21 May 2024

Bunny Buddies: A Comforting Cuddle During Difficult Times

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The East Lothian Palliative Care team with the Bunny Buddies

We are grateful to have supported the East Lothian Palliative Care Team to introduce ‘Bunny Buddies’ to help bring comfort to families facing end-of-life-care and bereavement.

Families facing the loss of a loved one, especially those with children involved, often struggle to navigate difficult conversations about death and grief. This can lead to emotional distress and a lack of closure. To help families start these difficult discussions, the East Lothian Palliative Care team now offer patients and families soft toys called ‘Bunny Buddies’. ‘Bunny Buddies’ are identical pairs of soft bunnies, the larger bunny is given to the patient and the smaller one to a child or grandchild.

More than a comforting cuddle

As well as offering a comforting cuddle, these bunnies also provide further benefit to families during difficult times, by:

  • Fostering Open Communication: Children may not understand loss or have difficulty expressing their emotions and the bunnies help families start difficult conversations about illness and loss in a way that feels safe and age-appropriate.
  • Providing Emotional Support: These cuddly friends provide a source of comfort for both children and adults who are navigating a difficult emotional journey, offering a sense of security and a way for children to express their emotions through physical touch.
  • Creating Lasting Memories: Bunny Buddies become cherished keepsakes, symbolising the patient’s love and the special bond with their loved ones, fostering positive associations with the deceased loved one and cherished memories beyond loss.

Kian and his beloved Pops

Diane Whitelaw’s husband, Bobby, was a patient of Lise Brown from the East Lothian Palliative Care Team. Bunny Buddies were given to Bobby and their grandson, Kian. They named the bunnies ‘Kian’ and ‘Pops’. They were present throughout Bobby’s illness, at his funeral, and continue to be a cherished part of the family’s life. Diane told us:

Kian holding the Bunny Buddies
Kian holding the Bunny Buddies

Lise came to our house in July 2023 and this was when she brought the bunny which is called ’Pops’ and a book for Kian. I was not watching Kian that day so I kept them for Lise to give to Kian the next time she visited so she could give it to him personally and explain how it could help him while his Pops was unwell. The larger bunny which Lise gave to Bobby is called ‘Kian’ and was with him every step of the way. Even in the Western on his bed and when he passed, ‘Kian’ the bunny was by his side.

“Both bunnies played a big part in Bobby’s final journey, ’Kian’ in Bobby’s hearse and ‘Pops’ carried by Kian at the front of the hearse. Both were together in the church and the crematorium. The bunnies were even pictured on the front page of the Order of Service, which raised lots of questions from the mourners wondering why on earth they were there! The funeral directors were so supportive in including the bunnies in the ceremony. It was a day we were dreading but the bunnies helped turn the day into a memorable one, which will never be forgotten, especially by Kian.

“Bobby’s engagement ring has been sewn into ‘Pops’ left ear, that is where it will stay. There are more adventures ahead for the bunnies to share with our family. My daughter is getting married, so I will be carrying the bunnies down the aisle, and they will be going on holiday with us to Jedburgh. Kian’s other granny is a great knitter and has been knitting outfits for the bunnies including special Easter and Christmas outfits, making those difficult times a wee bit easier for us all and Kian in particular.”

The Whitelaw family's bunny buddy
The Whitelaw family’s bunny buddy

Lise went on to say:

Bobby’s family are one of the most inspirational stories we have come across as Kian, who is 8, had such a special bond with Bobby, who he called Pops. Kian just knew straight away what the bunnies were about and how they could help him.”

Kian also added:

It really helped me, I got such a surprise when they told me about my Pops and I was crying, so I cuddled the bunny.”

Bunny Buddies

Providing a touch of comfort in a time of loss

‘Bunny Buddies’ offer a simple yet powerful way to support families through grief. They provide a compassionate, age-appropriate and invaluable support to families during a difficult and emotional time. Thanks to you, we have supported similar initiatives across NHS Lothian such as Bereavement Boxes at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and the Western General Hospital to help improve the wellbeing of patients and families during some of life’s most challenging moments. With your help, we can continue to support families during difficult times.