Hospice Program Connects Healing, Hope and Empowerment

August 24, 2021  |  by WesleyLife

Heather, the granddaughter of WesleyLife Hospice patient Robert Bowers joins volunteer Shirley Frus, to admire the custom teddy bears. 

Connecting the “newly” bereaved with“veteran” bereaved is the goal of a new program launched by WesleyLife Hospice in 2013. TheRememBEARance program creates customized clothing or accessories for a teddy bear as a way to bring a bear hug to the grief journey.

The RememBEARance program uses volunteers who have a passion and talent for sewing – and have also experienced the loss of a loved one – to people who recently lost a loved one. Together, the “veteran”bereaved works with the “newly” bereaved to choose a shirt, dress,pants or even a special tie or piece of jewelry, which captures the essence of their loved one.Commemorative bears are available to the family of WesleyLife Hospice patients.

In the fall of 2013, the program connected Shirley Frus, WesleyLife Hospice volunteer—and a widow herself—to the family of Robert Bowers, a retired John Deere employee and loving husband to Ruth for nearly 55 years. Robert died at his Madrid home with care from WesleyLife Hospice.

“My bear has meant a lot to me because it’s a little piece of grandpa that I will always have with me,”says Kendra Graham, granddaughter of Robert Bowers. “I will be able to tell my children all the stories about grandpa and what a wonderful,loving, caring and kind-hearted man he was,” Kendra says. “When I am feeling sad and just want to talk to grandpa, the RememBEAR is something I can go to – it always puts a smile on my face. It has helped me to stay close to grandpa even though he is no longer physically here. That’s what grandpa would have wanted.”

Above: The Robert Bowers family shows off their cherished bears. 

“I know the bears will bring a smile to someone. It’s a way to remember the loved one,” says Shirley, who lost her husband, Don, in early 2010.For her, the program brings healing to her journey.

What makes the program truly unique is that volunteers know what is means to grieve. They bring a unique perspective to the program and prove to be a valuable support to the newly bereaved.How involved the loved ones are in the process is dependent upon their comfort levels. Volunteers stand willing and ready to adjust the process to meet the needs of each person.

“The program is about more than a stuffed animal—it’s about connecting families and providing resources to those who recently experienced a loss,” says Char Gustafson, WesleyLife Hospice Bereavement Coordinator. “Using volunteers who have been through the grief journey is essential as it is just as therapeutic for the newly bereaved as it is for the volunteer.It brings healing, hope and empowerment.”

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