Monday, 8 December 2008


Teddy Bears are very important to me. They have been since I was a child.Then all my imaginary games would involve the characters that my bears were. I was never into dolls, they annoyed me. But anything I could cuddle and tell my troubles to was alright with me.

Nowadays I have four bears that sit at the side of my bed and a cat, who I think is grey and who my sons tell me is purple, who sits on one of the bears legs.

These friends see me through all those times when life sucks and I cry my eyes out. When there is no-one else around and the pain of keeping the words in gets too much and so I tell the bears.

Armed with this knowledge of what bears are capable of I have always used bears in my working life. It used to be that I had a therapy bear that would accompany me to work to be on hand for any client that needed his support.( Bears are always male, cats female.... I don't know why either!)

But latterly I discuss the use of bears with my clients. It's when I'm talking about letting go of their feelings, as in expressing their anger in a healthier way than perhaps they've been using, as in getting a punch bag and letting go of that physical and mental energy that makes up rage.

And then discussing how they are going to let go of their pain. The pain that you hug your arms around yourself and talk in a small voice about it not being fair. The pain that needs to be said for a release of feelings to feel better.

So I suggest to all the clients, male and female when I'm helping them find another way that they need a friend. The friend they need will listen to them 24/7, will give them a hug for as long as they need, will not mind getting wet with tears, and this friend is a bear.

It has to be said by the time I tell people this they are ready to hear it and do not roll their eyes and think I've lost the plot. They understand the value of talking, and more importantly perhaps of being heard. The need to let go of the voices in our heads is vital to emotional and psychological well being.

And frankly not many of us have real friends who we will bother 24 hours a day when we feel overwhelmed with emotional shit.Human beings are all very good at being there for other people. How many times have you said to someone, call me anytime day or night and meant it. And how many times when you have felt desperate have you been able to lift up that phone and say please help?

We don't do it, even though the people who love us would hate to think of us being in pain and would be there like a shot, we hook into not wanting to bother anyone.
And so the bear comes into his own. Why? Because when we were tiny and our parents put us into our cots at night most people got a bear or something similar popped into the bed to act as a companion through the night as we learnt to cope on our own.

And what has all this got to do with the picture of the Church at the top?

This is St Paul's, it is in the heart of the financial district of New York, it is completely surrounded by skyscrapers of which the biggest was it's immediate neighbour the World Trade Centre.

Literally at the end of the graveyard and across the road was one of the twin towers. And despite the devastation done to those buildings and many surrounding St Paul's did not get damaged at all. Which I think says something more profound than I have the ability to comment on, I'll leave that to people of faith. But even I thought that God moves in mysterious ways on this occasion.

So St Paul's became a place of refuge for the many construction workers and firefighters who worked round the clock in those first days trying to find anyone left alive in the aftermath of what had happened. It became a safe place, and slowly people from around America, especially children started sending drawings to help cheer these exhausted men up. They started to receive candy and soft toys.

So each night cots were set up inside this humble little Church for these men and under each pillow was a packet of candy and a bear. Almost as if by giving these men something of the safety of their childhoods they could help them face what they were facing day after day.

Last week I went to ground zero, there is nothing to see anymore it's a building site, but D did take me into this Church, and I carefully studied every piece of display, reading it with quietness and respect. Until I came to the bear tribute, then I could no longer stop my tears.

You may think I'm completely soppy or stupid, doesn't matter, I don't need your approval here. What I found was something that resonated with me back to the days of my early childhood and ever since. And I for one felt that if any of those roughty toughty men was able to make use of a friend in the night then maybe the world wasn't such a bad place to be in, when they were dealing with so much death and carnage during the day


Rae!xx said...

No one could ever think you soft or stupid and I can't begin to explain how much I went back to my own childhood reading that post.

And I do confess to still having my comfort blanket from when I was a baby at 42 years old and still sleeping with it every now and again when I feel the need...xx

Mel said...

