New York State Funeral Directors Association

Krysten Bowen isn’t a grief counselor or a bereavement expert.

But after experiencing the death of her infant child, she knows at least one thing that can help a family cope.

It’s a teddy bear - a special one - and she’s begun an effort to share the solace a family can find in crafting a personal keepsake with a lost youngster in mind.

“I’m just a mom who lived it,” Bowen said.

Krysten and Preston BowenAlready a mother of three children when expecting her new child, Bowen didn’t want to immerse her family in grief when young Preston died.

She sought something more than the keepsakes she’d seen.

“I just needed something that would be pleasant,” said Bowen, 31, who considers herself among the luckier of parents who’ve lost an infant child.

She knew it was going to happen.

Preston was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome before he was born – the left side of his heart wasn’t growing and his prognosis was poor.

He made it through several operations after he was born on Sept. 9, 2014. He held tough for more than two months before passing away on November 13 that year.

Bowen chose cremation as part of Preston’s funeral arrangements and reserved some of the ashes.

She placed those ashes inside a tiny, heart-shaped locket made for saving cremation ashes and sewed it into a teddy bear she made at the local Build-A-Bear Workshop.

“I wanted something that was just lighter than sad. I don’t do well with sad, and I wanted to honor how cool he was. He was just a cool little fighter,” Bowen said.

The youngster had open heart surgery when he was just three days old – yet he still “had happy eyes,” Bowen said.

Bowen’s husband Corey also had a tattoo done which incorporates Preston’s ashes in the ink.

The family keeps an urn – crafted like those ABC blocks so many children learned to play with – that hold the rest of Preston’s ashes.

Now, that fuzzy bear is a frequent companion of the Bowen family.

“He goes everywhere with us, most of the time. Our children love bringing him,” Bowen said.

The bear, which carries Preston’s ashes inside it, has made so much of a difference to the family that Bowen is raising money to provide $50 gift certificates to give to families in a similar situation.

Bowen’s effort, currently in the early stages, is aimed at New York State’s North Country.

She’s hoping to help other families experience the positive feelings that building such a bear brought to hers – with the gift of a free bear workshop, she’s encouraging families to gather for the project.

“It’s part of the process, especially for the children. It’s a great experience. It’s another way to make a positive memory with regard to that child,” she said.

Even now, roughly two years later, the family’s “Baby Bear” gets special attention.

New outfits come out all the time, so the children can dress him as Chewbacca from Star Wars or fit him with a new, “Finding Nemo” hoodie.

“Size newborn clothes fit our bear as well,” said Bowen, who, with her husband Corey, has added another child – a new baby boy - to the family.

Bowen realized privacy laws prevent her from simply going to hospitals and asking for the names of families that recently lost infant children.

So she’s reaching out to funeral directors in New York, hoping they might remember the effort and be able to share the benefit with families in need.

People interested in the effort – or those who know of a family in need – can find more on her Facebook page: Bears for Babies – Preston’s Bear.


EdsPhotoEd Munger
Communications & Social Media Specialist
NYS Funeral Directors Association