(Topic: weighted bears and how they can help with grieving, personal observations)
I’ve had Pookie featured on this blog a lot. If you’re new, Pookie is the weighted bear we have, representing our stillborn son Charlie (Pookie’s introduction is here, and Charlie’s story is written out here). So you know, because I will reference it below, Pookie physically represents Charlie because he matches Charlie’s weight (Pookie weighs 6 pounds 5.3 ounces), and coincidentally is also the same length as Charlie (18″).
As you’ve probably noticed, I have a lot of pictures of Pookie out and about with me. The pictures of him are not just in my home or at Charlie’s grave, but are also in public places such as parks, museums, or with family. I take Pookie to church, to visit family, and I sometimes choose to take him other places.
Today I want to take a minute to talk about why Pookie is with me a lot, and about how many different things Pookie does for us! He wears so many hats.
|Silly Pookie! That’s a Dad Joke!|
Pookie is my son’s avatar
“Avatar” means representative or placeholder or manifestation. So for us, Pookie is a physical way to represent Charlie, like if we’re taking a family photo. It doesn’t seem like Charlie is missing from the photo (at least not as much) if Pookie is in the picture. The same is true of family events: if Pookie is there, Charlie is represented and it feels like Charlie himself is “there” as part of the family. As I mentioned in the intro above, Pookie is not just a symbol we arbitrarily picked, but because of his weight, he uniquely represents our baby.
|A brand new Pookie (as yet un-nicknamed) with a picture of Charlie, at the first Christmas.|
Pookie is a “baby”
Because of Pookie’s baby-like weight, he serves very physically as a way to fill empty arms. Especially early after Charlie died, my arms literally hurt or felt weird, because they weren’t holding a baby and were supposed to be. (This is not an unusual issue to have, by the way. Having “aching” or empty-feeling arms is normal.) The size and weight of Pookie helps calm that feeling. Sometimes if I’m having a really bad day, I’ll put on music and rock and bounce Pookie while I cry – because then it moves me into and through the emotion and I can be sad for a time, and still have part of the day where I don’t feel bogged down by grief, rather than me bottling it up or just being cranky all day. (And because he is heavy like a baby, he’s not as easy to carry or stuff into something like other teddies. This is why you’ll sometimes see me use a sling or a baby carrier for him, or I’ll carry him on my hip. It’s simply more practical and makes my arm and shoulder hurt less – but it’s also snuggly.)
|Pookie and me snuggling during a hike.|
|A rougher day.|
Pookie is a weighted blanket
If my grief-anxiety is bad, lying down with Pookie on my chest is extremely calming. His weight and pressure, like that of a weighted blanket or a thunder shirt, are calming and reassuring. I do my best to remember to pick him up if I’m feeling fretful or unhappy or cranky, and when I remember, it really helps. My husband knows that if I’m having a bad day, I won’t always remember because I’m feeling bad and having trouble thinking, so sometimes he’ll hand Pookie to me. Once Pookie is in my arms, I will remember what to do. Holding him is good, lying down with him snuggled on top of me is better.
|Because it’s not as photogenic to get the back of Pookie’s head, and because I’m usually feeling really low at the time, I have no photos of Pookie actually being a weighted blanket bear for me.|
|This was a pause between weighted blanket sessions.|
Pookie is a therapy dog
Similarly, Pookie serves like a therapy dog: when I am anxious in public or at a particular function that is very hard for me (such as an event that will have a lot of triggers), being able to hold him, stroke his fur, or cuddle him can keep me calmer and able to function in that environment, when I would otherwise be unable to participate or possibly even unable to be there at all. If I am having a hard day, having him with me can be the difference between leaving the house and getting things done, versus staying in bed all day and crying.
|Exploring a city on my own can be nerve-wracking, so that was one time I decided to bring Pookie along (also, it was a fun adventure too!). This was on the USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) in Boston.|
Pookie is a memory-maker
This is probably what you see the most on the blog. I take Pookie places, or we take Pookie places with us. We pose him, and we take pictures of him “doing” things. He has his own wardrobe of clothes, and we change him depending on the activity or where we’re going. We do this because Charlie’s death robbed us of Charlie’s future. We had planned and hoped to do many things with Charlie as he grew up. We can’t do any of them with him now. So doing things with Pookie as a stand-in means we are still making new Charlie-related memories, and getting new Charlie-related pictures, despite never having new memories of Charlie himself, or new pictures to share of Charlie growing and playing.
|Many of the pictures I take are of our daily life, and texted to Daddy to cheer him up throughout the day. Here’s Pookie helping with the groceries.|
|Watering Charlie’s plants.|
Pookie is a playful way to connect with each other
Have you ever seen an adult make a doll “talk” to a baby? We don’t make Pookie have a voice of his own, but we do playact that he has opinions (always told to the other person in third person, like “Sweetie, Pookie says blueberries are the best”). We also make him wave, snuggle, hug, and sometimes mime things out. We do this in our imagination. We know that in physical reality, Pookie is a teddy bear. He is not alive, and does not have opinions. As adults, we are fully aware of this! We imagine with Pookie for fun, and it actually allows me and my husband to bond, too, and sometimes provides a way for us to tell each other things (“Pookie says mommy had a hard day, so he gave her lots of snuggles”. Of course I could just say “I had a hard day and could use a hug”. And sometimes I do! But using Pookie can be a more playful way to do it). Additionally, because we’ve been doing this for a while, and started being more consistent about some things, we’ve essentially created a character that we now have to be consistent to. For instance, the character of Pookie likes salmon (because bears eat that) and blueberries (again, bears eat them, but also because he’s blue). The character makes dad jokes sometimes, usually when Daddy is helping him wave, pose, and tell things to Mommy! The character has a little bit of sass and backtalk, but always lovingly. And baseline, Pookie’s physical presence is meant to be calming and snuggly, so his character is loving and open and accepting.
|Lately, reading books to Pookie is one way we imagine-play with him. Here he is, waiting for us to be done brushing our teeth.|
Pookie is an ambassador (ambearssador, according to daddy)
Because Pookie is out with us all the time, many people ask about him. Or at least, make comments that could be interpreted as interested! So I often end up explaining what Pookie is to other people, which often means that I also end up explaining how Charlie died, and what infant loss is, or is like, or how it happens, or how often it happens, etc. So Pookie is a conversation starter to help Stillbirth Awareness. If people are familiar with the idea that pregnancy and infant loss happens frequently, and know that it is a problem, then people will research and try to reduce the problem, and there will actually be good support for people living through it. Also, if people know about the issue and about support for it, then more people like me will feel comfortable taking their support items in public, rather than getting isolated on grief days because they don’t feel comfortable carrying their doll or bear (or whatever helps them) into a public space for fear of being judged. As someone who carries a teddy openly and publicly, though, I can say that people have never said anything rude to me about the bear to my face. Not even once.
Thank you for learning about Pookie! If you have any additional questions about the roles he plays in our life, I’d love to hear and see if I can explain!
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