Press release from Four Seasons Compassion for Life:
FLAT ROCK, N.C. – When a family member faces end of life, children are often considered forgotten mourners by care providers. But at Four Seasons Compassion for Life, children get the comfort and support they need at a time of loss, thanks to the Heart Songs Bear Buddies program.
Heart Songs offers an array of children’s outreach and support programming to ease the grief associated with the death of a family member, including a summer grief camp, a holiday workshop, and the Bear Buddies program for children within patient families.
In 2015, more than 300 bears were given to children in Buncombe and Henderson counties who were faced with the loss of a family member.
Last summer, Kendall Guin, 10, a student at Etowah Elementary, and her younger brother, Jackson, were visiting their Grandmother at Elizabeth House, a residence for patients nearing end of life. To help them cope with their pending loss, the siblings each received a gift of comfort, courtesy of the Heart Songs program: a goodie bag and Teddy bear.
Guin decided that other boys and girls deserved comfort in the same way she and her brother were helped. After talking with her parents, she enlisted the support of school guidance counselor Emily Ingram. From there, the entire school got involved to provide seven boxes of items for children in families experiencing the death of a loved one.
“Every child needs something to hold and hug when they experience the loss of a loved one, or when they have recently experienced a loss,” says Simmons, Heart Songs program coordinator with Four Seasons.
Teddy bears are widely known to offer comfort during times of crisis, offering the sensory and emotional support that help children cope with personally devastating change.
“Words alone are often not enough,” Simmons says.
Due to the association with Theodore Roosevelt, bears are also a recognized symbol of American ideals about compassionate leadership. This important quality is also a cornerstone of the Four Seasons mission, a distinction which adds extra meaning to the gifts, she says.