Brooks’ Bereavement Bears, a nonprofit organization based in Canton, focuses on helping families cope with the loss of a child and, most specifically, women who have experienced pregnancy loss. Founder Taylor Prelac suffered a miscarriage in 2020 in the midst of the COVID pandemic. Through the support of friends and loved ones, including a teddy bear gifted to her by her grandmother, she eventually found joy and hope again.
It wasn’t long before Prelac found herself pregnant again. “I got my positive pregnancy test with Brooks, and I walked out to a beautiful full rainbow,” recalls Prelac. Coincidentally, a baby born after a loss is called a “rainbow baby.”
A year to the day of her miscarriage, she gave birth to a baby boy, Brooks. To honor her family’s journey and other women going through loss, Prelac sent 10 teddy bears to Akron’s Summa Health’s OBGYN unit, where she received care.
The impact was immediate and inspired Prelac to create Brooks’ Bereavement Bears in 2022 to help others dealing with this unimaginable grief. Each cuddly teddy bear comes with a pink and blue ribbon and a message: “You’re not alone.” The bears are given at no cost to the families.
The nonprofit collaborates with hospitals and grief support groups to reach families who might benefit from this service. It has partnered with Cleveland Clinic Mercy and Aultman Hospital in Canton, Ohio, and MVHC in Cambridge, Ohio. Prelac also sends bears all over the state to hospitals and individuals. To date, Prelac has distributed nearly 400 bears.
Miscarriages are a common experience. In fact, 20% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. They often occur before the twelfth week of pregnancy, with most happening before the tenth week.
Miscarriages can happen for various reasons. The most common cause is chromosomal abnormalities in the developing fetus.
Experiencing a miscarriage can be emotionally challenging. Many people grieve the loss deeply. Many hospitals have perinatal loss programs and support groups to help families during this difficult time.
Dealing with Grief
Research shows that physical objects can genuinely help people in their grieving process, providing emotional comfort. These “transitional” objects, whether a memento of the person lost or a symbol, provide safety and comfort. A 2021 study by the University of York suggests that holding on to items helped people maintain an emotional bond with the deceased.
A 2020 study published in Comprehensive Psychiatry surveyed mothers who had experienced the loss of an infant and found that transitional objects helped provide security and symbolic links for the bereaved.
Many well-intentioned friends might think people should move on from their sorrow. David Kessler, bestselling author of Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief and founder of Grief.com, explains that people don’t readily move on or recover from loss. Grief is not like an illness but something we must learn to live with.
Brook’s Bereavement Bears offers a small but significant solace to women and families going through the worst moment of their lives. The bears are soft and encourage touching and embracing, much in the same way children comfort themselves with toys or a blanket. While the pain of the loss will never be gone completely, the bears provide a level of comfort that words and other gestures might not.
Turning Pain into Hope
Prelac hopes her organization is used throughout Ohio in hospitals and OBGYN offices. Anyone experiencing the loss of a child can reach out to the organization for a bear. Friends and family members can also recommend someone to receive a bear.
If you would like to help, please consider donating. Each bear costs $16 to purchase wholesale, but any amount is appreciated. If you work for a hospital or OBGYN office and would like to sponsor bears for your patients, please reach out to Prelac.
For more information or to donate, visit brooksbereavementbears.com