By Dawn Marie Yankeelov
Feature Article: May 14, 2012
When we are hurting, children and adults want to hug and hold. When someone dies, it is not surprising that all of us may find a favorite stuffed animal to snuggle close that somehow reminds of what seems fleeting—that love is endless and timeless. This is the message that Bare Hearts, a new business created by Louisvillian and Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) Molly Eiche, has established in its line of teddy bears that are filled with keepsakes for people to cope with trauma and grief. The company is now expanding to working with hospitals and other healthcare circles that have special interest support groups, as well as via the web to individuals looking for ways to remember their loved ones after they die, or deal with separation, like hospitalization.
“I have often been faced with the circumstances of watching families have to cope and deal with siblings after a child dies. There really weren’t a lot of resources to assist in a therapeutic way to comfort and write down their goodbyes,” said Eiche, a Louisville-based Kosair Children’s Hospital child life therapist.
Out of this search for a solution that would support families in closure, Eiche began to cut out the stuffing of teddy bears, and have people write down their goodbyes and put in favorite objects that they either wanted to give their loved one, or wanted to keep as a reminder of that person. The bear could stay with the family member forever, or it can be placed with the person who has departed as a parting gift of love.
That concept evolved into what is now a business serving others in pain and loss through various kits and activities, such as the Bare Heart-Grief/Loss Kit. This kit comes with two bears, a booklet, a notepad, and a marker. These bears can be made by the family in the final days before the loved one dies. There is a version for the infant keepsake for parents who have lost an infant or newborn baby that has a sachet for a locket of hair or ID bracelets, along with a footprint memento and a heart-shaped notepad. One can stay with a family member and the other with the one who has departed.
Now there are also separation kits for military families, business travelers, divorce, or hospitalization. The single bear-heart separation kit is for those already separated from their loved one. The Bare Heart serves as a keepsake or memory maker to provide comfort for a person who has experienced stress or sadness due to separation.
The most recent addition is the Surgery Bare Heart bear that helps children cope when being separated from parents during surgery. This kit comes with a bear, hat and gown, an instructional booklet with a hospital autograph page, a heart notepad and a marker.
As the website points out, “The first step is to fill your Bare Heart bear full of love. He has hearts that you can write notes or draw pictures on to help you remember your loved one.” Eiche says people find that putting small objects that connect them to another person in the bear can assist in the feeling that the bear has a part in the connection.
Even funeral homes have begun exploring the use of Bare Heart Buddies, as the bears are called, in their sales and arrangements. Ft. Braggs has invested time in using them with men and women separated with their families. The John C. Lincoln Breast Cancer Research Center found the company online and have formed a partnership. Individuals as far away as Quebec, Cape Town, Africa, and Switzerland have ordered bears in recent months. There are plans to deploy the bears in 50 pack orders. The company holds a patent-pending status.
Eiche pointed out, “This is not a geographically-driven business. Everyone understands love and that’s the universal language.” She continues to investigate ways that organizations and groups can expand this throughout the world. Visit: www.bareheartbuddy.com, and you can donate a bear as well.
Eiche is working with Camp Erin, the largest network of free bereavement camps in the country for children and teens who are grieving a significant loss; and Camp Mariposa, for children affected by addiction in their families, under the auspices of The Moyer Foundation. The foundation was founded in 2000 by MLB, World Series-winning All-Star pitcher Jamie Moyer and his wife, Karen. If you would like to donate a bear, Camp Erin would like Single Grief/Loss Bare Heart Kits, as well as Camp Mariposa. You can select the quantity of Single Separation Bare Heart Kits you would like to donate. Upon check out enter the following shipping address:
The Moyer Foundation
2426 32nd Avenue West, Suite 200
Seattle, WA 98199
Enter the Redemption Code: Moyer to receive the reduced price for donations.