For the media

Handmade Memory Bears offer comfort to grieving families

By The Health News Team | June 27, 2024
Joyce Anderson with Memory Bears from Sharp HospiceCare

Joyce Anderson holding her Memory Bears made by Sharp HospiceCare volunteers.

A pair of stuffed bears made from the clothing of family members who have passed sit on Joyce Anderson’s dresser. They serve as a tangible reminder of the cherished memories she and her loved ones shared.

Less than two years ago, Joyce's family faced profound loss when their daughter-in-law, Danielle, died after courageously coping with breast cancer. She had been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer in 2020 while pregnant with her second child.

Not long after losing Danielle, tragedy struck again when Joyce's mother died on what would have been Danielle’s 37th birthday. Memory Bears, handsewn by Sharp HospiceCare volunteers using clothes worn by Danielle and Joyce’s mother, became a source of comfort for her grieving family.

“I was flooded with emotion and appreciation for the love, care and detail that went into creating these bears,” Joyce says. “I can give them a hug and feel the love they impart.”

The bears were especially comforting for her dad, she says, after enjoying 65 years of marriage to her beloved mom. “We had many cathartic moments while choosing the personal items to remember her by,” Joyce says.

A blessing for many

Memory Bears are created with a piece of clothing special to someone who has passed. These garments, whether a favorite shirt, blouse or a pair of well-loved pajamas provided by their families, are meticulously crafted by Sharp HospiceCare volunteers into comforting keepsakes.

Memory Bears from Sharp HospiceCare

Two Memory Bears sewn by volunteers through Sharp HospiceCare.

"It’s a little remembrance of the person they loved — something they can touch, smell and hold," says Bonnie Sue Patterson, a volunteer who has been with the program since it began more than 20 years ago. "Making Memory Bears is a nice way to help someone who is grieving, and it blesses you too."

Thousands of Memory Bears have been distributed to families in San Diego County, all made possible by the dedication and compassion of volunteers. “They are the backbone of this effort,” says Denise Kelly, who oversees the program. “Volunteers offering their time and talent to create something that offers comfort during a hard time is so special.”

Bonnie says she began volunteering after her mother-in-law received hospice care. The impact of the experience inspired her to give back. When her husband passed away, she found comfort in making a Memory Bear of her own. “It was made with a red plaid jacket that he wore,” Bonnie says.

The bear, she says, sits in a rocking chair. “I see him every day.”

Learn more about Sharp HospiceCare’s Memory Bear program; get the latest health and wellness news, trends and patient stories from Sharp Health News; and subscribe to our weekly newsletter by clicking the "Sign up" link below.

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