I have a bear called Boss. Not a real bear of course, he’s a teddy bear, somewhat unusual in colour as he is black & orange. He came into my life about 7 years ago after my husband Kevin died and I wanted something to help me think of him when I went to sleep and cuddling a photo just didn’t do it for me. A family friend offered to make me a bear from one of Kevin’s favourite shirts and Boss was born. 
In those early days of pain so huge I could hardly breathe I did take a little comfort from being able to hold something that had been close to Kev and was more “normal” than hugging a shirt! (Looking back it astonishes me how even in that amount of pain I worried about being normal, a sad reflection on society’s conditioning around grief) 
Boss now sits on the side in my bedroom, still loved although rarely hugged. My life is very different now. Having completed my grief with Kevin some years ago I was ready to move on romantically and 16 months ago was lucky enough to start a wonderful new relationship. This means now I have a loving man to hug once again which let’s face it, beats the heck out of cuddling a toy bear! Life is good, the happier for fully appreciating how fortunate I am to have found true love again. A couple of months ago – on Valentine’s day, a new bear also came into my life. Valentin is a very cute bear much coveted by my Labrador Barney. 
This morning I was sad. Yesterday was the funeral of someone I’d known through my business who has died aged 43 leaving a widow and 17 week old baby. I wouldn’t have known he’d died but for a good friend being asked to do the catering and I sometimes help her out on big events like this one was to be. We served tea, cake and empathy to the mourners who had come to pay their final respects to a gentle, kind man and all the while my thoughts kept returning to that young woman who is now facing long, dark days to come while bringing up her son alone. Something of all this clearly stayed on my mind while I slept and I woke up sad. I also woke up alone as Ian had gone out very early to work today. I felt restless and in need to do something for myself. In Grief Recovery we refer to Short Term Energy Relieving Behaviours (STERBS) activities or habits that we do, generally without conscious thought, in order to relieve the excess energy created by sad feelings. Glancing to the left of my bed I noticed Valentin, got up, retrieved him got back into bed and hugged my new bear and shed some tears for Rob and his family. 
At this point I noticed a few things. One that hugging a bear is a STERB of mine I’d never noticed before, and much more importantly that I was sad only for Rob and his family – this wasn’t about my old pain. Grief is cumulative and often new losses awaken pain from previous losses from where they’ve been buried. However, as I am complete in my loss for Kevin – there is nothing “ to drag up again” this sadness was purely for the tragedy of a young life lost and those left behind. 
I am still sad from time to time when I think about Kevin but no longer do I experience pain when I do. While I still engage in STERBS, this time I reached for the bear I associate with my current happiness which I feel is a good thing. 
I feel so privileged that thanks to the Grief Recovery Method I can grieve and complete each new loss in it’s own right and have tools ready to help this young widow (or any other griever) when she wants it. 
Has this article prompted you to think about what your energy relieving behaviours are? Comments on this or other issues in this article welcome. 
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