A local non-profit offers a unique way to preserve beloved items of clothing to comfort those experiencing grief
Losing a loved one brings grief – as well as sensitive questions about the more practical aspects, like what to do with their belongings.
Karen Wootton from Santa Barbara lost her husband five months ago.
As well as the heartbreak and grief, and the onerous administration involved with losing a loved one, she had another sensitive issue. What to do with her late husband’s clothing.
The Hospice of Santa Barbara offers a unique way to preserve beloved items of clothing, in a way to bring comfort to those like Karen, experiencing grief.
A favorite shirt or item of clothing is sewn together to create a teddy bear.
"He had this shirt, we called it the 'Big Kahuna' shirt, it was loud and garish and not at all what my husband was like," she told KCLU.
But she says that she and her daughters would tease her husband when he wore it, and nickname him the "Big Kahuna."
The shirt was turned into a teddy bear, and Wootten says when it arrived she burst into tears.
"I had a good cry right then and there, as the bear was just so special," she said.
The teddy bears – known as Beloved Bears - are handcrafted by local volunteers – like Frankie Martinez.
"We have to be pretty careful to utilize those fabrics in the way they see them being used and can connect to," she told KCLU.
"A lot of times they'll let us know they maybe loved to put their sunglasses in their pocket so I'll make a little pocket, or they loved to wear a neck-tie, so I'll make a little neck-tie", she said.
Each bear – or you could alternatively have a pillow made - takes about two to four weeks to complete and is about 14 inches.
Sally Turvey, volunteer services coordinator at Hospice of Santa Barbara, says the teddy bears are a tangible keepsake which bring reassurance and comfort.
"This is a fabulous transitional object for them as they're going through their grief," she told KCLU.
"Often they don't know what to do with all their clothing when their loved one has died. This is a great way for them to find clothing that has a special meaning.
"It's very rewarding to hear people say how special the bear was for them," she said.
More details on HSB’s Bereavement Services and the beloved bear program are here.