Iesha Small

writer, speaker, charity strategist

Exploring society, education, leadership and how to live a meaningful life.

Blue Teddy, grief, loss and IKEA

“Sorry people but we can’t go to IKEA, it’s probably closed because of Coronavirus.”

Child 1: Ok
Child 2: Nods
Child 3: Silence before erupting into sobs and huge wail of despair.

The two non-crying children looked almost as confused as I was. We all love a cheap hotdog and a ride on the carousel but I didn’t know that E loved them this much.

Me: Hey babe, why are you crying?
E: Because thinking of IKEA makes me think of Blue Teddy and I really miss Blue Teddy.

Suddenly it all made sense.

The first week of January 2020 seems like a long time ago now, a different era, PC –Pre Corona, but in real terms it was only a few months ago. In that first week of 2020 the year stretched out ahead, full of hope and new beginnings. I decided I was fed up with the conservatory being a mess and went on a shopping expedition to IKEA with the kids to get some bookshelves so that our home office could be a more organised environment for work.

The first week of January 2020 seems like a long time ago now, a different era, PC –Pre Corona, but in real terms it was only a few months ago. Click To Tweet

Obviously half of the adults in North London and Hertfordshire had similar thoughts as it was still the hinterland of the Christmas season and IKEA Wembley was heaving. The kids wanted lunch so we had munched in the restaurant before going to get my bookshelves. On the drive home, we sang along to our playlist and I was quietly smug from a successful shopping trip that had been relatively quick and happy kids who had wizzed along on the trolley in the IKEA warehouse (pushed gleefully by me) after enjoying their fill of all-you-can-drink beverages.

As we pulled up outside our house a voice piped up from the back

“Mama, do you have Blue Teddy?”

Silence.

A feeling of dread washed over me. No, I had not seen Blue Teddy. I actually hadn’t wanted Blue Teddy to come because three children was enough for one adult to keep an eye on in a massively busy shop but that observation really wasn’t helpful now so I kept it to myself.

Blue Teddy is E’s favourite teddy, the teddy that gets tucked up and kissed at night, the teddy that gets sung to, the teddy that is well and truly loved. The Teddy that everybody else in our household loves because we know how much E loves him. Not having Blue Teddy was a disaster in the small world of our family.

“When did you last see Blue Teddy, baby?”

“In the restaurant”

Silence.

We live 45 minutes away from IKEA. We arrived there at the peak of unch time. The restaurant was packed. It had probably been 1- 2 hrs since Blue Teddy had been lost. Even driving back immediately would have meant 3 hours since losing Blue Teddy. It was highly unlikely that Blue Teddy would be sitting in the restaurant in the same place we think we left him.

As soon as we got inside the house I called IKEA- who were extremely helpful and have a very clear system re lost items.

“Hello Maam, there is indeed a teddy bear logged at the Wembley store, can you describe what yours looked like?”

My heart leapt.

“Well he is maybe 25-30 cm long, soft, kind of velvet, floppy a bit like a bean bag, oh and he’s blue.”

“Sorry, Maam. That’s not the teddy bear on record. Perhaps try again tomorrow.”

I called tomorrow and the next day and a few days after that. Each time no joy.

Eventually, after a few days, E said “Blue Teddy isn’t coming back is he?”

“Sorry baby, but I don’t think so.”

At this time E went through what I can describe as real grief and despair. A visceral howl, a mourning of the times she would now not have with Blue Teddy, a replaying of what she might have done to stop it, if only she’d noticed earlier? What if she hadn’t taken him?

At the time I emphasised because at a similar age I’d left my beloved Snoopy on the bus and over 30 years later I could still remember the pain I felt as I watched the bus pull away and realised I may never see him again.

Today I empathise because 3 weeks after Blue Teddy got lost my Grandad died. He had been ill for a long time. My family called me on the morning of the day when he was moments from death. I was away for work and I knew that even if I left immediately I wouldn’t be back to London in time to say goodbye. When I arrived at my nan’s to see his body, surrounded by my family, the emotions were as strong and conflicted as E’s for Blue Teddy.

Over time E has accepted Blue Teddy’s loss. We’ve heard her talking to Amber Teddy and Brown Teddy (plot twist- Amber teddy is actually purple) about how she loves them and explaining that Blue Teddy isn’t coming back. Some days she doesn’t mention Blue Teddy at all (but of course she may be thinking of him and just not saying).

Every now and again, something will unexpectedly remind her of Blue Teddy and the grief hits her like tsunami wave. Yesterday it was mentioning IKEA. At those times we listen to her and hold her. What else can we do? Blue Teddy isn’t coming back.

Grief is strange. It’s cyclical. It doesn’t respect time. For some people it’s delayed. There is no right way to do it. You can be fine and then you are triggered by a walk in the park. The smell of a favorite dish. The sound of a long forgotten song. Sometimes you just start crying as you sit in Starbucks or are walking around the supermarket (these days 2m apart from everybody else of course). Maybe you cope by throwing yourself into work. Maybe work becomes incredibly hard because you can’t sleep or concentrate and it all seems pointless.

Grief is strange. It’s cyclical. It doesn’t respect time. For some people it’s delayed. There is no right way to do it Click To Tweet

We’ve all been adjusting to the new normal under coronvius/covid 19. In our house that means M and I changing our working days and hours so we can cover the kids between us now that schools are closed indefinitely. It means adjusting to completely new life routines. It means not seeing other people we both love and care about for an indefinite time period. That’s kept us busy.

Beneath the sudden changes and readjustments, life still goes on and so does death, so too does grief. It can bubble up when you aren’t expecting it. For some this will sadly be as a direct result of the current global pandemic. My thoughts go out to you. For others it will be for other reasons. The reasons that existed before COVID 19 and that will exist after it. Because there will be an after.

For now, I don’t have any wise words. Here I’ll apologise to anybody who I’ve known who I’ve been unintentionally insensitive to during times of bereavement. Grief lasts way beyond the time period of funerals and what is societally acceptable and I now know it can make people do strange things, immediately, months and even years after the loss.

If you are grieving now be kind to yourself.

Stay as safe and healthy as you can and I hope to see you on the other side of this, because there will be another side.

Iesha

Grief lasts beyond the time period of funerals and what is societally acceptable. It can months and even years after the loss. Click To Tweet

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If you listen to podcasts I highly recommend Season 4, Episode 4 of How to Fail. It’s a conversation between Elizabeth Day and Mo Gadat who explored an equation for happiness in any circumstances which was then severely tested when his son died. Mo also has a book called Solve for Happy which I’m currently getting a lot out of.

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Blue Teddy, grief, loss and IKEA