Father’s Day Weekend is here. It is a time of fun and quality time for some, but for dads who have experienced the loss of a child, it can be very painful. Tyler Prelac, spouse of the founder of Brooks’ Bereavement Bears, and Pedro Chavez, board member of Brooks’ Bereavement Bears, were willing to share their stories of loss, grief, and hope.
Tyler and Taylor Prelac were pregnant during the beginning of the COVID pandemic. On the day of April 9th, 2020, they were heading to the hospital in Tyler’s truck in the middle of a blizzard. Due to the unknown virus at the time, Taylor had to be in the hospital by herself.
“I was in my truck for a little over four hours in the parking lot. I had no idea what was happening for three of them,” Tyler explained.
After a few hours, Taylor was able to update Tyler with text messages; she had miscarried. Tyler was alone out in the cold while she was alone in the hospital. Both were separated from each other during the worst experience of their lives.
“I felt helpless for not being able to be with her,” he said.
They went to Taylor’s parents’ house that night. They spent the evening beginning to process their loss. Tyler admitted that it took a few months before he fully realized and grieved what happened.
“After the miscarriage, I was trying to feel solid and steady for Taylor. I was trying to build her confidence and self-esteem back up. I had moments by myself, but I knew she had nothing to give. Relationships are not always 50/50; sometimes it’s 90/10.”
In the days and weeks following the loss, the Prelac family were surrounded by an incredible support system of friends and family.
“We could lean on our parents, and there were so many people in our immediate family that came out of the woodwork. We heard some of our family members say, ‘it happened to us, too.’”
However, even with the support of loved ones around them, there is definite societal pressure for men to not show emotions, even during sorrow and grief.
“As men, we are told to be the strong one, the rock, the support. At the start, it was my instinct to protect her. A week in, as we settled back into ‘normal’ life, I realized I wasn’t okay. If you do not take care of yourself, you will not have the strength to take care of someone else.”
As Tyler was grieving, he found different things that helped him cope with his loss.
“I did activities that I enjoy, mostly fishing, hunting, and shooting. I also talked to people I trust. You don’t need thirty friends. The guy you call at two in the morning for a ride because your truck broke down is the guy you call when this kind of thing happens.”
After a few months, Taylor was able to talk about the miscarriage. She felt the calling to turn their tragedy into their non-profit, Brooks’ Bereavement Bears. Taylor did not want moms to suffer by themselves like she did, so she began to make bears for grieving mothers after their loss.
“I told her, ‘I’m with you one hundred percent however big or small you want to make this,’” Tyler said. “Tell me what bow to tie, address that needs marked, things that need mailed. I’ll do it.”
In the short months following the beginning of Brooks’ Bereavement Bears, Tyler has seen the positive impact their non-profit has made on those who suffered a miscarriage.
“We went out to eat and a woman saw Taylor. She came up and told her, ‘You sent me a bear.’ They cried and hugged. I am so proud that she is able to take something that was painful, awful, terrible, and turn it into something that touches people.”
Brooks’ Bereavement Bears has made a huge effect in the Northeast Ohio community, and other areas are reaching out to the Prelacs for bears.
“This organization is only possible with the people who donate their time, talents, and resources,” Tyler explained. “Money isn’t always necessary, but exposure is wonderful to get the word out about the bears. Don’t be afraid to talk about the subject of miscarriage. If the bears have touched you, they may touch others, too.”
Pedro and Bethany Chavez have three sons here on Earth, but they endured seven miscarriages.
“Before the first miscarriage, I was trying to wrap my head around the fact of being a dad,” Pedro said.
The first loss, and all the other losses they experienced, happened before the second trimester. With each miscarriage, there was a lack of empathy and compassion from others.
“People did not fully understand what we were going through,” Pedro began. “They told us, ‘You are young, you will have plenty of time,’ and that was not the case.”
With a miscarriage, the father is often overlooked. People forget that the dads are also going through the loss.
“It is just as heartbreaking for the dad as it is for the mom. Every single time, it was like someone stabbed me in the heart and there was nothing I could do,” Pedro explained.
The miscarriages impacted the relationship between Pedro and Bethany. They learned that they needed to connect with each other during the loss.
“I was very quiet and reserved after the miscarriages. Bethany wanted me to be ‘there’ more, and I thought she needed space. We worked on growth in our marriage. Communication is key, and we needed to talk through the difficult moments.”
Some of their miscarriages happened years ago. Even so, there are still challenging days.
“We have a snow globe for each child as a memory. There are two different gravesites for the babies. I stop by both sites to visit,” Pedro explained. “The grief never really goes away. There is always the thought of ‘what could have been.’ For whatever reason, they were not ready for this life, and that is okay. God has his hand on everything.”
As the Director of Mission and Ministry for Cleveland Clinic – Mercy Hospital in Canton, Ohio, he occasionally serves those who are going through the same suffering he has.
“There was one mom I was with; her little one was a few weeks old. The baby passed away and I was with the mom during the loss. It was like pulling a scab off. It can be difficult at times.”
When Taylor Prelac reached out to Mercy Hospital about her non-profit, Brooks’ Bereavement Bears, Pedro immediately resonated with her story and the aloneness she experienced during her miscarriage.
“I always viewed each pregnancy as a baby. Not all medical personnel saw our miscarriages like that. I thought the terms they used were shallow, as they compared my babies to bundles of cells. It was very lonely.”
Shortly after Taylor contacted Mercy Hospital, Pedro was inspired to become a board member of Brooks’ Bereavement Bears.
“There is a large community of people that may not have a support network. Everything about this non-profit brings people together; the bears make it feel like you are not suffering alone.”
Miscarriage is one of the most sorrowful experiences for a mother and a father. The grief process can take months to years, and it takes a lot of bravery to openly share this type of loss. We are so thankful and appreciative of Tyler Prelac and Pedro Chavez for their willingness to spread awareness of miscarriage and Brooks’ Bereavement Bears.
If you or someone you love needs a bereavement bear, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to share your story, please email us at email@example.com.