I made a bereavement bear

It helped me heal after experiencing the death of an extremely close one: what it is, why I made one, and takeaways.

Left image: wearing my wake clothing (white t-shirt, dark blue pants); Right image: bereavement bear made from the very same clothes.Before and after: I converted my wake clothing into a huggable bear.

Losing my grandfather came as a shock, to everyone. He was still smiling and speaking to us the day before, and gone the next morning, just like that. The sudden death of a major pillar of support at home tore everyone down. He definitely made sure that his presence was felt by all of us... We felt it the most after he left, to the depths of our bones: the emptiness, disbelief and denial.

The person he was, the person I will forever remember as

Words and a graphic of a bunch of grapes embroidered on the bereavement bear's tummy.

Embroidered words that he would say only to me, and a bunch of grapes.

The most doting grandfather, who remembered and cared about every single detail. He often bought a variety of grapes for me to try because it is my favourite fruit. He would definitely let me know that he had bought them back just for me, by saying, "我买你的最爱回来了!(I have bought your favourite back!)" And I will automatically know it's grapes.

The parent when my parents were busy at work. His one simple line of, "午餐要吃什么?(What would you like to have for lunch?)", a daily occurrence which I once thought was annoying, but now miss so very much. We used to have lunch on the table ready for us even before 12pm while working from home, because he wanted us to eat comfortably and rest, without having to queue ourselves. Now, I know that it's no easy task to walk under the hot sun for ~30 minutes to and from home, and queue for another ~30-40 minutes, just to pack lunch.

The spy who peeks into my room every now and then, asking, "你在做什么?(What are you doing?)" Repairing and working on toys is my passion, and he might question my decision, but still respect it nonetheless.

The stockpiler who made sure we had months worth of food supplies, ensuring that our fridge and cabinets were never empty. Now our freezer stands void of fresh catches, but the big refill packets of milo that he had bulk bought at a discount are still keeping our tummies warm, whenever we need a sip of something sweet.

Burning his clothes

A gold chain he had bought, wrapped around the bereavement bear's leg.

A gold chain that he had bought for me when I was a child - it's still precious to me even if it's fake gold.

By Chinese traditions, clothes of the deceased are burned for use in the afterlife. Most of my grandfather's clothes were packed for that purpose just hours after his passing. The only clothes that remained were ones that he never really wore, left hanging still in his closet.

I wanted to be reminded of him

Left image: wake clothing stored in my closet; Right image: clothes cut up into pieces, ready to be put together into a bear.Wake clothing that I will never get to use again, stored in a section of my closet.

All 4 of my grandparents have passed on, and I will never get to use this set of clothes anymore. I didn't want to store them in my closet and hide the memories away, only to dig them up years later to be reminded of his death and feel the sadness all over again. I wanted to see it daily, remind myself that he has moved on to a better place, and be okay.

Therapeutic process

Embroidered texts and on the bear's arms and feet.

Tattoed, with love: his birth and death dates embroidered on the arms, facial features embroidered by hand; Feet reads "想念你 (missing you)" and" 爷爷 (grandfather)".

From mourning in this set of clothes, to cutting it, designing the embroidery, and piecing this bear together: it felt almost symbolic of how his death tore us down, but we find ways to build ourselves back up again, with a new perspective in life.

Life is fleeting

People always tell me that I'm lucky to be the youngest child, just because the youngest is usually the most spoiled by parents... This wake and funeral procession has told me otherwise. The youngest in the family is also the one who (assuming we pass in order by age) will need to send everyone off. As they leave one by one, I will have one less person to share common memories of the deceased with - a process I have come to realize is so important in the immediate days after the passing, to think back and to remember - until no one is left by my side. I guess this is the trade-off: to be overly pampered and cared for by my loved ones, but also feel the immense pain when they all leave.

Anyone around us can leave anytime, anywhere. I only had regrets when my grandfather passed, and I don't want to feel the same way, ever again. I want to care for as many people as possible, as and when I can. Family time has become my priority, as work and money gets pushed down the ranks (of course, work and money is still important for survival's sake). Afterall, I will only get to spend hell money when I leave this world, but the people I spend time with will remember me for the person I was.

Hugs and comfort

Bereavement bear sitting on my bed, with my favourite Pooh bear.

He now lives on my bed, looking over me when I'm at my most vulnerable in dreamland.

The last thing I see before going to bed, and the first thing I see after waking up. Reminded day by day that he is really gone, but will stay in our memories forever.

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