How stuffed toys can help with grief and loss

A personal experience, how I coped, and how I think it could help you too.

Flowers my grandmother arranged all by herself for Chinese New Year.
Flowers my grandmother arranged all by herself for Chinese New Year.

Grief, a foreign emotion

I don't even remember the very last wake that I attended. Or maybe I do, just flashes of images: people wearing black and white clothing, fire, people chatting, and lots of tears on the last day. I never had to attend the wake of a close one, and never really thought about it.

Until two weeks ago

I found myself in a position of having to grief over the course of a long week after losing my grandmother. We were never that close at all, even having a language barrier. She spoke in Hokkien, a complicated language that I could never pick up. We met about 1-3 times every year, mostly just for Chinese New Year. I remember telling my sister a few months back, "I don't think I'll be upset even if she leaves, just because we weren't even that close. Maybe I'll just be upset because mummy is upset."

And boy, was I so wrong

I think I shed the most tears over the week, secretly weeping in my bed, thinking about how I should have visited her more often, learnt more of her crazy delicious and easy-to-make recipes, put in more effort to learn Hokkien so I could at least have a proper conversation with her whenever I saw her.

I remembered her as a strong, independent woman, with a contagious laughter that could influence me even in my worst mood. Having seen her at her best, it hurt my heart to have seen her at her weakest - literally just skin and bones, a human being that could seemingly break in that frail state - even more so that she had to leave in pain, even though she was such an amazingly nice and kind person.

The last red packet I received from my grandmother at Chinese New Year this year, snug in a nice, fitting plastic.
The last red packet I received from my grandmother at Chinese New Year this year, snug in a nice, fitting plastic, my way of remembering her.

During the wake

The house was quite literally a gloom. The mood was dark and heavy all the time. My parents would be out early in the morning at 8am, and be back late at night at 2am. Everyone was sad, tired, quiet, and grieving in their own ways.

As I lay in bed thinking about the past, hugging my favourite stuffed toy helped calm me, so much more than when I was at the wake venue, where I would feel anxious, on my toes and almost sick. I didn't get to talk to my mum much for the entire week, but having my memory blanket she handmade helped me think that there was still a piece of her at home, and that she was fine. I talked to my Pooh bear, told him things that I wanted to tell my mum, words of comfort, and reminisced about the past, while being wrapped up in my cozy blanket.

My favourite Pooh bear and memory blanket
My favourite Pooh bear and memory blanket

Death is a hard concept to grasp

It still is even for a young adult. Is it the loss of a loved one? Or does it instill a certain fear in us to see someone we know move on from this world? Regardless of the reason why we experience such deep emotions, I was thankful for the existence of my stuffed toy, for being there for me and my emotions, when everyone else was busy packing up their emotions.

I don't hope for anyone to go through the same thing, but if you do, I hope your stuffed toy will bring you some comfort the same way it did for me.

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