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How dolls are helping people grieve after covid-19 loss

Craftspeople in Mexico and India are using their art to help others 'achieve closure' and revive local crafts

Jaime Walfre Aguilar Martinez, whose 50-year-old father died of covid-19 in November, picks out a tag to have sewn on to the stuffed bear that Erendira Guerrero will make for him from his father's favourite sweater, hanging right, in Guerrero's home workshop in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. (AP)

A seamstress in pandemic-stricken Mexico is helping families of coronavirus victims to cope with their loss by making teddy bears using the clothes of their dead relatives.

Erendira Guerrero used to make face masks to help to prevent the spread of the virus in Mexico, which has one of the world's highest covid-19 death tolls.

Now her aim is to help people to "achieve closure" with her stuffed animals.

The 55-year-old hopes that grieving relatives will initially see the teddy bear as a small part of their late loved ones, but gradually come to consider it as merely an object.

"Once you give it to them a very special bond is created," she told AFP in her workshop in the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez.

She sells the teddy bears for 600 pesos (about $30) to people who contact her through social media.

Aracely Ramirez had a stuffed animal made from the plaid jacket that her father used to wear.

"He liked it a lot because it was very warm. It was made of flannel and every time I hold it, it's a piece of him in my hands, in my life," the 50-year-old said.

The bear is embroidered with the words: "This is a garment that I used to wear. Every time you hug it, I want you to know that I am there. With love: Dad."

Mexico has officially recorded around 1.59 million Covid-19 infections and nearly 138,000 deaths, the world's fourth-highest toll after the US, Brazil and India.

The health system is overwhelmed in many areas, particularly Mexico City.

Restrictions aimed at curbing infections mean many families are unable to say goodbye to their dying relatives or hold proper funerals.

Like many, Ramirez was unable to hold a wake for her father and only eight family members could be present at the graveside, including her.

She said the teddy bear helped her to "understand that he's gone, and say goodbye to him and thank him for everything he taught me and everything he gave me."

Even in India last year, a doll project was launched in September by Creative Dignity, a volunteer movement, to help artisans hit by the pandemic and promote the idea of empathy and sustainability.

As part of the Karuna doll project, the doll was loaned to one state at a time, through tie-ups with non-profits and crafts organizations. Then the doll was created, weaving together elements of the regional culture. Each state’s reimagined Karuna was promoted and sold via Instagram, @CreativeDignity.

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