Comforting Those Who Have Lost - Don't Just Do Something, Stand There!
Now that I have retired from international sport I have realised that what I valued most about being an athlete may not be what I had expected. There was international travel, medals, adrenaline and the occasional request for someone to have their photo with you (para-sport is not the biggest draw). But what stood out, and was something I could rely on, was the response I got from my wife, Lydia, and my personal coach, Jon Salfield (GB Olympic Sabre Coach) when I lost: "We're a team. We get through this together. We work on this together. Together we will find you the tools to succeed." Sometimes they would say these things aloud, sometimes they would say them through their silent presence.
When we lose, we can feel lost. We search for answers but struggle to find them in the swell of adrenaline and exhaustion, and this is the time we need that outstretched hand offering support and tools to help us cope in the short term, and then learn and improve. This approach was certainly a welcome change to the negativity I would hear from other staff members attending competitions.
Earlier today I read a moving BBC report on a child in Leicester who had lost her father, and the postman who took the opportunity to intervene (link below).
When a child enters the the fostering system, it is because they have lost their parents or primary caregivers. There are many reasons this may have happened, but the result is the same: they often feel lost. They have neither the tools nor the power to create positive change for themselves and so it is our duty and our privilege, as a society, to be in a position to offer them that comfort, security, support and the tools to move forward to a brighter future.
Foster families do so much of this that it is hard to adequately show in text, but the most powerful gift they bring is 'presence'.
There is an adage in palliative (end-of-life) care which resonates for me in situations like this: Don't Just Do Something, Stand There!
Clearly this plays on the often hurried 'Don't just stand there...' but signifies a more important meaning: We don't always need 'action', we often need 'presence'.
At Ted's Light we know that we can't always be there for every child, but we wanted to find a way to provide some of that presence and some tools to help them move forward.
By providing a Ted we give that child some presence, a 'being' who will stay by them in silence and won't reject or hurt them. If they need a hug but don't have a person to hug, they have Ted. If they are angry and frustrated but can't verbalise it, Ted won't mind if the child uses them. And, if they just want to play, Ted will definitely be up for that! This connection is so strong for so many of us it is why I am not the only one to still have my first teddy bear, 41 years after he was given to me!!
We also give children a portable nightlight. This gives them some power and autonomy back at a time they have very little. When they arrive at their foster home that little light means they don't have to be scared in a dark, new room. They can turn on their nightlight, and hold their Ted.
These aren't just our dreams of what we do, this is the feedback we are receiving. From the girl who stopped self-harming when she got her Ted, to the brother and sister who took their Ted's with them wherever they went, we know that this little intervention means so much to these young people with so little, and we want to do more! - We all need to be there.
We are still growing and there are many more foster agencies across the UK with whom we have yet to connect and supply (at no cost) with Ted's and Lights. If you know any, please do send them our way or introduce us directly to any contacts you may have.
If you would like to support us, our CrowdFund remains a priority source of funding for us, enabling us to continue to reach those children in need of support.
Help us shed more Bear hugs and light.
Mat Chair and Chief Teddy Bear Wrangler
Referenced BBC Link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-57569184