…
      11/07/2023

      Thank you! Loss and grief are real life. I hope I can continue to share some helpful ideas and tips for memory keepers. The "when life isn't merry" parts are beautiful in their own ways, too. I hope you enjoy a meaningful DD season!

  16. kermit13 says…
    11/06/2023

    Such a lovely, tender read. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Jmkane25 says…
      11/07/2023

      Thank you! I hope you enjoy a meaningful DD season!

  17. mecastro says…
    11/06/2023

    Thank you for sharing this. I lost my son in 2016. On the anniversaries of both his birth and death, I stay in my scrapbook room for much of the day. I craft and write, and these two practices help me more than anything. Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, but I struggled to celebrate the first couple of years after my son passed. So much of what you say resonates with me. I did December Daily for the first time last year, and it meant so much to me to create something beautiful. Sometimes that's how we honor our loved ones--by bringing beauty into our world.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Jmkane25 says…
      11/07/2023

      I'm so sorry for your loss. So much yes to honoring by bringing beauty into the world! I love that. The album you made last year will continue to be a special one for you. I hope you enjoy a meaningful DD season this year, too!

  18. mecastro says…
    11/06/2023

    Also, these words are priceless: "I believe that our hobbies are sources of joy and ease. If joy feels out of reach, look for ways to find ease in your crafting."

    Reply 0 Replies
  19. Kary13 says…
    11/06/2023

    Thank you for this. We were anticipating a busy December and big family Christmas in 2021–all of our grown kids & families were coming home to celebrate, so I really went overboard on all the DD goodies that year. Then, just before Thanksgiving, our sweet 26yo son took his life. It was obviously a very different December and Christmas, but I took and printed photos and wrote, wrote, wrote. But I have never put the book together. Some of my kids and grandkids are coming this year, and you have inspired me to at least start our 2021 book. I think it will be healing for all of us. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    Reply 2 Replies
    1. Jmkane25 says…
      11/07/2023

      I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing a piece of your story and for your kind words. It's an honor to inspire :) What you create will be a truly special album for you - that I know for sure! I hope you enjoy a meaningful DD season this year, too.

    2. mecastro says…
      11/07/2023

      Dear Kary, this is how my son passed, and he was also 26 at the time. It's been more than 7 years, but I finally scrapped the Christmas from that year, on one page only. I titled it: "A Different Sort of Christmas," and I included photos of my surviving son and daughter with tattoos they had gotten on Christmas Day to honor their brother. We had no tree or stockings that year, and little cheer, but the story of that Christmas is still one of love. Be kind to yourself as you put your 2021 book together; my single layout was so difficult. I wish you all the best in your healing journey.

  20. cjflynn09 says…
    11/06/2023

    Jill, I am so sorry for your losses. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself here and being so open. There is much to take away from your words and suggestions on how to approach documenting when sometimes it may be very difficult.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Jmkane25 says…
      11/07/2023

      Thank you, CJ :) It's an honor to be here talking about this subject. It's an important one! I hope you enjoy a meaningful DD season!

  21. TracieClaiborne says…
    11/07/2023

    What a thoughtful and much needed post - thank you Jill and AED team.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Jmkane25 says…
      11/07/2023

      You're so welcome, Tracie! Thank you for your kind words. I hope you enjoy a meaningful DD season!

  22. yin100 says…
    11/07/2023

    Thank you for sharing yourself with us, much needed words.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Jmkane25 says…
      11/07/2023

      Thank you. I hope you enjoy a meaningful DD season!

  23. jenjeb says…
    11/07/2023

    This could not have come at a better time. We recently had a loss in our family. The guilt of feeling happy over December Daily products is so very real and hits home! I love your perspective and will use it feel guilt free during this December season. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Jmkane25 says…
      11/07/2023

      I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. Try to remember that many things are true (or reality) at the same time. It’s ok to be delighted by something; it’s ok to be saddened by something else. I hope you enjoy a meaningful DD season this year!

  24. vallori says…
    11/07/2023

    Such a great and helpful article! I know I personally read at least one post every year on Ali's December Daily FB group from someone dealing with a loss. Some know they want to document it but don't know how to go about it. Some question whether the topic of loss even belongs in December Daily. And some just need to hear "It's okay. It will be waiting for when you are ready . . ." Having lost my husband to cancer on 12/4/13, and his birthday following on 12/17, I was one that just set 2013 aside. When I began documenting it years later, I went through all of it. The good, the bad, the ugly, as it consumed our December. But reflecting back on it, I was able to find little moments of glimmer and even a funny story about a TV that had to be an Angel-thing! I still have a few final pages to complete and your thoughts for documenting are so helpful, thank you. I love the subtle simpleness of your baking page - sometimes, you just don't need a lot of words. Many wishes for a wonderful holiday season!

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Jmkane25 says…
      11/07/2023

      I’m so sorry about your loss. Thank you for sharing a piece of your story here. We all need to do what is right for us at a given - and that looks different for everyone. The perspective you have now about 2013 is a new gift. How great that you can use that to inspire creativity! I hope you enjoy a meaningful DD season!

  25. suzeq18 says…
    11/07/2023

    Thank you so much for your story and ideas. After my Mom passed in October I thought I wouldn't be able to do DD. Now I realize I can. It will look different, which is okay, because life is different.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Jmkane25 says…
      11/07/2023

      I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing here. Listen to your feelings and focus on what inspires you when you can. And know you’re not alone. I hope you enjoy a meaningful DD season!

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