You’re working on a cosplay, knitting project, or craft for someone you care about. You’ve put so much time, money, effort into this effort of love. You have mock-ups, you drafted to their measurements, to make something custom for them; or, maybe it’s a cosplay that you bought & wear yourself, with a character they love.
All of a sudden, they’re no longer in your life. I hope it’s not death, but it could be a fight that breaks your friendship, a falling out, a breakup, a huge argument that explodes, or a major event in your life that separates you from someone dear.
How do you deal with that loss? How do you deal with the leftover artifact of that former relationship, your WIP prop/cosplay/craft/etc forged out of love for that person?
To be fair, there is a similar curse in knitting where, if a knitter makes a sweater for a boyfriend, the relationship will dissolve by the time the scarf is completed.
But, I’m not advocating for you to not ever make or spend money on things for your family, friends, and loved ones. Cosplay is an act of love, and I believe no earnest expression of love is truly wasted. We know that world needs more acts of love, especially now.
There are many ways to grieve, and it’s never easy. Similarly, there are many ways to deal with the physical incarnation of what could have been. I’ll share some suggestions, rationale on why it makes sense, and some examples of what feels/doesn’t feel right to do for my lost projects:
Build/make/wear the thing anyway.
Finish and enjoy the project on your own terms. There are plenty of opportunities to use that prop/cosplay/project and imprint new wonderful memories with it. This won’t work if you’ve built something custom for someone else, but it’s possible to make it for another loved one who is still in your life.
I do have a cosplay that’s under this category, one that was a part of a pair cosplay, worn by me. It’s a character loved by the one I lost, but I do not know that character. I haven’t worn it at a convention or gathering yet.
I could wear it on my own, but since I haven’t read the source material myself, I can’t really get into the character. I think I would wear it if it’s a part of a group cosplay with friends (One Piece cosplay group anyone??). For me, that cosplay would no longer be a failed pair cosplay, but rather a new cosplay with new cherished memories, spending time with friends.
But it doesn’t seem fun for me to wear by myself, just for the sake of wearing it, and may only remind me of my loss.
Store the project safe, and revisit later, whether it’s the same project, or something completely different.
Take all of the relevant parts, and put it in storage. This may mean pausing indefinitely, or completely abandoning the project. There may be a chance that you’ll either revisit the project later, when you’ve healed from the loss, or maybe cannibalize it for another project you’re more excited about.
I have so much bridal black fabric in this category; it’s still salvageable for another project altogether. I may revisit that project later, but now, it feels right for me to iron, tidy, and put it in my fabric storage. Maybe years from now, it’ll be the perfect fabric that will make me happy.
But I do not feel the same for the prop; it had lots of valuable LEDs, sized perfectly for the lost. I’ve spent so much time and money making it wonderful. It’ll hurt to cannibalize it for something else. I really hope I can still complete it, but I am not certain I will.
Donate/give away what you can.
Like Mari Kondo proclaims, “discard anything that does not bring your joy”. Your project of loss may be someone’s shiny new cosplay. The artifact has a chance to bring beautiful, and fun memories to someone else.
Why not make the world a better place and let your partial cosplay bring joy? Usually you can do this with cosplay swap meets and online groups of a similar area. I personally am a bit far away from my cosplay friends, so it would be hard for me to let them try a cosplay of mine.
Psst, cosplay colleagues, I have 8 yards of black canvas and 3 yards of black thick bridal satin; want it?
I hope one of these ideas resonated with you and gave you a step towards closure. Cosplay is ultimately an act of love, and I hope that you can channel any loss of love into something worthwhile and wonderful for you in the future.
As for me, I think I’ll just store everything unless any of my friends want the materials. I’ll also focus on finishing some projects purely for myself (fashion designs, geeky-inspired streetwear, solo cosplays). I hope that whatever you do, you do something that makes you happy.
PSA: there is absolutely no shame in seeking professional mental health if you feel the need. You owe it to yourself to take care of yourself, and as your cosplay colleague, I want you to take care of yourself first. It’s okay to not be okay. There are crisis and mental help hotlines in your country if you need someone to talk to. And if you’re my friend, I can be here for you.
Do you have other ways to mourn your project and your loss? Let’s share strategies as a way to support each other in our time of need.