Mr. Stuffy Bear has the honoured position smack dab in the middle of the questions asked, no judgements made. He's earned the privilege.

No apologies, no explanations required.

Hug 'em for me. They done good by you.

anya said...

Byrd, this post is so beautiful, and meaningful in a personal way to me. My friend in the night is not a bear, it's a curly haired, squishy dog I named Sandy because of his color. I got this stuffed pup for Katy 6 or 7 months before my divorce. I was on the last trip that was made as a couple with my former husband. That trip to Maine was supposed to be a chance to rekindle something. It was a trip from hell. When I removed Sandy from his bag in the hotel the day I bought him, I felt something deep inside, a strange comfort just holding him to my neck and I guess I knew then that Sandy would become something very important, comforting, and necessary for me in the future. I knew he was mine. Your post captured so perfectly the comfort I feel each night when I clutch him to my breast, resting my chin on his head and then, somehow, I am quite at peace, and happy to drift into sleep.

I had never heard the story of the ground zero workers. I cried a little when I read it, imagining how those people had to get up and face the horror each day but I know for sure, there was a bit of comfort for them in those bears.

Lori ann said...

Thanks for sharing this story, I've still not been. I don't think there could ever be enough said on this subject.

Picsie Chick said...

What a touching post, Ms. Byrd! I don't remember the source of comfort in my childhood. It seems like I never had one. And an adult I have had several cats and dogs (real ones) that have been there for me in the most profound ways at times, sadly some have moved on to the rainbow bridge already. And I have my wonderful online friends, too.

Thank you for your words of comfort, thoughtfulness, encouragement and love.

Hugs and butterflies,

Angela said...

Dear Fire Byrd, I feel like saying nothing, just nodding. Love you!

Fire Byrd said...

Rae, we all need our comfort blankets... you go girl.

mel, I feel honoured to know about Mr Stuffy Bear... how do you do sir!

anya, Sandy sounds just the right sort of hug for those lonely moments.

lori, it was heart wrenching being in that Church and so unexpected to find it there amongst all the high powered banking institutions.

picsie, so pleased you have your cats and dogs, they are such a source of comfort. We're going to get a new dog after Christmas. So both Alex (youngest son) and I have someone to talk to!

angela, love you straight back and smiling at you're nodding.

hugs all round I think

Val said...

heart wrenching post beautifully written. St Pauls in London also escaped the blitz despite the city around it being flattened. I love the bears in therapy idea but one could never release anger on one? definitely need a punch bag for that and bears for comfort! xx

Fire Byrd said...

Absolutely Val couldn't agree more!! x

So@24 said...

I'm extremely flattered!

That cursed Atlantic...

Fire Byrd said...

so@24.... Good I'm glad your flattered... could you just let me know exactly what you're flattered about cause you've lost me hon.

Trixie said...

When I ran weight watchers meetings, I would hand out a teddy bear to a member who was struggling that week, saying it was me keeping an eye on them (would joke I had hidden a camera in the belly). Amazing how many people lost weight taking that bear for a week!

Mei Del said...

yes i wonder at my tough little boy, my youngest who has his soft toys to cuddle still while all of 9 years old now.

Angel said...

Beautiful picture.

Some things are universal. The teddy bear sounds like one of them. {{Teddy}}

karen said...

teddies are indeed amazing and comforting creatures! (i still have mine that was given to me at birth.. with barely any fur left, needless to say). very touching to hear about the bears in the church..

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

I would have cried too at the bear tributes - and I am a firm believer in the bears as friends. I have four on my bed and a whole lot more in the sparebedroom - one of whom is as old as I am.
Never apologise for the place of bears in your life, or anyone else's - they play a fundamental role in our lives, especially during the toughest times.

Walker said...

Hwere one find his or her comfort is no ones business.
I don't have a bear but my pets have always been my audience in times i needed a friendly ear or just a body to talk to.

trousers said...

Haven't read this yet - I will do soon though. But I wanted to say that I greatly enjoyed the conversation we had about the same topic.