Do you have one thing that you hold on to from your childhood? Maybe it’s a stuffed animal, or an item from a loved one you’ve lost. Every once in a while when you’re cleaning up or you just need a little comfort, you find this object and it brings you a smile. Or maybe it’s just something that feels nice to hold. It doesn’t have any sentimental meaning other than it’s made you feel safe or serene in challenging times.
Right away I think of Linus van Pelt and his trusty blue blanket from the Peanutscomics. You’d never find him without it!
If you were to pay me a visit in my at-home office during a stressful work call, I bet you’d be able to recognize what mine is. With a ball of Play-Doh in hand, I’m better able to listen to the challenges without losing my cool. Manipulating the dough alleviates a ton of stress while also giving me something to bring my focus back to the present moment.
While blankets and bears are meant to be transitional items for kids to eventually grow out of, there are circumstances where adults too can benefit from the psychological benefits.
According to Margaret Van Ackeren, licensed therapist, “In most instances, adults sleep with childhood stuffed animals because it brings them a sense of security and reduces negative feelings, such as loneliness and anxiety.” The use of such objects is also recommended for those suffering from grief and trauma to aid with their healing and recovery (Gains 2020).
Van Ackeren’s remarks on stuffed animals reminded me of the living animals that bring me comfort in my home. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled one of my pets closer for comfort. It’s amazing how they always seem to know when I’m in need. Hearing the benefits that these moments can have on my mental health makes me no longer ashamed to lean into these comfort objects that bring me joy.
But what about those objects which are directly related to the loss that caused us grief and trauma?
According to Greg Adams, director of the Center for Good Mourning at Arkansas Children Hospital in Little Rock, “Most people find comfort in remembering someone by having a ‘memory object’—a belonging of the person who died that is now kept by someone who cared for that person.” For those who hold tight to them, “memory objects have value far beyond their material and can be a great source of stories, memories, connection and comfort.” (Lanford 2014).
When I read Adams’ insights, I thought immediately of my husband Jon and some of the objects he’s kept of his dad’s. The first that comes to mind is a pillow he made at Camp Hope so many years ago. The pillow was made up of his dad’s shirts - all shirts he remembers his dad wearing. Jon is so proud and grateful for that pillow and cherishes it to this day.
Many of the 9/11 Surviving Children utilize comfort and memory objects for their healing. Some, like Jon, even found comfort and memory to be intertwined in the same objects.
If you’re holding on to something that brings you comfort - embrace it! It’s okay to let go and own that this object is one of the many things contributing to your healing.
Learn more about comfort and memory objects and how the 9/11 Surviving Children utilize them in Rise from the Ashes: Stories of Trauma, Resilience, and Growth From the Children of 9/11
Gains, Ethical. “7 Reasons Adults Should Have Stuffed Animals Too.” Bunnies By The Bay. December 11, 2020. Accessed June 02, 2021. https://bunniesbythebay.com/blogs/how-to-delight/7- reasons-adults-should-have-stuffed-animals-too.
Lanford, Marilyn. “Family Finds a Way through Grief to a Legacy of Hope.” Arkansas Catholic- October 29, 2014. November 03, 2014. Accessed May 17, 2021. https://www.arkansas-catholic. org/news/article/4032/Family-finds-a-way-through-grief-to- a-legacy-of-hope.