Since I started Comfort and Cuddle, I’ve been all-out positive in promoting. Look at this cool new pattern! Join us on Zoom! I have to tell you though, I’m pretty much out of glib right now.
The real story is that this organization was born out of the grief and anguish of a mother for her child – grief and anguish that I am still suffering today.
The story goes like this:
H has always had anxiety and depression issues, from the day he was born. Despite therapy, medication, special school accommodations, and eventually a private school just for kids like him, the anxiety and depression just became worse. He started telling me he was going to escape to the Minecraft world or that he wished he could escape his life. My mood swung with his, and my heart ached watching him go through this.
Having gone through some of my own mental health challenges, I have a good sense of when someone is very depressed versus actively suicidal. I could see he was on his way there, and my husband and I worked with his psychiatrist and his school to try and address the problem, but it just kept getting worse. At this point I was practically manic. I knew something drastic was going to happen, and that it was going to happen soon.
Finally, H came to me one evening and said he didn’t want to live any more. My heart seized up, and I asked him if he had a specific plan to kill himself. Usually he doesn’t – it’s just more of a general feeling of hopelessness. But that night he said yes, he did have a plan. He was going to go into the woods behind our house, hide where nobody could find him, and not eat or drink anything for three days until he died of dehydration. I asked him if he really felt like he might carry out that plan, and he said he was actually in the woods outside and turned around and came back to talk to me. Anguish for my poor child’s suffering and relief that he came to me instead of completing his attempt warred inside me.
At that point, there was no choice. We had to take him to the emergency room because there was no way my husband and I could watch him 24/7 to make sure he didn’t try to run away again or hurt himself another way. I tried to remain calm for H as I described the process we would go through. After a short stay in the ER, H was moved to an acute residential care facility – a short-term facility meant to stabilize patients. Most patients stay a week or maybe two.
Once he was in, the psychiatrist decided that his medication needed to be changed, and advised us that he could make those changes much more quickly in a hospital setting. We agreed. However, one week turned into two, turned into three, and then most of a fourth week. His release date kept being pushed back and back, and we cried as a family every night after dinner while he was gone. I had to stop working because I just couldn’t concentrate or think straight.
What made things epically heart-wrenching was that no visitors were allowed because of COVID, and Zoom calls were only allowed for family therapy (that happened twice during his stay, and both times the calls were so choppy we couldn’t hear what was being said – but we could hear H sobbing in the background). Every report from the doctors, therapists and nurses told us that Henry was extremely homesick, and that he cried about it every day. We tried talking to him on the phone, but he always broke down in tears.
The grief I went through (and am still going through) during this time was worse than any grief I have ever experienced. I have had people close to me die, I have had a miscarriage, I was even separated from my husband at one point. None of that held a candle to what I felt at almost losing my child, and then knowing he was suffering while I sat at home unable to help, not knowing when or if I would ever see him again.
I had to do something. Anything. Since I’m an avid knitter, I decided to make H a something (a pocket-sized little dude) that he could carry around and know that my love was always with him. I also started making him a blanket before the facility informed me that personal blankets were not allowed.
I often think of other people in my situation, or in H’s situation, and how hard it was for H in that facility, everything all clinical, away from home for almost a month, away from the loving arms of his family. Of course the staff at these facilities are amazing and do the best they can, but they just can’t cuddle you for an hour like mom can.
I thought other kids might be helped by receiving a handmade item that had love and comfort poured into every stitch. I asked my husband what he thought of the idea, and he immediately said “That’s a great idea,” with a serious look on his face. I come up with a lot of ideas, and most of them make him roll his eyes, so when he replied that seriously I thought, “OK, I think I’m going to do it then.”
Later that day I was filling out paperwork to form a non-profit corporation and get a 501(c)(3) exemption. I started calling facilities and pitching my idea to them, and got positive responses so I thought this could really be something.
I decided on small blankets for a few reasons. First, older kids won’t be turned off by thinking it’s a “baby blanket.” Second, I wanted to collect a lot of them, so I wanted them to be quick and easy to make, even for a beginning knitter, and cheap to ship. Finally, I just wanted something soft, and thick, and squishy that a kid could carry around in a hoodie pocket to have comfort with them always.
H is home now, but is leaving for a residential therapeutic school next week. I continue to try and stay strong for him and jump through all the admissions hoops while I stifle panic attacks and tears. Comfort and Cuddle provides an outlet for me to comfort other kids as well as my own, and it helps me process my grief for my child.
I never want another child to suffer away from home in a long-term care facility, but while I can’t control that, I can provide them with something to comfort them during that time. And that’s what Comfort and Cuddle is all about.